In the Wine World, $15 Is the New $25. Now Why Might That Be?

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Sales of bottles of wine in the sub-$20 price range are soaring. And in related news, hundreds of people were recently given blind taste tests and asked to identify whether wines were cheap or expensive. Participants were right about half the time—the same odds as if flipping a coin.

The LA Times declares that, whereas the sweet spot for a decent bottle of wine used to be in the $25-$40 range, $15 is the “new normal” that really hits the spot among wine drinkers nowadays. Wine stores report changing their floor layouts and dedicating sections to a rotating stream of wines in the $10-$15 and $15-$20 spectrum. It’s these sections that have become the most popular parts of the store.

That gibes with an earlier report that the industry’s fastest-growing segment has been bottles of wine in the $9-$12 range.

Why have consumers been scaling back? Duh, the economy. But also, since the economy forced folks to scale back in all sorts of ways, consumers have come to realize something: The cheaper wines are pretty darn good. So naturally, this is an easy area to keep up frugal habits, even as the economy bounces back.

Also, while the cheaper wines do the trick just fine for most imbibers, the flip side is that few people even seem able to tell apart the cheap from the expensive stuff. And if you can’t tell a difference, why in the world would you pay extra for one wine over another?

The Guardian reports that in a survey conducted recently at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, hundreds of participants were asked to taste wines. (Probably really tough to round up volunteers.) Some of the wines were cheap, and some rather expensive, ranging anywhere from about $10 to $50. Volunteers were able to distinguish the cheap from the expensive 53% of the time when tasting whites, and 47% of the time with reds.

One of the researchers told the Guardian:

“The real surprise is that the more expensive wines were double or three times the price of the cheaper ones. Normally when a product is that much more expensive, you would expect to be able to tell the difference,” Wiseman said.

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