Is it Worth it? (On QPR and Value)

#230 – November 1, 2012

With the current events portion of the newsletter out of the way, this week’s topic revolves around one of the wine-related questions I get asked most often: “what is the best cheap wine available” (or a variation on the theme).  Understanding that everyone appreciates a good deal, even more so when it revolves around a delicious beverage such as wine, I regularly try to focus this newsletter on the really good more affordable wines out there including dedicating entire newsletter to these wines from time to time (including my “Hidden Gem” series and “Under $20” newsletters).  More recently, my Annual Pessach Buying Guide included a nice number of wines under $16, all of which I recommend, many of them which are YH Best Buy.  While now six months outdated, the current vintage of any of these wines is good bet for a top QPR wine (subject to certain variations from year to year with some of the wines).

The idea for this week’s topic was driven by a reader’s recent comment (you know who you are JM) and a recent discussion on a wine forum in which I frequently participate.  In addition to providing a list of high QPR wines below, I wanted to drill down a bit on what exactly constitutes a wine with high QPR.  For those of you who don’t know what QPR stands for (especially since it isn’t included in the Glossary listed on my website), it stands for Quality to Price Ratio and, in the oenophilic context, is utilized to reflect whether a wine is a good buy or not (i.e. a wine with high QPR is a good buy, while a wine with low QPR is overpriced and not a good buy).  This is basically the concept behind the “YH Best Buy” term (whose definition is below), although [for now] QPR is used a bit more widely:

YH Best Buy is a term I use to describe a great wine that also provides particularly good value for its money.  While these wines will typically be on the cheaper side, it can also be used to describe an exceptional, awesome wine that is well priced even if it isn’t cheap.

In order to fully appreciate what a high QPR wine is, a better understanding of what price is required and what constitutes quality need to be explored.  It is important to note that price is obviously totally subjective, primarily based on financial wherewithal (or spending attitude) and to a lesser degree, oenophilic prioritization.  One person may consider $20 way too much to ever spend on a bottle of wine (all my relatives – you know who you are) while others snobbishly claim they don’t drink any wine under $50.  Unfortunately, despite $10 quality wine being easily attainable in the non-kosher market, for the kosher consumer this an elusive target for the kosher wine industry and other than a few exceptions, there are really no good kosher wines under $10.  While $25 is the real sweet spot for kosher QPR wines, going up to $15 a bottle opens up the possibilities for a quantum leap in quality (although in no way guarantees it given the large number of horrendous kosher wine in this price range).  In determining the QPR of any wine, the price analysis should be based on retail or easily accessible price.  Using a flash sale, heavily discounted retailer with limited stock or bait and switch pricing creates confusion among the consumer and doesn’t result in a real high QPR wine.

On the other hand, one would think that quality was an objective term, and, in the vinous world, it mostly is.  That said, even quality has many subjective facets within the wonderfully complex world of wine.  For most people in order to qualify as a quality wine, the wine simply needs to be tasty (which, while increasing winemaker abilities and technological improvements make ever easier to achieve, remains easier said than done when dealing with under $20 wines).  On the opposite end of the oenophilic spectrum where the wine geeks, snobs and professionals reside, additional requirements for a wine to be considered a quality wine include sufficient aging ability, depth, complexity and food friendliness.  Additional pre-requisites include good structure and balance and year to year consistency.  Consistency is also a primary factor in a winery earning the title of a “Safe Bet Winery”:

Safe Bet Winery is a term I use to describe über dependable wineries from whom you can purchase basically any of their offerings, year after year, and be assured of getting a decent quality wine.  Ella Valley Vineyards, Galil Mountain, Golan Heights and Recanati all fall into this category.

Now, despite the utter subjectivity of the price component in determining a wine’s QPR, there are points at which it basically becomes objective regardless of affordability.  For example,  a $15 delicious wine that offers depth, complexity and nuance in addition to the ability to age for 10 year (such as the Galil Mountain Yiron which remains among the kosher world’s top QPR wines) is obviously a terrific find offering amazing QPR.  Along the same lines and despite most folks assuming a natural correlation between cheap pricing and high QPR, you can have great QPR for very expensive wines as well.  For an expensive wine to earn a high QPR tag, in addition to all the aforementioned criteria it also has to stand out relative to its peers (i.e. provide something that other wines in that general price range don’t).  If a $50 provides substantial aging ability, that isn’t going to make it a high QPR wine (in fact, any $50 wine that doesn’t have real aging ability is going to have to work really really hard for me to consider purchasing it).  $40 for the better vintages of Recanati’s Special Reserve (Red) wine or $50 for the Golan Heights Winery’s Single Vineyard El-Rom Cabernet Sauvignon represent very high QPR, despite the expensive price tag.  Additionally and despite being slightly higher priced than the ~$20 which traditionally represents the benchmark price for good QPR, the “regular” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Golan Heights Winery’s Yarden series represents one of the highest QPR wines made in Israel – period.

Historically, Israel provided the largest number of high QPR wines, with the lower tiered options of Galil Mountain, Recanati and a number of Barkan Classic wines all providing very nice wines at great price points.  Recently however, and representative of recent changes in the kosher wine industry as a whole, the quality of both the Barkan Classic and lower-tiered Galil Mountain wines have waned (in addition to suffering more vintage inconsistency that in the past), Dalton has entered the fray with some really nice wines in its Estate series, Carmel’s Appellation series has some true “Hidden Gems” including its Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah and “foreign” competitors have started to aggressively compete in this arena.  Examples include Spanish contenders like the affable Peraj Petita from Capcanes and the robust Herenza Rioja from Elvi (a winery for which a dedicated newsletter is seriously overdue – stay tuned).

With all that said and done, whether a wine is “worth’ it depends on how much any individual wants (or can) spend on any particular bottle of wine.  At the end of the day, I think the most honest evaluation of QPR is, after enjoying the wine, do you feel like you got your money’s worth?

Hopefully the list below of ten recent YH Best Buy wines and ten additional high QPR wines will help translate the academic analysis above into economically viable oenophilic pleasure for all of us!

10 Most Recent YH Best Buy Wines

Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Monsant, 2009
Dalton, Estate, Petite Sirah, 2010
Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2009
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc De Blancs, 2005
Herzog, Chenin Blanc, Late Harvest, Clarksburg, 2009
Recanati, Special Reserve, 2007
Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010
Segal, Single Vineyard Dishon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
Teperberg, Terra, Malbec, 2009
Tierra Salvaje, Sauvignon Blanc, Lontue Valley, Chile, 2010

10 Additional High QPR Wines

Binyamina, Reserve, Carignan, 2009
Binyamina, Yogev, Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot, 2010
Dalton, Estate Shiraz, 2010
Elvi, Adar, Cave, Brut, n.v.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2011
Hagafen, Roussanne, 2010
Quevedo, Ruby Port, n.v.
Vignobles David, Le Mourre de L’Isle, Cotes du Rhone, 2010
Weinstock, Cellar Select, Petite Sirah, 2010