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The Price and Quality of Wine, Part II

The Price and Quality of Wine, Part II published on

After my previous post on the relation between the price and quality of the top red wines and the top wines under $50 in Vivino’s 2014 “People’s Choice” rankings, I got curious about the price-quality relation for the top white and sparkling wines. And I must say, i was a bit surprised.

For the Top 100 white wines, there is actually a moderate correlation between the quality rankings and prices; with a correlation coefficient of 0.51. Price isn’t a perfect signal for quality. In fact, the seventh best white wine cost only $27, just more than half the average price of $52.48. But price and quality are at least somewhat related overall, with the top five wines ranging from $244 to $404 and 21 of the last 25 wines below $50. As expected, the variance in price relative to the average was less than for the reds (std dev of 63.84).

However, if you’re looking for sparkling wine, it’s much safer to let price be your guide in judging quality. Price and quality rating have a correlation coefficient of 0.715, suggesting a fairly strong correlation between the two. This is completely opposite the case of the reds (recall, the price-quality correlation for those was just 0.053). And while the range of the Top 100 sparkling wine prices was considerable, from a high of $476 to a low of $10, the variance was lower relative to the average than for either the reds or the white (std dev = 95.779, average = $126.78)

Now, there are some caveats one should make about inferring too much from such a simple comparison. But the basic lesson is pretty straight-forward: if you’re shopping for quality sparkling wines, let price be your guide–at least in an ordinal sense. You’ll have to judge for yourself how much the additional quality is truly worth (i.e., is the quality of a top 10 wine five times better than the quality of the lowest 25, as their price difference would suggest?). If shopping for whites, price is a bit less reliable a guide, but not wholly unrelated. If shopping for reds, however, be careful about reading too much into the quality of the wine from the price on the bottle.

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