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Wine from the supermarket: how to find the right bottle

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They can usually be found in fine rows in the supermarket just before the checkout: a fruity Riesling, a fine Pinot Gris, a heavy Zweigelt or a fresh Meersburger Rosé. Prices start at 1.29 for a liter in a tetrapak and, depending on the quality of the market, end at 30 euros for a dry Lemberger that goes well with game dishes and savory cheeses.

Germans drink around twenty liters of wine a year. As a rule, he no longer goes to the specialist trade – but to the supermarket. “The largest wine retailers in the country are the discounters,” says Peer Holm, President of the Sommelier Union Germany. Because many people don’t want to pay much for the wine: the average consumer spent 3.31 euros for a bottle in 2019, according to the German Wine Institute (DWI).

But does it taste good at such low prices? And above all, how do you find a good drop among the many varieties on the long supermarket shelves? If you know what to look for, you can also find good quality goods at a fair price in the supermarket.

This is how the price for a wine is created

How much a wine costs depends heavily on the number of items produced. “There is a big difference between filling 1,000 liters or 100,000 liters,” says wine expert Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute. A large company can work much more efficiently and cost-effectively than a small winery.

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Another criterion: the harvest volume. For a very high quality wine, a winemaker usually harvests fewer grapes per vine. “This makes the ingredients in the grapes more concentrated, which also makes the resulting wines more complex,” explains Büscher. However, this also lowers the yield per hectare. The manual labor that goes into a good wine also causes additional costs.

“It is quite natural that an industrially produced mass wine from a low-wage country costs significantly less than a handcrafted Trockenbeerenauslese from the steep slope on the Moselle,” adds Sommelier Holm. There are also factors such as the image of a winery or the region. The best example of this is champagne. This is significantly more expensive than sparkling wine. Because it’s the better sparkling wine? “Of course not,” says Holm. “Champagne has simply done a really good job in marketing its region for decades.”

Does good wine have to be expensive?

The perception of what is expensive or cheap varies from person to person. For one, five euros is a lot of money, the other spends 50 euros on a bottle of wine. According to Holm, you don’t have to dig too deeply into your pocket if you want a good product, but at least a little deeper than the average consumer does: “There are great wines from Germany for eight to ten euros per bottle,” he says. “But that should also cost a passionately and artisanal wine, so that the producer can operate sustainably.”

Ernst Büscher advises trying out different types of a certain grape variety or type of wine in different price ranges. These should be tasted side by side, because the differences are best seen in a direct comparison. “You might even find a cheap wine tastes better than an expensive one,” he says.

The business card of wine: that’s what the label tells you

You can also read a lot from the label. Growing area, grape variety, vintage and producer – you will find all the important information relevant to the purchase on the front of the bottle. The back label shows the alcohol content, filling quantity and quality level. According to Büscher, the following applies to the flavor: “If the label does not say dry or semi-dry, the wine is lovely.”

The grape variety, which is not necessarily specified, allows conclusions to be drawn about the wine. A Riesling, for example, has a higher fruit acid content than Müller-Thurgau or Silvaner. Pinot Noir red wines are often lighter and have fewer tannins than Dornfelder, Lemberger or southern red wines. “But that doesn’t make them any less complex,” says Büscher.

A look at the alcohol content gives you clues as to which food the wine goes with. Bottles with less alcohol (12 percent) go better with light cuisine and hot spices, whereas heavy and substantial dishes also tolerate wines with a lot of alcohol. You can recognize ecological wines by the EU community logo. Those who like it even more sustainable are best off using brands from Ecovin, Bioland or Demeter.

The vintage and origin play this role

Most red and white wines sold in grocery stores are intended for immediate consumption. “They come onto the market at the latest in the year after the harvest, sometimes in the same year, and don’t get much better if they are kept for a longer period of time,” says Büscher. His recommendation: When buying wine, pay attention to young vintages, especially when it comes to white wine.

Good red wines often mature in barrels or bottles before they are sold. These are then only put on the market with a delay of two to three years. “There are strong vintages and weak ones,” adds Holm. For example, 1945 in Bordeaux was a vintage of the century. But a bottle can cost several thousand euros. “The German winemakers are also very optimistic about the 2020 vintage,” says Holm.


Of course, the origin also influences the taste of the wine. Soil and microclimate play just as important a role as the personal signature of the winemaker. The following principle has been established for many producers in recent years: the closer the origin, the higher the quality. “In the near future, this principle will even be adopted in a new German wine law,” explains Büscher.

The basic idea is: The character of the wine is determined by the so-called terroir. According to Büscher, the term describes the interplay between climate and vineyard soil, the particular location and the influence of humans on the wine.

For the buyer, this means that wines that are only marketed by specifying the growing area or the name of the winery – so-called estate wines – correspond to the lowest quality level. On top of this come the so-called local wines, which reflect the character of the vineyards of a place, and at the top are the local wines, which express the individual terroir of the vineyard.

This is what the bottle and its placement on the supermarket shelf say about the quality

And does it matter what the bottle looks like and where it is on the shelf? Really valid statements about the quality of the wine cannot be made based on the nature of the bottle or its position on the supermarket shelf. Nevertheless, you can draw a few pointers from it. “Transparent white glass bottles tend to be more intended for wines that have no storage potential and should be consumed quickly,” says sommelier Holm. “These wines are also more in the entry-level price segment.”

There is no classic placement for a particularly good wine in the supermarket. Branded wines with a high marketing budget are often best visible and at hand level – that doesn’t necessarily mean good quality. According to Büscher from the German Wine Institute, you can often find higher quality products on the higher shelves – while the Tetra Pak is usually at the bottom.

And which wines from the supermarket are particularly recommended?

According to sommelier Holm, it is worth buying wines with the VDP grape eagle on the cap of the bottle. This shows that the wine comes from a winery that belongs to the Association of German Prädikatsweinngüter (VDP). “So if you see a little eagle on a capsule in the supermarket, you can grab it with a clear conscience.”

Wines from the German wine-growing regions are also a good choice, adds Büscher. “Regional products are very much in vogue.” In addition, white wines are increasingly in demand – especially gray and white burgundy and Chardonnay. “They naturally have less fruit acid and are therefore a good alternative for wine lovers who are not so into Riesling,” says the wine expert. Flavor-intensive varieties such as Scheurebe or Gewürztraminer are also being rediscovered. The Sauvignon Blanc goes well with this – which is increasingly available from regional vineyards.

This article was published by in September 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.

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