When was the last time you used the word value? I’m willing to bet it was recently, and in relation or response to something you felt was a really good deal.
Value has been appropriated by the retail sales industry to deliver a one-dimensional definition of something: value meals, value days, Value Village. In many of these cases, the intention behind using the word value is often to impart a message equating cheap, low-cost, or budget.
This is just one part of the definition of value (noun):
[mass noun] the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something: your support is of great value
the material or monetary worth of something
the worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it
We’ve allowed ourselves to co-opt a word that means, by definition, an expression of high regard and twist it into something implying bargain basement. Taking it one step further, we have applied and encourage the use of this new interpretation to something as subjective as wine. This is not okay.
I like getting a good deal on consumer goods. Simultaneously, I don’t support paying $6 for a t-shirt made in a location with improper conditions for workers, nor will I pay hundreds of dollars below the true value of an electronics product made in the same conditions. I have fewer things that are pricey. These are choices I make, based on my definition of value.
When tasked with a recent BC wine column for CBC Radio West on “value” wines, I cringed – then I took control of the message. Instead of using that bastardized definition to describe a few examples of under-$20 BC wines, I referred to them as punching above their weight. The intention: to not play the value-wine game.
We – writers – continue to play into the hands of advertisers who have conditioned audiences to read cheap when they see the word value. Some writers might argue that’s not their intention at all, and I believe them. A number of my writer friends dance along the value-wine line with a finesse I can’t muster. I applaud them for it.
I’m not sure how or at what point we accepted value as meaning cheap or less than a certain price point, but it needs to stop. We’re doing a disservice to so many beautiful produts that don’t fit into that construct, and to ourselves for excluding them from those parameters. Do people have real budgets for wine? Absolutely. Am I dismissing the $11 bottle? Not entirely. But an $11 bottle of wine doesn’t mean you’re receiving a better value over the $50 one.
I’d love to consume wine solely based on anticipated pleasure and situation, with little or no regard for dollar. That’s not the case, and I have a budget to follow – as do most of my friends. I can have this budget and also enjoy a wide variety of wines at different price points; holding to a budget and enjoying wines over a certain price point are not mutually exclusive. It might mean we buy fewer bottles in higher price points, but we needn’t exclude them because they’re not in the new contorted description of value.
If I enjoyed the wine in the moment or it wowed me beyond a set of expectations, that’s good value. So when I recommend wines to people, the list is all over the price map. It’s intentional. And yes, I realize that not everyone recognizes $25 as the price we should pay for an decent bottle of wine from British Columbia – but let’s face it, at the moment it kind of is.
I value the efforts the folks in our BC wine industry make, despite facing restrictions in getting their product to market here and beyond. We’re stuck, in some ways, with paying a certain dollar for nice wine made in our backyard. So what? I’ll still buy that magnificently delightful $39.90 Painted Rock Syrah, and grab a bottle of under $20 Koyle. Both over-deliver for their price points and I anticipate each will provide me with a good experience – albeit different ones.
Ultimately, the value of the wine you buy is in your hands because you’re the one having the experience. You make the decision if it’s of good value to you – not the person who wrote that ‘best value wines’ list.