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Robin Garr

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Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Robin Garr » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:06 pm

Good NYT "The Pour" wine column by Eric Asimov today, raising a question that I often ask about the QPR balance between affordability and wine that's actually "interesting," not merely "palatable." I'd like to think I can find that spot in the $10 to $15 range, more often than not, but Asimov places the crossover point at $20. (Thinking out loud, though, when I buy a QPR mixed case from Chambers Street, I generally end up paying a little over $200, with the case discount, which comes mighty close to $20/bottle at that. Hmm.)

Here's the intro, with a link to the rest. Where does the QPR "sweet spot" fall for you?

Wine’s Sweet Spot Is a $20 Bill
By ERIC ASIMOV
Published: July 24, 2012


WHAT’S the right price for a bottle of wine? Silly question, I know. All sorts of prices are right, depending on the quality of the wine, the scarcity, the demand and other economic, social and psychological imperatives.

Strictly speaking, a wine can be a great value at $10 or $200, though for most of us, a steal at $200 is small consolation, like a $5 million apartment deemed an excellent deal because its price has dropped by half.

Beyond the realm of the theoretical, though, there are wine bull’s-eyes where high values intersect with low prices. On the low end, that sweet spot ranges from $15 to $25; practically speaking, let’s call it $20.

Now I admit: $20 a bottle is not cheap. For that price, you could buy 10 bottles of Two-Buck Chuck, headaches no extra charge! For a little more (say, $10 a bottle), you can find wine that is perfectly palatable. But is palatable good enough?

Not for me. I want wine that excites me, that feels so good to drink that one sip urges on the next and the next after that. I want a wine that tells a story of a place and a people and a culture, that is not the predictable equivalent of a franchise restaurant but more like a little mom-and-pop’s, where you’re not always sure what you’ll find but you know it can have the capacity to inspire.

You might be able to find a bottle like that for $10. But it’s rarer than you think. At $15 to $25, though, the odds swing decidedly in your favor. With a little experience, you can find dozens of joyous bottles, plucked carefully from the ranks of the routine.

The Pour: Wine’s Sweet Spot Is a $20 Bill
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Rahsaan » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:26 pm

A lot depends on region, but for me $20-30 is the QPR sweet spot where you get interesting, complex, and ageable wines (e.g. top Loire chenin blanc, top cru Beaujolais, German spatlese).

If you look hard you can of course find delicious wines in the $10-20 range, but more in the straight quaffing mode.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Craig Winchell » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:47 pm

I would tend to agree that around $20 to $25 is where one should be able to find good qpr, though as a winemaker and a kosher drinker besides, I have not necessarily been looking. I found that when I was developing a business plan, incorporating a good salary for me and good return-on-investment for investors, and with enough in there to provide decent pay towards employees and a worthy marketing budget for success, my sweet spot, where the project penciled out, was at 14,000 cases at an average $25 per bottle, based upon the 3 tier system (where gross return to winery per bottle was more like $12/bottle). And that was using good quality California fruit. As a winemaker, I would hope I could put out better than average wine under such circumstances. So where the project penciled out corresponded approximately to Asimov's QPR sweet spot in terms of bottle price.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Howie Hart » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:49 pm

In 1975, my cousin told me the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine is worth it.
Chico - Hey! This Bottle is empty!
Groucho - That's because it's dry Champagne.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Ian Sutton » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:58 pm

Whilst we may quibble about whether it is $20, $25 or $30 it is indeed this level that you should expect to get well made wine that doesn't need residual sugar to paper over the cracks (or that just leaves the cracks on show!).

Whilst there are plenty of wines with character (often from unfashionable regions, styles or grapes) at this level, the benefits of trading up become a harder balance vs. the increased cost. It might be a bit more complexity for another $10, or something more distinctive for another $20.

