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Jul 27, 2013 05:44 AM

Where is the price point where cabernet sauvignon improves immensely?

I believe that as you go up the scale in price, wine improves, but in diminishing amounts. For example, the difference in quality between a $25 cabernet sauvignon and a $20 cabernet sauvignon is much less than between a $20 cabernet sauvignon and a $15 one. My question is at what price point is there a huge leap in quality? I'm confining my question to cabs because, I suspect, the price point is different for different wines. Thanks!

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  1. Are we assuming that all $20 Cabs taste alike? Surely within every price point there are good values and rip offs n'est ce pas?

    1. There are bad wines at all price points.

      1. Yup. Your premise is flawed if you believe that all wines will fit into such definition. Beyond the simplistic price issue, too, is the fact that a Cab you like may not be liked by someone else. Personally, I tend to think that consistancy of quality in Cabs just starts to happen at around $25, but that's for California Cabs. YMMV.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Midlife

          If a wine goes on sale, does the quality suffer?

          1. re: eat2much

            Did you mean to reply to me? I have no idea how your post relates to mine. If you are, we're not talking about sale pricing here.

            1. re: Midlife

              I apologize for my failed attempt at humor. I agree that the OP's premise is inherently flawed. I was trying to point out that price has little to do with quality or at least that price and value are separate issues. I've had my share of lousy expensive wine over the years as well as a fair number of expensive bottles that would have been "worth it" at twice the price.

              1. re: eat2much

                True, but I just don't believe that price is completely irrelevant in this discussion. It doesn't help a consumer to be told that.

                1. re: Midlife

                  It could be argued, perhaps, that beyond a certain price point one has a better chance of finding better consistency.

                  1. re: eat2much

                    Depends on your taste. When tasting a lineup of current red wines from one winery, often I prefer the least expensive ones, because the more expensive ones have way too much new oak for my taste.

                    1. re: eat2much

                      I have to jump back up a post and agree completely that price and value are, INDEED, separate issues. But I'm still trying to stay with thd OP's request for some guidance related to price.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        A bad $40 Cabernet Sauvignon is likely to be bad in a different way from a bad $20 one, but that doesn't make it good.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          So...... Is there no answer for the OP?

                          1. re: Midlife

                            Good Cab is an expensive wine to make. It needs good land, good viticultural practices, a lengthy time fermenting, oak barrels (new, used, neutral), at least a couple of years for aging (delaying ROI), and that's before bottles and labels and distribution.

                            Given that -- and it's just a rough reference, but I do drink a lot of cab -- first $35. Then, next tier up, $50.

                            I'd say after about $65 and you begin paying for a talented winemaker, sought-after land, cachet and marketing. Above $100 and the price increase is nearly all cachet/marketing/limited supply.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Maria, are you speaking generally or more relative to Napa Cab?

                            2. re: Midlife

                              The answer is "nowhere."

                              What maria lorraine says about the cost of making wine is true, but there are other factors that affect the retail price.

                              Many wineries invest more in marketing than they do in making better wine, so the worse wines at the $65 price point are not be as good as the better $35 ones.

                              Wine sometimes sells for less than what the winery hoped to get, so a wine you get a good buy on at retail might be much better than average for its price. This can result from a winery or distributor running out of warehouse space or having cash-flow problems. I bought a lot of mid-90s Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon in 2009 for $15-20.

                              Of course, steep discounts can also mean a wine is over the hill.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Well, I understand all if what you and Maria are saying but am still trying, somehow, to see if there's any way to give the OP a price guideline........ Even if that guideline comes with a lust if qualifications.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  There's no way to give a price guideline. There are far too many variables.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Well, true...... but this is why so many people find wine so complicated and difficult to undefstand. I always tell customers the best wine for you us the one you like, at a price you're comfortable paying.

                                    That's fine as an answer but people seem to want something more specific. Can't get there, even narrowing the field to Napa Cab? Not even close?

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      <<Well, true...... but this is why so many people find wine so complicated and difficult to understand.>>

                                      This is why I shared my broadstroke price guideline, based on my experience of tasting Cabs here in California.

                                      It's what I believe to be accurate. Napa Cabs are slightly higher in price.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Maria, I appreciate that. I was addressing Robert, who took a while to get to a comfort level on this seemed. ;o))

                                        1. re: Midlife

                                          The best Napa Cabernet Sauvignons I've had in recent years cost under $20, but my friends and I bought those at Grocery Outlet during the financial crisis. The worst all cost over $40.

                                        2. re: maria lorraine


                                          I am pretty close to you, with perhaps a US $5 here, or there.

