Price limits with wine

There are those who profess to be unable to bring themselves to drink wine that is below a certain level. Pxhere

“If you’re happy drinking AUD $10 bottles, it’s a waste of money to buy more expensive wine.”

I’d like a bottle of good Barolo for every time I’ve heard someone say that.

The truth is, we all have our price-limits, whether or not we stick to a strict budget.

I get the reasoning, though. If Joe and Josephine are content with the cheapest sauvignon blanc they can find, who’s to say they should spend more, even if they’re worth millions? They love it. It makes them happy. What could be wrong with that?

The truth is, we all have our price-limits, whether or not we stick to a strict budget. But it’s always puzzled me that some people’s price limit for wine never seems to increase.

I’ve known people who have been buying AUD $15 wine for decades. And they grizzle that it’s getting hard to find decent AUD $15 wine. Well, stop being a tight-wad, is my response, usually muttered under my breath. There is this thing called inflation. You don’t expect your other living expenses to stay the same for years, do you? So why wine?

I once knew a person who complained that Australian Champagne wasn’t as good as French. Not only did this person not realise Champagne comes only from France, but Seaview Brut NV was not a fair comparison to Champagne. One cost AUD $4.99, the other four times as much – for the cheapest non-vintage.

I’m pleasantly surprised when someone I know, who likes and appreciates fine wine, admits they enjoy an AUD $5.99 Spanish red from a supermarket. We know immediately that such a person is not a wine-wanker. He or she is being honest. More than that, they’re cheerfully proclaiming that not all cheap wine is bad wine. Sometimes it can be very good.

There are those who profess to be unable to bring themselves to drink wine that is below a certain level. I’m sorry for them. Life must be hard and cheerless.

On the other hand, there are those who simply don’t want to waste an opportunity to drink the good stuff. And they can afford it. Len Evans used to say we should always drink only the good stuff.

He also said that each of us only has the capacity to drink a certain amount of wine in our lifetime. Therefore, every time you drink a bad wine, it’s like smashing a bottle of good wine against a wall. It’s a bottle of the good stuff you’ll never drink.

As we age, we come to understand this better. We can’t absorb as much alcohol as we used to. Its effects aren’t as easily tolerated. If you’re a wine professional, AFDs (alcohol-free days) are hard-won. And the tiny numbers hidden at the bottom of the back-label that reveal the alcohol content take on greater significance.

These thoughts were prompted by a bottle of Fritz Haag Auslese Riesling 2010 from the Mosel Valley’s Brauneberger Juffer vineyard (7.5% alcohol), which closely followed one of Rieslingfreak No.8 Schatzkammer Riesling 2018 (6% alcohol) from our very own Clare Valley. Both sublime wines. And, as another Mosel Valley winemaker Erni Loosen likes to say, with these wines you can almost drink yourself sober.


6 thoughts on “Price limits with wine”

  1. Avatar
    Bruno Nagel says:

    I’m firmly in the “drink less and better” camp. I bought a Coravin and love it!
    I also love the price/value “hunt” of sassing out the best value wines in my budget. TRR is my trusted companion for that. My recent favourite is “best of Australia” for non-mainstream grapes. Top Sangiovese and Merlot is really quite affordable!

  2. Avatar
    DARIUS CHEESMAN says:

    There seems to be a lot of ideas running through this article. I agree with the sentiment at the end. As we should be drinking less, why not drink better. Perhaps a glass or 2 of a higher priced wine is more satisfying then more of an everyday wine.
    By drinking less but drinking better it may be you don’t spend any less overall but your enjoyment will increase and your body will thank you.

  3. Avatar
    Ian Catton says:

    I sometimes wish that I’d never tasted wines rated 90 and up by reviewers that I respect, i.e. I love wines that they like. I would have saved a ton of $ over the years if I thought that Yellow Tail was great wine.

    Luckily for my wallet I buy on a price/performance basis. E.g. let’s say that you have rated two Shiraz wines at 93/100 and, they are $20 and $30 per bottle respectively. I would buy the $20 wine assuming that the tasting notes were similar. I also “load” up on what appear to be “bargains”. E.g. let’s say you’ve rated a particular Shiraz 93/100 and it’s only $10 CAD. I would buy a case of that wine.

    Another tactic that I use is to find the highest rated red and whites under $10 CAD that I can find for use as cooking wines. These wines are generally rated 87 – 89/100.

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      You’re our ideal reader, Ian!

  4. Avatar
    Tony Winspear says:

    A German cellar hand joined us for vintage a few years back. His family ran a small winery in the Mosel near the village of Zel. He explained that his grandfather, who was still helping out in the winery at the age of 80, would drink 2 bottles of Riesling per day. Beautiful light (low alcohol) Riesling is such a wonderful drink.

    1. Avatar
      Paul Isaks says:

      Amen to that. I’ve come across many relatively cheap rieslings when visiting Piesport and Bernkastel on the Mosel over the years and they are well worth it. Whether I’d drink two bottles a day, well …

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