I don't think this is any great secret amongst those who drink wine for the taste as much as the alcoholic effect. However as advice to a wider audience, I'm glad this message is being put out, as for many people it will be rewarding.

regards
Ian

p.s. A Ch Wagenbourg Riesling from Alsace tonight is ably showing what a wine at the lower end of (or perhaps even below) the $20 mark can deliver. Plenty of charisma and appeal.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Jenise » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:27 pm

For the objectives Rahsaan listed, it occurs to me that my sweet spot pretty much tracks the Baudry La Grange bottling. When I moved to Washington nine years ago, it cost around $13. Now? About $20. And everything else is around there, too. Sure I find the occasional exception--and in fact, I no longer look as hard as I used to for those exceptions because my definition of 'winner' is tighter than it used to be--but yes, $20's about right.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Tim York » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:31 am

Jenise wrote:For the objectives Rahsaan listed, it occurs to me that my sweet spot pretty much tracks the Baudry La Grange bottling. When I moved to Washington nine years ago, it cost around $13. Now? About $20. And everything else is around there, too. Sure I find the occasional exception--and in fact, I no longer look as hard as I used to for those exceptions because my definition of 'winner' is tighter than it used to be--but yes, $20's about right.


That is indeed a good criterion. Here Baudry's Les Granges goes for €9,20 and a host of great wines can be found between €9 and 15, such as Beaujolais crus from Brun, Chermette, etc., many Loire CabFrancs, superb Jurançon, a lot of Mosel (in the region) and so on.

(Apology for no US$ equivalents but the Xrate seems to be changing every day. Hopefully a cheaper Euro will weaken the recession in Southern Europe and help them to service their debt :? )
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Dale Williams » Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:23 pm

Not sure about sweet spots, but that's a pretty nice list of examples. Lots that are regular buys for me (Donnhoff QbA,Pinon, Brun, ESJ, Ameztoi, Produttori di B) or at least I occasionally buy and usually like (Nusserhof, Burlotto, La Rioja Alta, Tablas Creek, Picq, Gunderloch).
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Lou Kessler » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:39 pm

Interesing group of wines. Four of the wines are distributed by Dressner in CA, counting the Edmonds St John. Remarkable how the same group of importers show up on Asimov's column in the Times. Coincidence I'm sure, but the wines are usually the ones that appeal to me. :roll:
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Follow the Money

by Dan Smothergill » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:06 pm

If the cost of interesting wine has outpaced inflation big time lately then someone has been making a lot of money. Does wine have its Qatars, Burundis and Exxon Mobils, or are a lot of wineries now more profitable, or is the money being siphoned off by middle men, or ...? Just curious about where my dollars are going. Also, whether or not you regard it as an interesting wine Dr. Frank's semi-dry Riesling is selling here for under $10.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Tom N. » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:52 pm

Hi Robin,

The $15-$25 sweet spot really defines the majority of the wine I buy on a regular basis, so I tend to agree with Eric. In Ontario, it is difficult to find good QPRs at less that $15. Occasionally it does happen, often with a good vintage of German riesling kabinett, but not often. And of Eric's selections, I have been a fan of Gunderloch Jean-Baptiste for many years. So much so, that I had a vertical tasting of that wine a few years ago at MoCool. Unfortunately, Gunderloch changed importers in Ontario and is rarely offered by LCBO any more.

More recently, I have been finding more wines at the lower end ($15-$20) of the sweet spot offered by the Canadian wine club, Opimian, which I just joined this year.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Paul Rainbow » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:06 pm

Eric Asimov says $20 for him. Only two years ago an experienced taster advising a beginner on some wine board (sorry, reference lost to me now) wrote that interesting choices really open up starting around $10 - $12.

When discussing QPR, it depends entirely on what one means by "quality." I don't see a way to define quality apart from purpose. Someone who just wants a nice table wine to enhance the daily evening meal doesn't have to spend even that much. As long ago as 1966, Hugh Johnson could already say, "Most of the cheap Burgundies of California are simple, clean, dry red wines of at least as high a quality as vin ordinaire in France, and generally higher." Here the word "quality" was applied to jug/bulk wines by someone of discernment. And the quality of wines at the lower end has risen dramatically over the last half-century of advances. Ironically, I just finished reading George Taber's A Toast to Bargain Wines (Scribner, 2011). He lists some 400 specific recommendations for under $10, a very few of which reach down even to $3.

