What is High-End Wine?

If you think politics and religion can generate some opinions, try asking your fellow wine drinkers what they’re willing to spend on a bottle. Then ask whether they consider this amount “high-end” or not. Since everyone’s price threshold is different, you’re probably not going to get any consensus on the matter. Besides, how do you quantify a high-end wine when some lower-priced bottles can be every bit as good?

Thankfully, the Wine Market Council studies U.S. wine consumers and recently compared the spending habits of people who buy high-end wines with those who don’t. The Council’s president, John Gillespie, was quoted by wine-searcher.com as saying the research finds $20 to be the current boundary line for wine buyers, and that wines above $20 are considered high-end by consumers. If that sounds low to you, you’re not alone. But, Gillespie also noted that “the same people who are buying wines over $20 are the people buying wines over $30, over $50, over $100.” Now it makes more sense.

Here are a few more of the study’s statistics:

  • Only 5 percent of the U.S. population spends more than $20 on a bottle of wine.
  • They are almost evenly split between male and female.
  • They are most impressed with the quality of imported wines from France, Italy, and New Zealand.
  • They are most impressed with values from Austria, Argentina, and New Zealand, yet not France. (The study doesn’t tell us why these countries were singled out. But, the fact is, all countries have wines that are considered values.)
  • 70 percent say wine reviews are very important to their purchasing decisions.

Can we assume high-end also means higher quality? Not necessarily. Industry analysts, consultants, and wine-marketing professionals group wines into pricing categories that relate price to quality. For high-end wines, these classifications include: Premium, Super Premium, Ultra Premium, and Luxury. Of course, you’ll often find wines that deliver above their price points both above and below the demarcation line of $20.

How do you find these wines? Don’t just pick any bottle off a shelf. Do read the suggestions in wine magazines and subscription wine journals. And do check the Wine Dudes’ Friday Must-Try picks. Our goal is to find you the best value at every price point.

The most interesting fact in this study is that people who spend up to $20 for a bottle of wine are just as comfortable with their buying decisions as those who spend $20 to hundreds of dollars for a bottle. And that’s good news for all of us.

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