Wine & Travel

Snooth User: rolifingers

Cheap whites Vs. Cheap reds

Posted by rolifingers, Mar 6, 2011.
Edited Mar 7, 2011

I've found that when trying a cheap red or white wine, the whites are always better. I have tried the Concha Y Toro red wines as well as Trader Joe's red wines and they are horrible. But when I've tried cheap white wines, they'ved faired so much better.

I haved tried the Trader Joe's Chardonnay and I really liked it, and it's only $2.99.

I have also tried the Concha Y Toro Chardonnay and I liked it as well, and this sell's for $4.99.

I guess this goes to show that working with red wines is a much more labor intensive task.


Reply by rolifingers, Mar 7, 2011.

I have a few in me, so I hope I am spelling correctly.

Reply by duncan 906, Mar 7, 2011.

Not necesarily.We had an article by Greg and a thread about the price of French wines just recently.It is possible to get a good bottle of white or red wine for a very modest sum

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 7, 2011.

Are you also referring to wines in the $3 to $5 range ? because that is what I am referring to duncan 906.

Reply by GregT, Mar 8, 2011.

Roli - bless you for trying those wines!  Taking a few hits for the team - I gotta respect that!

One reason it may be easier to find better whites is because they tend not to be as in-demand.  You can find a lot of good Riesling from many countries and you don't need to spend a lot.  To find comparable Cabs you usually spend a lot more - I can't think of many $14 Cabs I'd want to drink. Cab is a lot more popular so if you have anything decent, you charge more money.

Not to mention the cost of barrels.

But if you get away from Merlot/Cab Sauv, it's easier.  You can find pretty decent Garnacha, Shiraz, Cab Franc, Barbera and other wines for $15.  If you're willing to poke around and look for Greek wines and some from Italy, you can do quite well.  What a lot of them have in common is a lack of oak, which often, but not always, means that they can be put out earlier and the winery isn't paying for storage, cooperage, etc.

But I have to be honest - for my own drinking, I'm not sure I know of any wines that retail for $5 that I would consider.  Not trying to be snotty either - it's just that, well, life is short and I don't want to make it any shorter and I think I may have already because I did try Two Buck Chuck!!

Anyhow, post on anything you find delightful!  Cheers!

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 8, 2011.

You are right GregT, to find decent Merlots & Cabs, you really have to spend a little more. Usually these reds, when found in the $10.00 range can be too fruity, or off balance.

I don't take your statement as being snobish, you know what you like and that is what you buy, I am the same way, I want to drink what pleases me, and fruity, malbalanced wines don't please me.

I Also agree on the Cab Franc, you can get nice ones in the $15.00 range


Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 8, 2011.

If you're going to find really good wine for $5... well, it can be done, but good luck.  However, for under $10 you might find something exceptional but it's going to be something not under its original label (a winery with excellent stuff that doesn't want to undercut its usual market, so goes incognito--sometimes a regular second label, sometimes a "shiner") or something that was overrun and was dropped at a discounter with a promise that the seller not advertise or limit the advertising to people who scavenge wine already and would probably find out... Wineries that made great stuff but went out of business are a source, too, but provenance is important, and it's not a reproducible experiment. 

I've had $4 RdD that was amazing--some of my first experience with Spanish wine--when the distributor went belly-up and my local discounter got it.  I had a $3 or $4 Napa cab that was easily a $30 bottle--even the wholesaler was not 100% sure where it came from when I pressed him, or he was really guarding his sources. It went through two sets of hands first, in perfect storage with labels on it already.  But it's a total crapshoot, whereas you can get competent wines routinely for $7-10 in California (not all Californian).  CdRs, Barbera from the Montevina in the Sierra Foothills, Fess Parker Frontier Red... but they're not going to land on your top 10 list, for sure.  At $4 about the only consistent value at TJs is Vinho Verde, a white, and I wouldn't drink it endlessly.  There are two Nero D'Avolas, one from Epicurio, that are okay, as are the Aglianico and Salice Salentino from Epicurio. But at those prices, you won't get a steady supply of great wine in any color, imo. It's just asking too much and not sustainable for the growers, et al, as SH has pointed out elsewhere.

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 8, 2011.
Edited Mar 11, 2011

Thank you for your input Foxall, I appreciate it.You are correct, on rare occasion ( extremely rare occasion for me ) one can find an inexpensive wine that upon sipping it, you can't believe what you are tasting.I've experienced a similar situation as you did with the $4 Napa Cab.I purchased a bottle of wine that was about $7, a Merlot I believe, on the label I noticed  that it was a reserve, and I actually frowned upon the bottle and thought to my self " yeah, right a reserve for $7 " I took it home, Corked it, and it had a brilliant nose, and the wine was amazing! I went back the next day and asked why this wine was selling so cheap, and I got this "our warehouse was overstocked " type of story, I thought ok, and bought all the bottles he had left.