                                          Again, it is personal tastes, and also personal wine budgets.

                                          If one has several US $20 Cabs, that they love, will they get 5x that enjoyment from a US $100 Cab? Well, maybe, but maybe not. I will depend on the buyer, their palate, and their enjoyment level, plus possibly the food, with which the wines are served.


                          2. re: Midlife

                            Yes it does help. Its far more important to be capable of identifying a good wine than assuming the price will get you there.

                  2. From my perspective the sweet spot for Cabernet (or almost any variety or type for that matter) is between $15 and $50. Below that you can occasionally find a terrific wine but the occasions are few and far between and you need to kiss a lot of toads unless you are in the trade. Frankly, there is a lot of very good wine at the lower end of that range. The best ways I know to differentiate among the myriad choices is to taste a lot or find a good wine merchant. I highly recommend the latter.

                    At price points above $50 you are paying for past reputation, scarcity, marketing or uniqueness. While each of those may be indicative of greatness they also MAY NOT. None of those may have any relation to your personal enjoyment. Also if you do not have extensive interest and/or experience may find that many of those expensive wines are disappointing. Oh, by the way you will need lots of money to find out. :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jock


                      I would nudge the price-points up a bit, but that is just me.

                      As for "kissing toads," the pros do that 8 hours per day. I do not envy them, as they MUST find the "princes" in the bunch, for their restaurants, or their clients. I once did a bit of that, but now, it is about my personal enjoyment, so I no longer have to "toad kiss" all that much - I only want to find the wines for ME to drink.

                      Some years back, a group of winos opened a wine shop in Denver, with the tag line, "we taste them all, and pick what we like, then sell the rest." Not sure that was a great tag line for a wine retailer, but they DID seem busy. I am sort of like that now - I taste with a plan to buy what I like, and pass on the rest.

                      Also, when tasting, I am also looking for a wine to DRINK that day, on that trip. In Burgundy, I would taste maybe 50 wines (low number for a pro) in a day, and then DRINK maybe 5. That could never have happened before. Now, it's all about me.

                      I know that it sounds harsh, and sounds crass, but it's life now. Also, I seldom approach a wine, Cab, or otherwise, with intent of major cellaring, as I have reached an age, where cellaring is not likely to happen in my lifetime. Yeah, ego-centric as it is, it is ONLY about what I enjoy, and will enjoy in the next 5 years.

                      As for some expensive wines being disappointments, I agree totally. Just looking at price-points is not a guarantee that the wine will justify that price - at least to me. I do not need "cults," and I do not care about someone's "points." It is all about MY pleasure, and nothing beyond that.

                      That is what happens, when one is nearing the end of their life - the here and now becomes more important, unless one plans on leaving some legacy, or estate.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        < I do not need "cults," and I do not care about someone's "points." It is all about MY pleasure, and nothing beyond that.

                        That is what happens, when one is nearing the end of their life - the here and now becomes more important, unless one plans on leaving some legacy, or estate.>

                        Hunt, I completely agree with you. I've never cared about someone's "points." The only recs I rely on are from folks who know my palate. As for leaving wine when I go.... Well, I do have a nephew who really loves wine, so his name is on my cellar, but neither he nor I expect there will be much left by then. :)

                    2. Going on recent vintages at Texas prices I see a pick up in typical overall wow factor at about $30-35 but it is far from always the case. I'd also suggest that for many cabs if I had a choice between something likely to be good in that range, like a recent vintage Heitz (not Martha's) and something half the price but ten or more years old, like a Napa BV (not a GdL), I'd pick the one with some bottle years.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: tim irvine

                        Beyond a certain price point, I feel like I get more bang for my buck buying Bordeaux.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          So long as one is either into the great wines of Bdx., or are young enough to cellar their selections for many years.

                          I not longer even study the Bdx futures, as I will not live long enough for many recent wines.Same for Vintage Ports. Once, I bought with 10 - 20 years into the future in mind. No any longer. Glad that I bought, when I did, as I have wines to last my lifetime.

                          There ARE good Bdx. examples, ready for earlier consumption, at pretty good price-points, but it's sort of like the Cal-Cab '98 vintage - many did not realize that they were good wines, but with limited longevity in the cellar. In restaurants, early on, they were quite good wines, though horribly maligned by the wine-porn press, and often great deals for the meals being served in restaurants. Mine are all gone now, but were great "values," when purchased, either for my cellar, or at the time in restaurants.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            There's lots of mature Bordeaux on the market. I keep my eyes out for good values and keep a few on hand for when I want that sort of meal.