wine in glassesWine experts often urge buyers not to judge the quality of a wine by its price alone. We’re not experts on this subject, but based on countless articles that used blind taste tests to determine if real experts can distinguish expensive vintages from the boxed stuff, we conclude that wine preferences are very subjective.

And while we may not be authorities on wine quality, we’re pretty good at finding you great deals. Because even lower-priced wines don’t come cheap, we did a bit of sleuthing to discover which area stores offer the best prices.

We shopped a sample of area supermarkets, big-box discounters, warehouse clubs, specialty wine shops, and online stores for their prices on 14 wines. The vintages we priced ranged from budget wines produced by massive wineries to higher-priced products from medium-sized vineyards. Because we wanted to compare prices across several area stores, all of the wines had to be readily available in several places. To find the best prices for special limited-production vintages or wines produced by small vineyards, you’ll need to do your own comparisons.

The table below shows the prices quoted to our mystery shoppers. It also reports Consumers' Checkbook’s price comparison score for each store. These scores show how each store’s prices compared to the average of all local stores’ prices for the bottles we shopped. We adjusted the scores so that the average of all stores equals $100. A score of $105, for example, means a store’s prices averaged five percent higher than the all-store average.

We found big store-to-store price differences for almost all of the wines, with some local stores charging prices that were 40 percent or more higher than the prices of their nearby competitors for the same bottle. Among the chains and stores we shopped, Gary’s Liquors in Chestnut Hill offered the lowest overall prices, about 16 percent lower than the average prices at all the stores we shopped. BJ’s (11 percent lower than average) and KH&H Liquors at the Costco in Dedham (10 percent lower than average) also had low prices.

Among other chains, prices at the Trader Joe’s we shopped were about three percent lower than the all-store average; Whole Foods’ prices were about four percent higher than average; Stop & Shop’s prices were about five percent higher than average; and Walmart’s about six percent higher. And if you’ve been making the trek to New Hampshire to buy wine at the Sam’s Club in Hudson, you might as well stay closer to home: Its prices were only two percent lower than average.

In addition to limiting the number of chain stores that can sell wine, Massachusetts law prohibits residents from receiving wine orders from out-of-state merchants. This may not matter because the savings on most products by shopping online don’t necessarily exist for wine. When we compared prices for the bottles on our list at a sample of online stores with those of local stores, we found that the online outlets didn’t exactly squash their local competition. For the most part, for each of our 14 wines, low-priced local stores offered lower overall prices than their out-of-area competitors—even without including shipping costs. Prices at some online stores were significantly higher than prices at local stores. On the other hand, some online stores consistently offered low prices for moderately priced vintages.

One way to cut your wine costs is to take advantage of stores’ bulk discounts. Many stores offer 10 percent discounts when you buy a half-case or full case of wine, and most of these stores offer their discounts on mixed cases. Gary’s Liquors offers a 15 percent discount when you buy six bottles, 20 percent when you buy 12; but fellow price leaders BJ’s and KH&H at Costco don’t offer such discounts. Several other low- or moderately-priced stores offer volume discounts, which means you’ll beat or roughly match BJ’s and Costco’s prices for the same wine when you buy lots of it at a store that offers a discount.

Wine
Prices

Best prices in
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Consumers' Checkbook’s price comparison score ($100 is average) Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay Apothic Red Blend Clos du Bois North Coast Chardonnay Simi Sonoma Chardonnay Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Claret La Crema Somona Coast Pinot Noir Santa Margherita Valdadige Pinot Grigio A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir Decoy by Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne “Yellow Label” Stag’s Leap Artemis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Gary’s Liquors
Chestnut Hill
$84 $8.88 $7.96 $9.98 $10.98 $11.98 $11.98 $11.98 $19.88 $17.98 $39.88
BJ’s Wholesale
Club Dedham
$89 $8.49 $15.99 $11.29 $11.49 $11.99 $18.99 $17.99 $14.99 $39.89
KH & H Liquors at Costco
Dedham
$90 $8.99 $9.99 $11.99 $12.99 $13.99 $17.99 $17.99 $39.99
Trader Joe’s
Brookline
$97 $8.99 $13.99 $13.99 $14.99 $19.99 $23.99 $42.99
Sam’s Club
Hudson, NH
$98 $10.68 $9.48 $10.31 $22.48 $23.98 $40.98
Super Liquors
Framingham
$100 $11.99 $9.99 $7.99 $14.99 $15.99 $16.99 $19.99 $19.99 $44.99 $46.99
Kappy’s Liquors
Sudbury
$101 $11.99 $9.99 $9.99 $11.99 $13.99 $13.99 $13.99 $26.99 $19.99 $15.99 $24.99 $49.99 $54.99 $85.99
Whole Foods
Dedham
$104 $9.99 $10.99 $10.99 $14.99 $26.99 $22.99 $19.99 $19.99 $46.99 $79.99
Stop & Shop
Malden
$105 $9.99 $9.99 $11.99 $12.99 $13.99 $15.49 $17.49 $23.99 $18.99 $54.99
Walmart Supercenter
Raynham
$106 $9.97 $8.97 $13.97 $18.28 $14.88
Dub’s Liquors and Fine Wines
Mansfield
$110 $10.99 $12.99 $11.99 $15.99 $10.99 $17.99 $17.99 $29.99 $19.99 $49.99 $69.99
Sav-Mor Liquors
Medford
$111 $12.99 $8.99 $9.99 $15.99 $17.99 $14.99 $29.99 $21.99 $21.99 $47.99 $64.99
BabychamLiquors.com $89 $7.99 $10.99 $13.99 $14.99 $21.99 $17.99 $39.99 $37.99
WineLegend.com $92 $9.99 $15.99 $13.33 $17.59 $17.99 $14.99 $19.99 $41.09 $39.09 $65.99
TrainosWine.com $107 $12.29 $9.97 $9.97 $17.99 $13.97 $14.97 $15.97 $23.99 $19.99 $21.19 $49.97 $59.99 $89.99
Wine.com $113 $13.99 $13.99 $11.99 $18.99 $24.99 $21.99 $49.99 $54.99 $69.99
WineExpress.com $120 $13.95 $19.95 $21.95 $54.95