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, Costco and Total Wine & More offered the lowest overall prices (although Costco carried only four of the bottles on our list). Total Wine’s prices were about 20 percent lower than the average prices at all the stores we shopped; Costco’s prices about 22 percent lower.

Among other chains, prices at Trader Joe’s were about 11 percent lower than the all-store average; QFC’s and Sam’s Club’s about six percent lower than average; Safeway’s and Whole Foods’ both about average; Albertsons’ and BevMo!’s each about three percent higher than average; Target’s about five percent higher; and Fred Meyer’s about eight percent higher.

We found the area’s highest prices at independent stores, with per-bottle prices at some stores often more than 30 percent higher than prices at Total Wine. But some independent stores charge prices that won’t break your vino budget.

Although shopping online yields big savings for most products, that’s not necessarily true for wine. As the table below indicates, the prices we obtained from online stores for the bottles on our list didn’t exactly squash their local competition. For most of our 14 wines, we found local stores that offered lower prices than their out-of-area competitors—even without including shipping costs. Prices at some online stores were significantly higher than at local stores.

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. Price leader Total Wine offers such a discount (Costco does not), and several other low- or moderate-priced stores also offer volume discounts.

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
Costco
Kirkland
$78 $9.49 $12.39 $14.59 $39.99
Total Wine & More
Bellevue
$80 $7.97 $7.97 $7.57 $9.57 $10.97 $11.97 $12.47 $18.97 $17.97 $14.97 $22.99 $40.07 $36.97 $64.99
Trader Joe’s
Seattle
$89 $9.99 $9.99 $8.99 $12.99 $12.99 $14.99 $19.99 $19.00 $43.00 $42.00
QFC
Seattle
$94 $8.99 $8.99 $8.99 $12.99 $14.99 $13.99 $19.99 $22.99 $16.99 $49.99
Sam’s Club
Renton
$94 $9.98 $8.98 $10.98 $11.28 $40.48
Capco Beverages
Issaquah
$97 $10.69 $44.00
Pete’s Wine Shop
Seattle
$97 $46.99 $70.69
Whole Foods
Seattle
$99 $8.98 $10.99 $9.99 $13.99 $12.99 $15.99 $21.99 $19.99 $44.98
Safeway
Kirkland
$100 $9.99 $9.99 $8.99 $11.99 $14.99 $14.99 $15.99 $19.99 $22.99 $22.99 $24.99 $49.99 $74.99
Albertsons
Federal Way
$103 $10.99 $9.99 $9.99 $12.99 $15.99 $15.99 $14.99 $19.04 $23.99 $18.99 $34.99 $54.99 $45.99
BevMo!
Seattle
$103 $8.99 $8.99 $9.99 $13.99 $16.99 $15.99 $16.99 $22.99 $24.99 $19.99 $56.99 $44.99 $74.99
Seattle Wine Company
Bellevue
$104 $21.00 $16.00 $21.95 $26.95 $17.95 $21.95 $53.95 $51.95 $66.95
Target
Seattle
$105 $10.99 $10.49 $9.49 $13.99 $15.99 $16.99 $21.99 $23.99 $54.99
Fred Meyer
Auburn
$108 $9.99 $9.99 $9.99 $12.99 $25.99 $18.99 $19.99 $49.99
Esquin
Seattle
$112 $10.99 $10.99 $10.99 $14.99 $17.99 $17.99 $22.99 $25.99 $17.99 $24.99 $67.99 $57.99
Wine World
Seattle
$119 $12.99 $11.99 $12.99 $18.99 $19.99 $27.99 $26.99 $17.99 $24.99 $59.99 $58.99
BabychamLiquors.com $89 $7.99 $10.99 $13.99 $14.99 $21.99 $17.99 $39.99 $37.99
Wine.com $115 $12.99 $10.99 $14.99 $15.99 $19.99 $18.99 $25.99 $21.99 $21.99 $49.99 $69.99
WineExpress.com $124 $13.95 $19.95 $21.95 $54.95