How much should I pay for a ‘good’ bottle of wine?

This might seem a silly question and in some ways it is: spend however much you want!

But there are some simple things to know which will help you to obtain the best value for money. First of all, there is the current duty system in Britain which means £2.68 on every bottle that you buy has disappeared before you even consider the bottle’s contents. When you then add in the cost of packaging and labour involved, freight from the winery, distribution in this country and the profit margins of the producer, the importer and the retailer, it is not difficult to see that on, say a £5 bottle of wine, the value of the wine itself must be coppers.

As you pay more for your bottle the VAT at 20% will increase, but the value of the wine itself will increase more rapidly, for there is no increase in the fixed costs of production and distribution. Thus the actual value of the wine in the bottle may be four times as much on an £8 bottle as it is on a £5 one.

There are some other factors that are worth considering. For example, production of quality wine is finite; only so much of it can be made. Therefore, it appears logical that if vast quantities of wine are sold as a result of advertising, the quality in the end must go down. In addition, advertising does not come cheap and, generally speaking, it is the consumer who has to pay for it.

Supply and demand also plays a major role. This is particularly true with more expensive wines, which are often bought not for consumption, but rather for investment or even speculation. For example, the price of fine clarets was greatly inflated by purchases being made of wine which was not intended primarily for the dinner table. The same is now happening with Burgundies from the most fashionable domains. In Burgundy the situation is rather different from that in Bordeaux. In the latter the vineyards are monopolies, whereas in Burgundy most vineyards have a number of different owners. Here one should seek out less well-known names that produce good wines. 

Let me give you a graphic example of this. The last time I was in the region I visited on the same day Chanson Père et Fils, an historic company in Beaune and the Mazilly domaine in Meloisey. For a bottle of Meursault Charmes 2017 the price to the individual, at the former was 110.60 Euros, whilst at the latter, where their wine was recommended by the highly-respected Guide Hachette, it was 37 Euros.

Where then is the sweet spot price for wine at the best value? I would suggest that it lies somewhere between £9 and £15 the bottle.  However if you find something cheaper that you really enjoy go for it! Alternatively, if you have the desire and the money available, do not hesitate to spend the extra.

– Christopher Fielden

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