Why You’re Overpaying for Wine from the Grocery Store

stop overpaying for wine

How much should you be paying for wine?

It’s a simple question, but the answer is surprisingly complicated. So, let’s untangle this grapevine.

Let’s say you go to the grocery store and spend $12 on a bottle of wine. That seems like a reasonable price… until you learn that a $12 bottle of wine only costs about $3 to make. It makes you wonder, “Hey, what gives?”

Now, if you simply want to spend the least amount of money, you can totally buy a $5 bottle of Yellow Tail. But most people – even wine novices – have the inkling that spending more will get you a better bottle of wine. The thing is, that’s not always true.

More expensive wine isn’t necessarily better – particularly if you’re not accustomed to drinking really fancy aged wine. However, you will notice a difference in quality between a $10 bottle and a $20 bottle. 

You might be thinking, why $20? Where do these numbers come from?

Retail price of wine has to do with how the bottle gets from the vineyard to the store shelf. 

Take a look at why you’re overpaying for wine from the grocery store and how wine subscriptions can save money.

The Grocery Store Markup

Why does wine from the grocery store cost so much?

Typically, the winemaker sells to a wholesaler who sells to a distributor who sells to a retailer. It’s not uncommon for five or more middlemen to be involved along the way – and, of course, each one takes a cut.

Oftentimes, the winemaker only receives 25-30% of the retail price.

Clearly, if you take out the middlemen from the equation, you could get the same wine for less. The only problem is, how are you supposed to find out about little-known wineries who are producing great wines if they’re not in the place where you happen to shop anyway?

The thing is a grocery store seems like a great meeting spot for wine lovers and winemakers. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy for winemakers to get their wine into the store as you might think.

stop overpaying for wine

A Quick Distillation of the Wine-to-Store Situation

So, how does a bottle of wine land on a store shelf? 

There are usually two avenues: Either a winemaker is so big that they already have the bandwidth to make a ton of wine that the store can buy in bulk or they’re a smaller operation that has a lot of buzz. In order to get that buzz, they need a marketing team, and that can cost a lot of money. 

In other words, boutique wineries that make small quantities of wine and can’t afford a fancy marketing department are unlikely to get in front of you – a shopper who’s looking to try a new wine at tonight’s happy hour.

Instead, you’re likely to see a lot of big name mass-produced brands and the same handful of smaller brands that can afford to be there. While there are clearly lots of options on the shelves, you won’t find a lot of variation or rotation. The store benefits when you get comfy with a particular brand, so they don’t make it particularly easy for you to branch out. 

So, in reality, the choices at the store are fairly limited to common varietals from big name producers located in big regions. Even if you’re only spending $12 per bottle, you are seriously overpaying for what you’re getting.

stop overpaying for wine

A Better (and Less Expensive) Way to Get Wine

Thankfully, you can get great wine without overpaying. Subscription wine services save you money because they cut out the middlemen.

Subscription services are more convenient because they literally do the heavy lifting of sending wine right to you. They also save you the trouble of choosing the right bottles. 

Let’s be real: When you shop for wine at the store picking a bottle feels like a total guess. Maybe you go for the same bottle again and again, but as soon as you branch out, there’s a 50/50 that you’ll get stuck with a wine you don’t fall in love with.

Wine Subscription Services

Subscription services take out the guesswork. Using your unique preferences as their guide, they find wines that suit your particular tastes, introducing you to exciting new wines that you’re sure to love.

Plus, their selection of wines is often way bigger, and frankly, way cooler than the mass-produced blends you’ll find at the store. Why is that?

Since subscription companies source their wines directly from vineyards, they’re able to connect you with lots of unique and small-scale wineries that put a lot of thought into curating high-quality wines. This will exposed you to new varietals and wine regions that you may not have heard of before.

Now, we happen to think that’s a pretty cool feature on its own, simply because when you branch out and try new kinds of wine, you’re likely to discover a new favorite. But consider this: Learning about new varietals and new regions will actually save you money on the occasions when you may have to hit up a local store. 

That’s because lesser-known varietals and smaller regions tend to be priced lower simply because they don’t have the name recognition of, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. 

Whether you’re a wine expert or you’re new to wine and want to learn more, wine subscription services make it easy to try wines you’ll love at a better price than the grocery store.

In Vino Finito

Thinking about making the switch to a subscription service? Try taking the Bright Cellars quiz to get started.

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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