Ratings and Value for Money Wines Explained
In Wine behind the label, we rate wines from each producer according to quality and price, so at the end of each producer profile, we give a quality rating for each wine we have tasted and a retail price indication for them as follows:
★ a wine of good quality, not just sound but of good fruit and with some character.
★★ a wine with more depth, interest and concentration, usually with some aging potential
★★★ a very good, even fine, wine. In the case of many reds repaying lengthy cellaring.
★★★★ a wine of very high quality, among the very best even in a top appellation or region.
★★★★★ outstanding quality, potentially a classic.
✪✪✪✪✪ super 5 stars, restricted to the true classics, out-and-out world class.
✩ white stars are used to show a superior wine at a given rating
A code is provided which represents an estimated average retail price bracket and it is based on the standard 75cl bottle size. Price codes for those wines produced only in 1.5 litre (magnums), 50 cl (half litre) or 37.5 cl (half bottle) formats have been given 75cl equivalents. A half bottle costing £10.00/€11.00/$13.00 for instance will have a price code of £D.
£A: less than £8 (€9) ($10)
£B: £8 – 12 (€9-€13) ($10-$15)
£C: £12 – 18 (€13-€20) ($15-$23)
£D: £18 – 25 (€20-€28) ($23-$32)
£E: £25 – 35 (€28-€39) ($32-$45)
£F: £35 – 60 (€39-€68) ($45-$$77)
£G: £60 – 100 (€68-€113) ($77-$130)
£H: £100 or more (€113) ($130 or more)
Value in a restaurant can be tricky because whilst a producer makes good value wine sold retail, they are subject to the vagaries of a wide range of mark-ups in restaurants, from the gentle to the excessive.
As a rough guide, here are the criteria you should be applying to ascertain that what you are buying wine in a shop is good value for money. We call it our Price/Quality Ratio.
So if a rated wine is to be considered good value –
A bottle should cost less than £8 (€9) ($10)
A bottle should cost less than £12 (€13) ($15)
A bottle should cost less than £18 (€20) ($23)
A bottle should cost less than £25 (€28) ($32)
A bottle should cost less than £35 (€39) ($45)
A bottle should cost less than £60 (€68) ($77)
As an example, a four star wine costing less than £25 (€28) ($32) is good value – and if it costs less than £18 (€20) ($23) it’s exceptionally good value!
Of course, if the cost of a wine is in the band above these criteria, it doesn’t mean they are overpriced, but normal. So a ★ wine costing less than £12 (or the currency equivalent) or a ✪✪✪✪✪ wine costing less than £100, would be acceptably priced, but if a ★ wine costs MORE than £12, then it is NOT good value for money and if it costs more than £18, then it is decidedly BAD value for money. The same would apply for a ✪✪✪✪✪ wine costing more than £100, although at this end of the scale, reputation and scarcity value may justify higher prices, although if it cost more than £150, that’s pretty steep in anyone’s language.
Of course, you don’t ACTUALLY have to go into the shop. You can browse through the merchant’s lists online and do it all from home!
How to choose wine in a restaurant
(and get the satisfaction that you are receiving value for money)
The best way would be to look up the restaurant’s wine list online in advance of going there (if they have one – and if they do, they are obviously serious about their wines).
So, this is what you do.
- Choose your restaurant, obviously. See if they have a copy of their wine list online on their website. If they do, then it shows that they care something about wine.
- Get a general idea of the pricing level to expect. Remember that restaurants mark up anything between two and five times retail prices.
- Work out in advance what is the maximum you are prepared to pay for a bottle of wine in a restaurant on any particular occasion. If you are hosting the bank manager, it could be, say, £100. If you are hosting your mother-in-law, well it could be £25! Whichever occasion, you should still be looking for value for money.
- Run through the wine list and pick out some wines that are priced within your budget. Choose a selection of red and white to cover all food matching eventualities.
- Work out which wines are value for money by using our price/quality ratings for each wine you want in the restaurant
- Select half a dozen or so of the wines featured in the wine list which appear to be the best value for money and write them down on a piece of paper which you will take with you to the restaurant.
- When you get the wine list, quickly check that the wines are still on the list. With the use of computers these days, lists tend to change more frequently than they used to. The likelihood is that there will be vintage changes and more probably price changes, but hopefully not too many de-listings.
- When your guests have chosen their food, you can confidently make your choice from the wines you have written down, which should considerably shorten the time you have to spend ignoring your guests!
- Confirm your choices with the sommelier or chief order-taker, or continue to read the list, armed with your copy of Wine behind the label, especially if you find it more interesting than your guests!
- You can also do this on the hoof at the restaurant when you get there but this would entail spending more time making a decision on the spot.
Prices in Restaurants (Ratings are the same as before)
A code is provided which represents an estimated restaurant price bracket and it is based on the standard 75cl bottle size. Price codes for those wines produced only in 1.5 litre (magnums), 50 cl (half litre) or 37.5 cl (half bottle) formats have been given 75cl equivalents. A half bottle costing £30.00/€34.00/$39.00 for instance, will have a price code of £D.£A: less than £25 (€28) ($32)
£B: £25-£36 (€28-€40) ($32-$47)
£C: £36-£55 (€40-€62) ($47-$70)
£D: £55-£75 (€62-€84) ($70-$96)
£E: £75-£110 (€84-124) ($96-140)
£F: £110-£180 (€124-€205) ($140-$235)
£G: £180-£300 (€205-€336) ($235-$385)
£H: £300 or more (€336) ($385)
So – for value for money
★ A bottle should cost less than £25 (€28) ($32)
★★ A bottle should cost less than £36 (€40) ($47)
★★★ A bottle should cost less than £55 (€62) ($70)
★★★★ A bottle should cost less than £75 (€84) ($96)
★★★★★ A bottle should cost less than £110 (€124) ($140)
✪✪✪✪✪ A bottle should cost less than £180 (€205) ($235)
As an example, a four star wine costing less than £75 (€84) ($96) is good value – and if it costs less than £55 (€62) ($70) it’s exceptionally good value!
Again – in a restaurant, if the cost of a wine is in the band above these criteria, it doesn’t mean they are overpriced, but normal. So a ★ wine costing less than £36 (or the currency equivalent) or a ✪✪✪✪✪ wine costing less than £300, would be acceptably priced, but if a ★ wine costs MORE than £36, then it is NOT good value for money and if it costs more than £55, then it is decidedly BAD value for money. The same would apply for a ✪✪✪✪✪ wine costing more than £300, although at this end of the scale, reputation and scarcity value may justify higher prices, but costing over £450 a bottle would definitely NOT be a rich man’s bargain!
It’s a fascinating exercise trying to pick out value for money on a wine list, but when you find it, it’s extremely satisfying to know that the work you have put into it has paid off.
Members will be able read our analysis of some of the top restaurant wine lists in the UK, based on the criteria we have outlined above by going to https://www.winebehindthelabel.org/category/wine-lists-analysed