As economic conditions worsen, wine buyers intensify their search for value. And when it comes to finding good quality at a fair price, one source stands out: Spain.
In September, more than 2,000 visitors to WineSpectator.com offered their opinions on value wines through an online survey. While they reported finding good quality for fair prices among many different regions and wine types, Spain was a clear favorite.
Asked to choose which European country consistently produced the best values from a list that also included Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal, an extraordinary 53 percent voted for Spain. Italy came in a distant second with 18 percent.
The country also came in first among diverse demographic groups, including Wine Spectator subscribers, younger wine lovers (under 39) and big spenders (those who generally pay more than $21 for a bottle of wine).
"When it comes to value, Spain should be singled out from the rest of Europe," affirmed one wine lover. "There are some amazing wines even under $10."
In a global context, South America (37 percent) edged out Australia/New Zealand (26 percent) and Europe (25 percent) as the best source for value wines—with the United States far behind at 12 percent. But among the nearly 250 people who submitted additional comments to this question, dozens specifically cited Spain.
"More or less all wine producing countries offer value … wines," said one respondent. "People just have to look for them. I would say Spain has the most [value] wines and some Spanish wines can … be a lot better than what is paid for."
When it comes to price, 34 percent consider $15 the ceiling for value wines, while 23 percent want to pay less than $12, and 27 percent will pay up to $20. Only 2.5 percent expect to find real value at less than $8 per bottle, but budgets are clearly tightening for many.
"It has to be worth drinking, no matter how cheap. I will always prefer a good $11 wine over a merely passable $5 wine," said one respondent. "However, budget issues can't be ignored. There is almost never a time when 'money is no object.'"
Sometimes, though, quality trumps cost. "Value is not limited to $25. I've had great values at $100—it all depends on what you get for the money. For example, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at $250 would be a GREAT value …" responded one wine lover with a clear passion for Burgundy.
Zeroing in on California, the survey pointed to Zinfandel as the best source for red wine values (38 percent); among white wines, Chardonnay won the vote (44 percent), with Sauvignon Blanc close behind (39 percent).
Overall, the survey respondents were overwhelmingly male (85 percent) and relatively evenly distributed by age (23 percent at 30-39; 28 percent at 40-49 and 37 percent at 50 or over). Though more than one-third of them usually spend $21 to $50 for a bottle of wine at retail, most (53 percent) keep their spending between $11 and $20.
This budgetary restraint may be forced by the current difficulties in the economy. However, it also suggests that value is not something wine lovers look for from time to time, but forms the guiding principle of their buying strategy. And even, perhaps, that the hunt for value is a pleasure in itself.
As one respondent summed it up, "There are so many great values in all regions, as long as you know what to look for (smaller producers, less well-known appellations, esoteric varieties, etc.). And said values are usually more fun and exciting wines anyway!"
1. Looking around the world, which general region do you think produces the best wine values?
2. When it comes to Europe (the focus of Wine Spectator's Oct. 15, 2008 issue) which country do you think produces the best wine values?
3. When it comes to California, which varietal do you think delivers the most consistent values for red wines?
4. When it comes to California, which varietal do you think delivers the most consistent values for white wines?
5. What price range do you consider when you are looking for a good value wine?
|Less than $8||2.5%|
|Less than $12||22.7%|
|Less than $15||34.0%|
|Less than $20||27.1%|
|Less than $25||13.8%|
6. How much do you usually spend for a bottle of wine at retail?
|Less than $10||6.7%|
|More than $50||5.8%|
7. Your gender:
8. How old are you?
|29 or younger||11.7%|
|30 to 39||23.2%|
|40 to 49||27.6%|
|50 or older||37.5%|
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