Drink Better in 2013

David White

David White

Ask a wine enthusiast to name his favorite value wines, and he’ll likely to steer you towards bottles that cost between $15 and $25 each.

This makes sense—many oenophiles think nothing of dropping $25 or more on each bottle of wine. But this ignores market realities. The average bottle of wine in the United States sells for just $6.22, according to Nielsen. A full 90 percent of all wines sold cost less than $12 per bottle. Americans like to drink cheap.

In 2013, resolve to splurge more often. Even if this means drinking less wine to keep your budget balanced, your palate will thank you.

This isn’t to say that wines costing less than, say, $10 per bottle are inevitably bad. There are plenty of satisfactory options at that price point. The shelves at stores like Trader Joe’s are full of such wines. But spending so little generally relegates one to mass-market brands that benefit from economies of scale.

Spending $15-25 per bottle increases the possibility of finding a wine that’s exciting—a wine that’s both delicious and intellectually captivating.

One could compare it to the difference between a national franchise and the local Italian joint. The former is certainly adequate, offering heaping piles of salad, breadsticks, and focus-group-tested entrees. The latter is hit-or-miss, but investigating such restaurants is always exciting. And exploration—with food, wine, and so much else—is the only way to discover underappreciated gems.

Once you’re at the $15 to $25 price point, the number of options is virtually endless. Sure, even at $25, it’s nearly impossible to find Champagne, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or high-quality Pinot Noir. But if you’re willing to drink bravely—to explore the unfamiliar by trying unusual grapes from unusual regions—you can sample some of the greatest wines in the world.

So long as you’re willing to spend $15-25, you can easily explore some of the most renowned whites from South Africa, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany.

Early January is the perfect time to reflect on the previous year and make resolutions for the new one. For those of us who take wine seriously—or at least want to—it’s smart to include wine in our New Year’s resolutions. The world of wine offers endless possibilities. So in 2013, make sure to explore those possibilities—and drink better!