Update: This October interview was re-broadcast on December 27 as part of The Social’s Best of 2013 segments. I love this new show, with its hybrid of old and new media: they do such a great job of integrating social, especially Twitter and Facebook, with their national television show. No wonder its ratings are flying up the charts – congrats to the hosts!

On CTV’s The Social Friday, we chatted about how wines are priced: does a $100 wine taste ten times better than a $10 one? How can you spot the bargains in the liquor store? What clues can you find on the bottle label about quality and price?

You can watch the video clip above. You can get a shopping list with my top rated and best bargain wines showing the stock at your closest liquor stores when you join as a VIP Member.

The-Social-mastheadMany of us love to shop and nearly all of us love a good bargain. But finding a Versace dress marked down 20 per cent in a warehouse outlet is much easier than finding a bargain wine in the liquor store. The dress you can try on; the wine can’t be tasted.

First things first, can you find a decent bottle of wine for $20? The answer is ‘yes’. More wineries and wine regions mean there’s increased competition. We also have better technologies in place, better winemaking techniques, and a better understanding of soil and climate. It all leads to more reasonably priced wine.
The Social bargain wines tasted
Photo credit: Sarah Robinson/TheSocial.ca

Once you begin your hunt for that bargain bottle, the best place to start is the label. You can try on a dress, read the first chapter of a book, but you usually can’t try the wine before you buy it. The label is your sole point of information. Eighty percent of wine is purchased by judging the label so you want to make sure you’re not fooled.

One of the first things you should look for is the winery. Are they reputable? Are they known for great value?  A Chateaux Margaux is an excellent wine but at $600 a bottle, it’s not a great value. Don’t be misled by “badge” regions like Napa, Bordeaux, or Tuscany because they’re over-priced. Instead, look for great values from South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Germany and Canada.

Value can also be found in the grape. Cabernet and chardonnay are “badge” grapes whereas malbec, sauvignon, riesling and merlot are great values.

You also want to look for specifics on a wine label. The more information, the better. For example, a wine that is labeled as “Russian River, Sonoma County, California” is better than just “California.” More specific information can mean more attention paid to winemaking. Quality symbols from the winery’s region can also signify better adherence to quality standards (i.e. VQA for Ontario; DOC for Italy; AOC for France).

Ultimately, there are factors that contribute to the price of a wine that the consumer can’t control. But if you walk into a liquor store knowing these basic labelling rules, you’ll save your wallet and your taste buds.

You can watch the previous episode of The Social Wine where we paired wine with fast food in a fun game show format. It’s as engaging and live-action as wine gets ;)

The Social bargain wines
Photo credit: Sarah Robinson/TheSocial.ca