The world’s most expensive wine in the world in recent years was probably an Australian vino. The Penfolds Ampoule Bin 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 has a price tag of $168,576 a bottle. It includes a hand-blown glass capsule in a hand-tooled wooden cabinet as well as the services of the winemaker who would fly anywhere in the world to open it with a special tool. These are the world’s most expensive wines of the past decade.
The world’s cheapest wine? That’s harder to determine, but in the U.S. — if we’re talking about wine in standard 750 ml bottles, as opposed to jug wines, boxed wines, and such — it might well be the famous “Two Buck Chuck,” sold exclusively by Trader Joe’s.
The wine is produced by the massive Bronco Wine Company’s Charles Shaw winery in several varietals, including sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and cabernet sauvignon. It was introduced by the supermarket chain in 2002, and for more than a decade it sold for $1.99. In 2013, the price rose to as much as $3.79 in various parts of the country — though it’s now back to its original price, at least in its home state of California.
But what about wines on a slightly higher level, the ones you’d serve to your wine-loving friends or bring along as a gift to the host of a dinner party — wines that go for no more than $20 or so.
The home products and services review and advice site House Method recently compared the prices of three well-regarded “supermarket wines” in every state — the kinds you can pick up, at least in some states, at the grocery store, along with your pork chops and arugula. None of these wines are super-premium in quality, but all are more than drinkable. (Here’s how to tell if a wine is actually really good.)
The results showed considerable disparity in the individual prices of the three wines and in the overall average bottle price from state to state. The numbers indicate, for instance, that you’re better off drinking white than red if you’re on a budget.
The white wine that was tracked cost less than $10 per 750 ml bottle in seven states and was never priced higher than $13.99. The red, on the other hand, dropped below $13.99 only in one state (Missouri).The rosé was, as it were, all over the map, selling for as little as $9.97 (Massachusetts and Connecticut) and as much as $17.73 (Mississippi).
What accounts for the disparity? State excise taxes are part of it, ranging from 20 cents a gallon in California and Texas to $3.47 a gallon in Kentucky. Distributor and retailer markups are a major factor, too. Eight states, in fact, impose minimum markup, maximum discount rules, meaning that sellers can’t lower prices below a certain point even if they want to. Still, none of these prices are really unreasonable, considering the pleasure the wines can bring.
House Method arrived at its figures by averaging prices for standard 750 ml bottles of three wines — one of each color — from an assortment of regional or national retailers in up to 10 ZIP codes per state. The wines selected for comparison were mid-range bottlings chosen from a list of supermarket wines recommended by the wine and spirits site VinePair and are: Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (white), Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon from California (red), and Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rosé from Provence, France. Prices from the various retailers in each state were averaged and rounded to the nearest cent and don’t reflect sales tax or fees such as recycling charges.