Last week New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov published a list of “15 Wines under $15: Inexpensive Bottles for Stay-at-Home Drinking.” It’s always fun and interesting to go through Asimov’s price-constrained wine lists (he often features 20 under $20 wines) and this one got me thinking about wine and coronavirus recession drinking.
Fifteen dollars is a good limit to consider — some wine critics have suggested that $15-$20 is the current “sweet spot” for everyday wines. But, in the spirit of hard times, why not step down just a little more in price and see what we can find?
Good Wines at Good Prices
And so I am soliciting nominations (use the comments section below) for a list of 10 wines under $10. Do you have a favorite wine in this price range? If so, tell us what it is, how much it costs, where you bought it, and why you like it. Sue and I will use some of our shelter-in-place time to vet the list to be published in an upcoming column. Nominations (one per reader) close at the end of April, so you have a couple of weeks to work on this. Drink up!
There are only two rules. First, the wine must be generally available here in the US market, which means basically we are looking at supermarket wines or their equivalent. And, second, the regular price needs to be $9.99 or less. Close-out prices are sweet, but that’s a different story. Unfortunately, I think this rules out Grocery Outlet purchases from the final list, although I don’t object to hearing from you if you have a close-out favorite you’d like to share.
A Tuesday Night Wine
Just to get the ball rolling, I will nominate Red Blend Portugal by Casa Santos Lima, which we bought at Costco for $5.99 a bottle. It is a juicy red blend that’s dry with just enough tannin. We drank up a case of it lightly chilled with barbecue over the summer last year and we recently had it again during lock down with hearty ham and bean soup from the freezer. It is a simple wine meant to drink, not something to philosophize over or lay down for the future — an example of what Sue calls a Tuesday night wine.
There’s another reason to think seriously about less expensive wines right now. As recent Wine Economist columns have explained, the global economy has slipped into a recession that is likely to be more severe than the global financial crisis of a dozen years ago. Short term growth forecasts (see table) released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit paint a dismal picture of global economic conditions through the middle of 2020.
Income and wealth have already fallen dramatically in many parts of the world and unemployment has surged. More than 17 million ex-workers have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in the last three weeks alone. Trading down to good wine at a lower price is not a ridiculous thing to consider in these circumstances.
We will be interested to see your nominations and perhaps to compare them with Asimov’s slightly more upmarket list. There’s a big difference between $10 and $15 in today’s wine market. Sales of wines in the $12 – $15 price range have been growing strong over the last couple of years (and not just during the recent stock-up surge) while sales of bottled wines in every segment below $10 have been falling.
The Big Squeeze
Why are cheaper wines in a slump? There are lots of explanations, but some of my industry friends privately tell me they think that quality is a factor. Production costs keep increasing, they say, but consumers resist attempts to raise price. Something has to give in the cost-price squeeze and, in some cases corners are cut to preserve margins.
I don’t know how generally this is true, but the 10 under $10 challenge is an opportunity to see how much quality there is at this price point. And it will be kinda fun to see what wines people suggest.
Thanks in advance for nominating wines for the Wine Economist 10 under $10 challenge. Stay well. Be safe.