Save your hard-earned cash for presents by stocking your holiday party with Three Wishes wines, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market for $2.99 a bottle.
At this point, some of you are no doubt saying "What the hell? She's gone and lost her mind!" The last time I wrote about wine under $5 one commenter accused me of drinking in the parking lot with "hobos."
For whatever reason, wine seems to be particularly susceptible to the halo effect, defined by Wikipedia as "a cognitive bias whereby the perception of one trait (i.e. a characteristic of a person or object) is influenced by the perception of another trait (or several traits) of that person or object." Examples would be assuming that a person wearing glasses must be smart, or popular perception that if a wine is Italian/organic/expensive, it must be good.
Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab conducted a study on the halo effect and wine in 2007. Diners were presented with a free glass of wine to accompany their dinners. Half the bottles were labeled as being from Noah's Winery in California; the other half from Noah's Winery in North Dakota. In actuality, all were given the exact same inexpensive Charles Shaw wine, yet diners drinking the "California" wine rated it higher, dined 10 minutes longer, and ate 11 percent more of their food than diners drinking the "North Dakota" wine.
This is not to say that wines at a higher price point are no better than those below them, but it's important to realize that quality is not the only factor at play in determining price. Widespread distribution by a major national chain (such as Three Wishes at Whole Foods or Southern Point at Walgreens) allows for retail prices two to three times below those of competitors.
Devon Broglie, Whole Foods Market Southwest Region Specialty Coordinator, says, "Over the last several years we've seen the overwhelming response to extreme-value wines and have developed the Three Wishes label as an opportunity to better serve the needs of our guests. The wines are deliberately made in an accessible style to appeal to a broad audience."
For Holiday Parties, Whole Foods Market Recommends:
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Three Wishes (Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon) $2.99/bottle, $33.33/case of 12* Described as Whole Food's answer to Two Buck Chuck, the Three Wishes line was recently developed exclusively for Whole Foods by Charles Shaw. But how do they taste? According to a reviewer from newser.com, "For $3? Good. They even beat out a lot of $8-$10 wines." *additional case discount not available
Paul Valmer (Merlot, Chardonnay) $4.99 Available exclusively at Whole Foods, the Paul Valmer line from Paso Robles Wine Co. is described as "an excellent choice for an everyday wine and in my opinion far superior to other wines costing twice the price", and "highly recommended" by reviewers on snooth.com.
Harthill Farms (Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvingon) $4.99 Winelegacy.com recommends serving the Chardonnay "well chilled as an aperitif, with hors d'oeuvres or with serious food at a sit-down dinner. It makes a lovely partner for seafood, poultry, salads and pastas!"
In addition, Whole Foods offers a 10 percent discount with a purchase of six or more of any of their regularly priced wines. Why spend $30 on one bottle of wine when you can get a dozen for $33? Or, start with $10 to $12 bottles and switch to the cheap stuff later--and make fun of your wine snob friends when they can't tell the difference.