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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 area stores for their prices on 14 wines. Because only state-owned stores sell wine in Pennsylvania, we obviously didn’t have much shopping to do there. New Jersey also restricts competition by allowing companies to sell wine from only two locations; most big chains locate their two stores in Northern New Jersey.

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. 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.

For most Delaware Valley-area wine shoppers, the big question is whether Pennsylvania, with the huge purchasing power it gets from its monopoly of wine and liquor sales, offers low prices to its residents. The answer: nope.

Compared to the prices at chains and independents in New Jersey and in other metro areas where we publish Consumers' Checkbook, you’ll pay a lot more to buy wine in Pennsylvania. How much more depends on whether you include the state’s 18 percent “emergency tax” on liquor sales in price comparisons. Since the emergency tax has been in effect for more than 75 years, and is already part of the per-bottle prices displayed in its stores (additional state sales tax is added at the register), we treat it as an additional markup and include it in the prices shown on the table and in our price comparison scores.

Compared to the average prices at stores we shopped in New Jersey, the prices at Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores were about 18 percent higher. And when we compared the prices at Pennsylvania’s stores to those of chains and independent wine shops in other metro areas where we publish Consumers' Checkbook, we found that prices at the state-run stores were consistently among the highest. Even when we backed out the 18 percent emergency tax, Pennsylvania’s prices were about 10 percent higher than those at the BJ’s in Maple Shade, the lowest priced store we shopped in New Jersey.

Among the New Jersey stores we shopped, we found some stores charge prices that are 30 percent or more higher than those of their nearby competitors for the same bottle. Among the chains and stores, BJ’s offered the lowest overall prices—about 13 percent lower than average. Cherry Hill Wine & Spirits also quoted low prices (about 11 percent lower than average), as did the chain Total Wine & More (about nine percent lower than average). Prices at the ShopRite we shopped were about five percent higher than average.

Prices at independents in New Jersey varied considerably from store to store, with prices at some outlets considerably higher than average and prices at others that won’t break your vino budget.

One way to cut your wine costs is to take advantage of stores’ bulk discounts. Pennsylvania stores don’t offer bulk discounts, but many Delaware and New Jersey 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.

Wine
Prices

Best prices in
bold italics
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 Sonona 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
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Maple Shade
$87 $9.09 $9.18   $12.09 $13.39 $14.09   $16.99 $19.14 $13.39   $42.09 $39.09  
Cherry Hill Wine & Spirits
Cherry Hill
$89 $9.39 $9.19 $9.33 $13.09 $13.33 $14.49 $14.09 $16.99 $19.10 $15.99   $42.09 $39.99 $64.99
Total Wine & More
Cherry Hill
$91 $9.17 $9.27 $9.37 $13.17 $13.37 $14.47 $14.17 $16.97 $19.17 $14.97 $22.99 $41.17 $39.97 $69.97
Canal’s Bottlestop
Marlton
$92 $9.49 $10.49 $10.49 $13.49 $14.49 $14.96 $14.09 $17.96       $44.09 $39.09 $64.96
Wine Legends
Cherry Hill
$94 $9.99     $15.99 $13.33 $17.59   $17.99   $14.99 $19.99 $41.09 $39.09 $65.99
WineWorks
Marlton
$95 $9.98 $9.98   $13.98 $13.98 $14.98 $16.98 $19.98   $14.98 $19.98 $43.98 $39.98 $64.95
Roger Wilco’s Wine Warehouse
Voorhees
$96 $11.99 $9.98 $10.48 $13.09 $13.48 $14.98 $14.09 $16.98 $19.99 $17.99 $16.99 $44.98 $53.99 $69.99
ShopRite Wines & Spirits
Cinnaminson
$105 $11.99 $11.99 $12.99 $14.99 $16.99 $16.99 $15.99 $22.99 $19.99 $18.00 $18.00 $48.00 $38.00 $80.00
Benash Liquors & Wines
Cherry Hill
$109 $10.99 $11.19 $11.19 $17.99 $17.29 $16.99 $16.99 $24.99       $49.99 $48.19 $74.99
Traino’s Wine
Marlton
$109 $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
BobKat Liquors
Deptford
$111 $11.98   $12.98 $15.99 $16.98 $15.98 $17.98 $20.98 $24.98   $22.98      
Joe Canals Discount Liquor Outlet
Bellmawr
$113               $21.99 $19.99 $17.99   $57.99 $52.99 $84.99
Pennsylvania Fine Wine & Good Spirits $118 $14.99 $11.99 $13.99 $17.99 $17.99 $18.99 $19.99 $21.99   $17.99   $49.99   $79.99
BabychamLiquors.com $91   $7.99   $10.99 $13.99   $14.99 $21.99   $17.99   $39.99 $37.99  
Uncorked.com $98                 $19.99          
Wine.com $116 $13.99 $13.99 $11.99       $18.99 $24.99 $21.99     $49.99 $54.99 $69.99
WineExpress.com $127 $13.95           $19.95     $21.95     $54.95