Wine shopping abroad – a primer

Who among us doesn’t like a tipple of wine whilst on holiday?  This question is, of course, rhetorical… since everybody does!  But which wines are the “best” deals is a question as old as the fermented grape juice itself.

My reflex answer is drink local – sometimes the best wines never make it out of the production area and usually are very competitively priced.  However, this was challenged recently on our trip to a Panama City wine shop.  In the wine shop, not only were there NO strictly local wines to choose from,  but the French and US wine was ridiculously cheap – ridiculous as in cheaper than in France and the US.   But why?  Here goes my theory…

Reason 1)  The required profit margin on a bottle of wine in the US (or insert name of other “developed” wine producing country here) to cover rent, employee salaries, insurance, corporate tax, etc. is many times more than other places in the world.

Reason 2) The cost per bottle to ship wine overland long distances within the US can sometimes be more than bulk shipping by sea along traditional shipping routes

So, for the above reasons, Panama City really hits on all cylinders for drinking imported wine from traditionally expensive areas…  and if you don’t believe me, here are two examples (both including tax):

2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon – $55

2002/2003/2004 Hugel “Gentil” – $10 each

Anyway, moral of the story is: don’t automatically assume imported wine is a rip off simply because it’s imported.  Sometimes it can be a better deal than you think!

One comment

  1. I ran into the same thing in Canada. The Italian wines were much cheaper than I would find in the United States. And of course I found the same with Australian wines in Canada.

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