A Case Study on Quality to Price Ratio in Wine and Beer

The Background:

In social media, there’s a term that’s bandied about almost as often as the word “guru”: ROI, or Return On Investment. What are you getting for your time and effort? How are you converting your man-hours to sales or action? How many people are seeing your tweets, reading your posts, or watching your videos, then going out and doing what you expect of them? It’s one of those objective/subjective metrics, as one man’s value is another man’s excess.

In wine, there is a similar metric known as QPR, or Quality to Price Ratio. It’s a helpful thing to have in mind when considering which wines to buy. For a local example, there are two wineries that stand on opposite ends of the price spectrum (as far as North Carolina wines are concerned, at least): Cellar 4201 and Childress Vineyards.

Cellar 4201 charges a maximum of $14 per bottle, delivering an above-average experience on every wine. Their QPR is high.

Childress charges around $10 to $15 for their varietal wines and upwards of $40 for their signature wines. The QPR varies greatly depending on the wine and the price; for example, their Cabernet Franc varietal wine is worth a lot more than the $15 price tag while some of their signature wines may not impress at $40 or even $30.

With this in mind, I want to attempt to put QPR in perspective with a few wines and beers that I have in my collection at home.

The players:

Bud Light bottleBacchus Belgian SourEspiral Vinho Verde 2009Andre Lorentz Alsace Riesling 2003Chateau O'Brien Late Harvest Tannat 2007

Bud Light: $1.00 for a 12oz bottle (roughly $6 for a six pack) – We all know Bud Light. They have those funny commercials that never seem to make the beer taste any better.

New Belgium Mothership Wit: $1.50 for a 12oz bottle (roughly $9.00 for a six pack) – New Belgium is on the middle tier of craft beer; while not priced at the pinnacle of craft beer, they deliver good value compared to their competition at under $10.00 for a six pack, and they embrace organic brewing practices.

Delirium Tremens: $4.50 for an 11.2oz bottle (roughly $18.00 for a four pack) – You’re getting into the high end of craft beers available to the common consumer with Delirium Tremens (see my review of Delirium Tremens from earlier this week for specifics). You can get a four pack for just under 20 bucks, but, really, there aren’t too many people out there who’d need four of these guys in one sitting. That’d be like pounding two bottles of wine.

Bacchus: $11.00 for a 12.7oz bottle – With Bacchus, a sour ale painstakingly brewed and aged in a Belgian castle, you’re getting into the realm of beer that most people don’t know and don’t care to invest in. If you’re ever lucky enough to sample a sour ale, it’s a unique experience, though an acquired taste, and like the finest wine, it really requires an appreciation beyond the average consumer to justify the price.

Espiral 2009 Vinho Verde: $4.00 for a 750ml bottle – Most Trader Joe’s fans swear by their wine. You consistently get drinkable, flavorful wines at rock-bottom prices with an easy-to-browse, fairly varied selection. The Vinho Verde offers a lightly carbonated, very dry thrill that at least approximates the traditional Vinho Verde experience at a ridiculously low price.

André Lorentz 2003 Riesling: $11.00 for a 750ml bottle – The Rieslings of Alsace are notable for their embrace of the terroir, turning in a varietal wine experience that simply cannot be matched by other regions (except perhaps the northern vineyards of Germany). André Lorentz offers a basic Riesling in these regards that is comparatively affordable and a good value.

Chateau de Monthelie 2006 1er Cru Burgundy: $40.00 for a 750ml bottle – Coming from a good but not great 2006 vintage in Burgundy, the Chateau de Monthelie 1er Cru is a step below the Grand Cru, still recognized as being part of the top 15% of wine produced in the region. $40.00 is a fair price for what generally is a high-quality, mostly consistent experience.

Chateau O’Brien 2007 Late Harvest Tannat: $70.00 for a 750ml bottle – Pressed from a grape that was cast aside for its inability to properly mature in France, Tannat varietal wines have found a resurgence in the terroirs of Uruguay and Virginia, making them a rarity in the wine world. A late harvest Tannat wine is even harder to find, justifying the $70.00 price tag for what is ostensibly a high-quality unique dessert wine experience.

The Challenge:

To put these prices in perspective, consider the following decisions should you find yourself in a wine and beer shop with a given amount of cash:

If you had $12, would you rather have a single bottle of Bacchus, a bottle of the André Lorentz, a six pack of the Mothership Wit, or a half a case of Bud Light?

If you had $70, would you rather have a single bottle of Late Harvest Tannat, 6 bottles of the André Lorentz, or 70 bottles of Bud Light?

If you had $40, would you rather have a bottle of Burgundy 1er Cru, 10 bottles of Vinho Verde, or 40 bottles of Bud Light?

If you had $4, would you rather have a bottle of Vinho Verde, a bottle of Delirium Tremens, or 4 bottles of Bud Light?

There’s no right or wrong answer here… sometimes you want share a single high quality bottle in an intimate setting; other times, you want to furnish enough alcohol for a 12 person tailgate. If you’re doing the latter, investing in premier crus is a bad idea.

What do you think? What makes a good wine investment in your eye? Would you ever spend $70 on a single bottle of wine when you could get six of another?

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2 Responses to “A Case Study on Quality to Price Ratio in Wine and Beer”

  1. Matt Says:

    Like you said it really depends on your reasons for buying. Honestly, even though I believe I am able to appreciate really expensive wine, I like the taste of “cheap” wine just fine and my pocket book likes it better too. I’m way too cheap to pay $70 for a single bottle of wine. No matter how good it is, I could never justify the cost.

    Sans some specified purpose I’d probably buy one bottle of $10 wine and keep the remaining $60.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      I’m with you in that often times a $10 bottle of wine will suit me just fine. Sometimes, however, I’m really in the mood for something that will dazzle my tastebuds. Maybe two-thirds of the time, though, I’d take the cheaper wine.

      /waits for the wine mafia to eviscerate him


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