One Simple Step to Removing Wine’s Intimidation Factor


At least this is the way it was put by Larry Schaffer, owner of Tercero Winery, commenting in this post about “craft wine”. In fact, this is the same question that I’ve heard asked ever since I got in the wine business nearly 25 years ago. In fact, that wine is intimidating has been among the most important concerns to the wine industry and various efforts have been made to mitigate this feeling among consumers.

I have a fool-proof plan to remove the intimidation fact surrounding wine:

Don’t Price Any Wine Above $10.

Larry’s comment above concerning wine being intimidating is offered in comparison to beer, which is not seen as intimidating. One of the fundamental differences between beer and wine is the simple fact that the vast majority of beers are very inexpensive when compared to the vast majority of wines. This is probably the most important point when it comes to figuring out why wine intimidates more than beer…or nearly any other beverage.

Even if the consumer feels inadequate in their beer knowledge, the cost of getting up to speed, or at least of trying the beers that all your hip friends are talking about, is a pretty inexpensive gambit. There’s also the added benefit of never feeling like an idiot because you paid an arm and a leg for a beer that you don’t understand, that you didn’t like and that your friends didn’t like.

But consider wine. The financial consequences of getting up to speed about so many of the wines geeks and know-it-alls talk about are pretty steep. What’s with this “peeno” every one is talking about? I could try that one for $50 a bottle. Or that one for $60 a bottle. Or that French one from $200 a bottle.

It’s the price of wine that makes it appear oh so precious (and not a little ridiculous) as a beverage and its drinkers equally highfalutin to those who can’t afford the price of the good stuff…and honestly, that’s the vast majority of people. On the other hand, nearly everyone can afford to try craft beer. Have you ever notice that those wineries who sell wine at $50 or more per bottle simply aren’t concerned with making wine less intimidating? Have you noticed that most of the people talking about making wine less intimidating are selling it for under $20 per bottle?

The primary solution I’ve heard given over the past 25 years for how to make wine more accessible and less intimidating is to stop talking about it using convoluted language. Stop making it mysterious by talking about “tearwhar” and such things. And there have been various attempts to do just this. Meanwhile, wine is still seen by many as intimidating. But it’s really all so simple. Want to remove the intimidation factor? Just be more like beer: Ordain that no wine shall cost more than $10.00.



8 Responses

  1. Steve Hendricks - July 1, 2015

    Tom: that’s a fool proof plan – – to put most small producers out of business. My cost of production for that “peeno” is > $10/bottle.

  2. Tom Wark - July 1, 2015

    Steve: Exactly!! Which is why I don’t think it makes much sense to try and “de-intimidate” wine, unless of course you are making wine that costs less than $10 a bottle.


  3. Samantha Dugan - July 1, 2015

    Just tasted through a bunch of wicked cool Chenin Blancs here at our shop and what I find preposterous is the fact that the most expensive one is in fact the one that comes from here in CA. Tasted a bunch from France and even South Africa all of which were less money than the one from right up the road. Just wanted to stomp out that French wine is more expensive MASSIVE misconception.

  4. AZ - July 1, 2015

    I understand and appreciate this argument and enjoy seeing wine being demystify and enjoyed. But, like any other subject of depth ie: science, music, psychology etc etc etc, there are some that will be intimidated and some that will be inspired to learn and dig deeper. And that’s ok.

  5. mikew - July 1, 2015

    while there are many good technically and tasting wines out there under $10, I think a more reasonable pricepoint is $20 for non intimidating wines that are truly good/great . At this point, most persons can afford a bottle or two a week without feeling economically guilty. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Personally, no wine deserves more than $40 in spite of the arguments relative to covering the ground capital cost of half mill per acre vineyard. Most of that ground is being bought by those who want to participate in the lifestyle and why should the consumer subsidize that. But “people are strange”, cheers

  6. JA Stallcup - July 2, 2015

    Given in the US, about 97 % of wine sold at retail sells for less than $15/750ml equivalent (box, 1.5, etc), 92% is less than $10 and only about 5% of wine consumers in any given years spend more than $25 for a bottle of wine the intimidation factor is most likely a combination of variables with price only being one of them. The lack of reliable flavor descriptions and the lack of any commonly understood “wine vernacular” probably drives more intimidation than anything else. Dry and sweet having completely different meanings depending on your own definition and taste bud density. Not to mention the denigration of sweet wine drinkers as if there was something innately “wrong” with drinking sweet wines. Take a look at the geography of taste map at to get a visual picture of that reality. There is no “one great wine” for everyone.

  7. Carl - July 3, 2015

    It blows my mind that Trader Joes can sell a 2012 Tommolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with a real cork in it for $6.99. It is an extremely fruity Monte despite the ridiculously low price. It is a great every day drinker with or without Italian food. Definitely not intimidating!

  8. Michael - July 11, 2015

    Tom – some very obvious typos here, which add weight to my initial impression that this is a poorly thought out rant, not a measured and thoughtful response to the “how to make wine less intimidating” problem.

    COGS on a well made bottle of wine is higher than beer, not much we can do about that. And the complexity of wine is what fascinates those who love wine, there’s no need to dumb down gorgeous and complex bottles so that everyone can understand them and not be intimidated. That is why there are $10 bottles- a starting point for consumers. To suggest that no more expensive and more complex bottles should be made for the consumer to progress to after the $10 bottles is absurd.

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