Each person's wine budget is different. To be sure, I've had some wines in the range $20 - $50. They did have special qualities (integration, definition, uniqueness). But for my humble purpose, and on my limited budget, I wouldn't think of regularly paying four, five, or even ten times as much for the really very slight increment in "quality" over more affordable options. No doubt others will splurge more often than I.
Last edited by Paul Rainbow on Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Ian Sutton » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:37 pm

Paul, Tom
Indeed it's a common view amongst enthusiasts, that there are diminishing returns the more expensive wines get. True there are overperformers at all levels, but once you've breached the supermarket plonk level (I'm guessing around $10 for 'commodity' wine) things start getting much more interesting for just a few dollars more. Whether the sweet spot is $15, $20 or $25 is open to debate, but you can get a whole lot of wine compared to something half that price. Getting twice the enjoyment from a $20 wine (vs. a $10) is easily doable, but pay twice as much again and it can indeed be harder to get twice the enjoyment.

There certainly has been some serious inflation at the pointy end (pun very much intended) of the spectrum, with lots of people chasing the best/most prestigious/most highly regarded/most well-known/prestige marketed wines. Some of those wines now offer some shocking value for money and the wineries in question run the risk of becoming fat, dumb and happy on the rich (there I go again :oops: ) pickings to be had from those that want only the 'best'.

Why then do I buy stuff that would be $30, $40, $50 or more? Sometimes for something different e.g. Travaglini's intriguing experiment using air dried nebbiolo grapes. Sometimes because that's the going rate if you want a decent example of that wine style (e.g Brunello or Barolo). Other times, it's a style of wine I like and the extra cost is justified by the probability I'd enjoy it. The other justification is it's balanced out by those good value interesting wines that come in cheaper, suhc as the Ch Lamartine Cahors that I was paying just under £4 a half for of the 2000 vintage.

regards
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Tom N. » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:12 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Paul, Tom
Why then do I buy stuff that would be $30, $40, $50 or more? Sometimes for something different e.g. Travaglini's intriguing experiment using air dried nebbiolo grapes. Sometimes because that's the going rate if you want a decent example of that wine style (e.g Brunello or Barolo). Other times, it's a style of wine I like and the extra cost is justified by the probability I'd enjoy it. The other justification is it's balanced out by those good value interesting wines that come in cheaper, suhc as the Ch Lamartine Cahors that I was paying just under £4 a half for of the 2000 vintage.

regards
Ian


Hi Ian,

I think you make some good points here. I love Burgundies and have found the occasional bourgogne that is a good QPR for about $20, but most good burgs run $30 or more. OTOH, I have found some really nice carignan cuvees from Languedoc for less than $20. As you poignantly point out, It all depends on the region and how much the going rate is.
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Mark Lipton » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:10 am

$20 is my internal cutoff for "no brainer" purchases, so I'm in fair agreement with Asimov. The least expensive wine that is a regular purchase for me is Dom. de la Pepiere's Muscadet, which in the 2011 vintage retails for $14 a bottle prior to discounts. Like Rahsaan, I regularly buy in the $20-30 range for those wines of distinction and character that I seek out and above that only rarely for the occasion vin de garde. A few years ago, I noticed that I purchase less expensive wines now than I used to, as I now eschew most current release CalCabs and Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux.

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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Jon Leifer » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:12 pm

at my age, I don'buy much in the way of reds these days, just an occasional Catena Malbec, Benton Lane PN plus some mailing list goodies, Carlisle, Bedrock, but I rarely go over $30 these days..Most of my whites are purchased at retail and seem be be < $20..Martn Codax Albarino's,Ferrari Carano PG and Fume Blanc, Seghesio Arneis, Wolffer chard(and rose), Knapp Chard , a number of reislings and Muscadets...My days of buying high end cabs, Bordeaux ,rhones are long gone..Haven't bought any chianti's in a few years and might take a look in that direction next time I am in our local discounter
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Re: Asimov: Wine's QPR "sweet spot" around $20?

by Gabriel Geller » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:04 pm

Hey there,

As a kosher drinker, I'd like to point out a few Israeli wines in the $10-20 range that are, in my humble opinion, QPR. Would be interesting if some of you here could taste them (these wines are sold in the US and can be found on many online wine stores) to see whether they fit the criteria as kosher or can compete with similarly priced non-kosher wines:

- Dalton, Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc, oak-aged) 2010-11

- Dalton, Petite Sirah 2009/10

- Galil Mountains, Yiron 2007 (blend)

- Galil Mountains, Alon 2009 (blend)

- Golan Heights, Yarden Chardonnay Odem 2008

- Golan Heights, Yarden Syrah 2007

- Golan Heights, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

- Carmel, Appellation Cabernet Franc 2007

Best,

GG

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