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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 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, Wegmans, BJ’s, and Total Wine & More offered the lowest overall prices. The prices at Wegmans were about 19 percent lower than the average of the prices at all the stores we shopped; BJ’s about 17 percent lower than the all-store average; and Total Wine about 15 percent lower. Costco’s prices were about seven percent lower than the all-store average.

Among other big chains, the prices at Safeway and Trader Joe’s were about average, Giant 18 percent higher than average, SuperTarget about 11 percent higher, and Whole Foods about five percent lower than average.

If you buy wine in Maryland, you’re probably paying more than your neighbors in the District and Virginia. All four stores we shopped in Maryland offered higher-than-average prices. That’s no big surprise given that each Maryland county controls its own wine sales, creating a bizarre patchwork of availability at supermarkets—and reduced competition. (Montgomery County doesn’t allow wine sales in supermarkets, but four stores still sell wine because they had licenses to do so before current laws were enacted. Prince George’s County limits wine sales to one location per company.)

We found the area’s highest prices at independent stores, with per-bottle prices at some stores often more than 40 percent higher than what you’d pay at Wegmans or 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 our price table 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, some local stores offered lower prices than their out-of-area competitors—even without including shipping costs. Prices at some online stores averaged significantly higher than the average 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. Among the price leaders, Total Wine offers bulk discounts, but BJ’s and Wegmans do not.

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
Wegmans
Fairfax, VA
$81 $7.89 $7.79 $8.99 $10.69 $12.39 $12.99 $11.79 $17.89 $17.79 $14.59 $15.59 $41.99 $42.99 $69.99
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Alexandria, VA
$83 $8.49 $7.99     $12.89 $12.99   $18.99 $17.89   $16.99     $52.39
Total Wine & More
Fairfax, VA
$85 $7.97 $7.97 $8.97 $10.97 $12.97 $11.97 $12.97 $18.97 $17.97 $14.99 $22.99 $39.97 $46.99 $64.99
Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits
Washington, DC
$86 $8.99 $8.99 $8.49 $11.99 $11.99 $12.99   $17.99 $19.99     $41.99 $54.99  
Schneider’s of Capitol Hill
Washington, DC
$87         $11.99             $44.99    
Costco
Washington, DC
$93 $8.89 $7.99 $11.99 $14.99 $11.79 $20.99 $12.99 $17.89 $18.99   $15.99      
Whole Foods
Washington, DC
$95       $12.99 $14.99     $19.99 $19.99     $44.99    
Sam’s Club
Woodbridge, VA
$97 $12.98 $8.78     $13.48   $13.98 $19.38 $19.28     $46.98    
Safeway
Washington, DC
$99 $13.99 $9.49 $13.45   $14.99 $14.77 $14.99 $18.89 $19.99 $16.65 $16.79 $44.44    
Trader Joe’s
Falls Church, VA
$100   $8.99 $10.99   $14.99   $14.99 $21.99   $18.99   $49.99    
Shoppers Food Warehouse
Falls Church, VA
$106 $9.59 $8.99 $12.99 $15.99 $16.99 $12.99 $17.99 $22.99 $25.99 $19.59        
Pike Wine & Liquor
Rockville, MD
$107 $11.15 $10.99 $14.55 $16.35 $14.99 $17.99 $14.99 $23.25 $24.39 $17.45 $22.39 $43.55 $58.85 $72.85
Arrowine
Arlington, VA
$111                   $20.00 $24.99   $59.99 $79.99
SuperTarget
Manassas, VA
$111 $10.99 $10.99 $11.99   $16.99 $16.99 $17.99 $19.99 $25.99     $55.99    
Walmart Supercenter
Fairfax, VA
$112 $13.47   $11.47 $18.97   $14.28                
Food Lion
Lorton, VA
$114 $11.99 $10.49 $12.99 $15.49 $19.49 $16.49 $17.49 $22.49 $25.49          
Cork 57 Beer & Wine Store
Bethesda, MD
$117 $12.99       $17.99         $22.99   $57.99 $69.99 $69.99
Giant Food
Silver Spring, MD
$118 $9.99 $11.99 $16.49 $15.99 $16.49 $18.99                
Fenwick Beer and Wine
Silver Spring, MD
$122                 $25.99 $24.99   $59.99    
Red White & Bleu
Falls Church, VA
$135                 $31.99 $24.99 $27.99 $63.99   $99.99
BabychamLiquors.com $89   $7.99   $10.99 $13.99   $14.99 $21.99   $17.99   $39.99 $37.99  
Uncorked.com $90                 $19.99          
Wine.com $116 $12.99 $11.99 $14.99   $19.99 $19.99 $18.99 $25.99 $21.99 $19.99   $49.99 $54.99 $69.99
WineExpress.com $119 $13.95           $19.95     $21.95     $54.95