The Best Wines Under $15.00

What did I do for New Year’s? Glad you asked.


We gathered a bunch of our best friends together to find the best bottle of wine under $15.00. The model was simple. Everyone brought a bottle of wine that cost less than $15.00. Because many of my friends are completely unworthy of trust, additional rules and regulations were necessary. “Cost” for purposes of the competition was defined as the purchase price before sales and liquor taxes are levied. Wines purchased on sale qualified. Wines purchased with foreign currency qualified if the purchase price in United States Dollars, calculated using the exchange rate at the time of the purchase, was less than $15.00. Wines purchased before 2003 were price-adjusted for inflation according to the standard Social Security Administration COLA formula. Wines purchased at a bulk rate did not qualify unless the price per bottle prior to bulk discount was less than $15.00. Magnums, jugs, and boxes counted as a single unit and were required to cost less than $15.00 as a unit.

Votes were tabulated using the Borda system rather than straight majority vote or a Condorcet-achieving method. That was a choice not without controversy. In fact, it was subject to quite spirited debate. In our opinion, however a Borda method best reflected the goal of achieving a consensus list of best wines, which was worth the sacrifice in the democratic purity of the overall winner.

Each voter ranked his or her top ten choices. For each first-place rank, a wine received ten points; for each second-place rank, nine points, and so on. Any wine ranked on a ballot also received a value bonus of two points on that ballot if the wine cost less than $12.00. In order to avoid discounting, prices were not disclosed to voters prior to or during voting.

1. Claude Chevalier Ladoix $14.99

2. Pierre Span Alsace One 2006 $8.00

3. Greg Norman Cabernet Merlot 2005 $12.50

4. Fincham Red Note 2005 $14.99

5. Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $9.99

6. Tres Picos Borsao Garnacha 2007 $13.89

7. Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva 2004 $5.99

8. Gouguenheim Malbec 2007 $9.89

9. Denis Gayte Harmonie Cote du Rhone $9.99

10. Ca’Bona Sangue di Giuda $10.99

11. Mas Donis Barrica 2005 $10.99

12. Bordeaux Destournel 2005 $12.99

13. Araino Seleccion 2005 $11.99

14. Collares V.S. 1994 $14.99

15. Crianza Borsao 2005 $13.99

Needless to say, the tabulation took days, and ended in a tie on raw points for first place between the Denis Gayte Harmonie Cote du Rhone and the Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva, with the Gouguenheim Melbec coming in third, the Tres Picos Borsao Garnacha fourth, and the Fincham Red Note fifth.

Careful readers will note that the wines tied for first both qualified for the two-point bonus, which we discounted to break the tie, leaving the Cote du Rhone the clear winner on taste, though the Epicuro may have won on rhetoric, having benefitted from strong advocacy on the part of its proponent, who suggested to the audience that they simply were not worthy of the far more explosive Tres Picos. He was probably right.

Of course, someone cheated—though it was useful to the enterprise. While purportedly in ignorance, someone brought a bottle of wine that retails for between $50 and $60. Rather than disqualify it (or hide it away for later private consumption), the hosts put the wine in the mix to see what happened. It did not even come close to placing. You might say that’s evidence that I run in rough circles; a charge to which I shall not reply other than to point you to this.

Props to Amanda Pustilnik for telling me about the Brochet study.

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1 Response

  1. Kaimi says:

    Fascinating stuff, thanks!