Reply by GregT, Mar 9, 2011.

So Roli - I just remembered - there's a wine that GregDP actually sold me a number of years ago.  I don't know if it's available in your area or what it's costing, but it's Sobon Zin.  I was skeptical but it's not bad at all and I think it was like $7.

Then there's Chateau d'Oupia from Minervois if you can find it.  It's under $10 - usually around $7 or $8 or so at least in NYC.  It's mostly Carignan but damn!  Really tasty.  From out west the Columbia Crest whites usually deliver but the lower end reds and the Two Vines are not usually too good IMO. 

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 9, 2011.

Thanks GregT.

I would definitely try the Columbia Crest whites but I would probably find the Zin to fruity.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 10, 2011.

Whites are generally cheaper to produce, you can crop some whites quite high >15 tonnes/acre and because you need no oak no malolacic fermentation and can get it in the bottle within 6 months of harvest it is feasibale to produce a reasonable $5 wine that is sustainable throughout the vine to consumer chain.

Reds are more expensive due to many factors and oak can add $2-5 bottle just in oak alone.  I can give more details if anyone is interested

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 10, 2011.

Go on SH, I'm listening.


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 10, 2011.

Roli - will do over the weekend

Reply by WineFueled, Mar 11, 2011.

Love those "nice" grocery store bargain set-ups.  I've found a quite a few great deals and will be trying another this weekend: an australian chard.  Hope it turns out and hope there's bottles left by Monday.

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 11, 2011.
Edited Mar 11, 2011

Thanks SH.

WineFueled... First of all, I love your log in name, secondly, grocery store wines scare the hell out of me! I've tried supermarket wine once, and that's because it was a Sunday and all the liquor stores were closed. Biiiig mistake !

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 15, 2011.

Roli [and others interested]

To make a decent red wine the numbers look like this

Grape cost $/tonne            1,500

Extraction rate litres/tonne    650

Grape cost $/litre                $2.31

Production overheads $/litre  $1.50 [Assumes a <500 tonne winery]

Oak costs                           $2.20 [Assumes~ 50% blend new oak]

Total bulk cost                    $6.01

Convert to 9L equiv cases      9.4   [Assumes about 3% wastage]

Wine cost per case              $56.50

Packaging                           $15.00 [Assumes smal coy good pack

Packaged cost                    $71.50

Winery Margin                       50%

Wholesale price                  $143.00

Channel costs                     $275.00 

This includes distributor

margin, retailer margin,

taxes/duties etc                  

Retail price                       $418.00

Retail per bottle                 $34.83 per bottle

Compare to an unoaked white in plain packaging made by very large company

Grape cost $/tonne               300

  Extraction rate litres/tonne    750

 Grape cost $/litre                $0.40

 Production overheads $/litre  $0.45 [Assumes a <100,000+ tonne winery]

Oak costs                           $0.00 [Assumes no oak]

Total bulk cost                    $0.85

 Convert to 9L equiv cases      9.4   [Assumes about 3% wastage]

Wine cost per case              $7.99

 Packaging                           $8.00 [Assumes Large coy plain pack and strong buying power

Packaged cost                    $15.99

 Winery Margin                       35% [Volume offsets margin requirements]

Wholesale price                  $24.60

 Channel costs                     $36.00 

This excludes distributor

margin as direct sale force

, but includes retailer margin,

taxes/duties etc                  

Retail price                       $60.60

 Retail per bottle                 $5.05 per bottle

Now these numbers are a bit generic and based on lots of assumptions but reflect why a small winery making a decent cabernet  has a need for a much higher selling price than a large company on a cheap white.

To make the red as cheap as a white, you will get virtually no oak treatment and the grapes will come from large scale commercial vineyards cropping at 20 tonnes to the acre rather than 3 tonnes to the acre.  This results in large water filled berries with little flavour intensity.

If a small winery sells a decent red wine at <$15/bottle neither they or the grapegrower or themselves in total is making a decent return and ultimately they will struggle.  This is in essence why the large companies can produce decent quaffing wine at a cheap price.

Hope this helps


Reply by rolifingers, Mar 15, 2011.

Thanks SH, this is very informative. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to post this.

Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 15, 2011.

Rolifingers, another easy explanation is that you drink white wine chilled. Drink the cheap reds at the same temperature and you will see, that it doesn´t turn them into good wines, but makes them somehow drinkable.

I did this last night with a cheap argentenian Malbec which was undrinkable at room temperature, but was OK to drink on a Monday night when chilled.

Reply by rolifingers, Mar 15, 2011.

Degrandcru, I will keep this in mind, maybe it will help when I come across a bad bottle o' red.

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