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Human Cost of Wine


I was thinking about how much people spend on wine, particularly after looking at the prices of some more expensive bottles. I felt this might be a slightly intrusive question to ask in money terms, so instead I thought I could ask what is the most people are willing to pay in terms of their labour (or former labour if retired). So, for example, if your pay averaged £40/hour, and your spending limit on a bottle is £80, you are willing to work 2 hours per bottle. If you earn £400/hour then 2 hours would get you an £800 bottle. It struck me this might be interesting (or perhaps not).

Personally I have very rarely exceeded 1 hour/bottle and as far as I can remember have never exceeded, or even reached, 2 hours/bottle. Without giving any figures or wine names, does anyone admit to having a much higher or lower hours/bottle limit?


I’ve been retired a while but ignoring restaurant purchases I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone over 2 hours/bottle.


Yes, restaurants just occured to me after I’d posted. I wasn’t counting them.


It is certainly one way of looking at it. I recall reading that Francios Audoze (french industrialist and wine lover) told his son never to spend more than a day’s wages on a bottle of wine.

I have, on one occasion, gone up to and slightly beyond that level. My normal limit would equate to around 3 hours worth.


The average cost of a bottle I had this September was 34 minutes. The most expensive of these bottles cost 156 minutes.


Wow, I can’t imagine myself paying a day’s wages for a bottle of wine. Serious commitment!


Very good question - especially because ‘relative’ in terms of personal affordability.

As a self employed chap its a tad difficult to untangle ‘charge out’ rate from ‘take home after tax’ rate. So the following is kinda approximate.

Wine: Upper mark is around 1 hour & very rarely exceeded. This evening I’m looking at a high end Beaujolais @ 30 mins (it’s been a difficult week - clients trying to achieve Xmas deadlines) - however 20 mins is more usual.

Champagne & Port: Perhaps 2 hours max - and I find it is well worth the extra £.

Whisky: Oops… 3 hours maybe. Hard to justify, by there you are.

I REALLY advise members to get a TWS decanter, it makes quite a differance. And fits in the dishwasher.


Clever question! Looking back over my wine (and certainly EP) purchases over the last year the average bottle cost correlates worryingly closely with the amount of overtime that month… clearly visits to TWS website on the way home from long days are an expensive habit. Possibly the more expensive “present” wines for the other half to apologise for yet another weekend alone are skewing this!

I’d agree with most above - using after tax / NI / pension figures I’d say probably under an hour for normal still wine or cava, then a special bottle would be two hours, and a few of the reserves earmarked for particularly special occasions might push towards three?


For a single bottle, I have only once gone over the 1 hour mark - a 63 Port for a special birthday. However, in terms of drinking, I do drink more expensive wines (rough estimate of UK retail price on day I drink them) either as a result of buying EP, buying at the Cellar door or buying overseas and stashing them in my suitcase to bring home. Of course, one could argue that I incur further travel and personal labour costs by doing that, but I suspect that is not what you are getting at.


(rough estimate of UK retail price on day I drink them)

That’s probably a very different figure altogether, hopefully for many of us. I sometimes find myself drinking wines that would appear to cost a lot, but that’s nothing like what I actually paid, or would pay. I’m just considering the amount actually paid in working hours.


Think I’d skew the average here.

I’m a househusband now, so it doesn’t really work for me, but even back in my salaried days, I didn’t earn a huge amount but my outgoings were low, so I was able to splash out, occasionally, on wines many times my hourly rate, although - thinking about it now - I suppose my more normal purchases averaged around the 1-1½ hour mark.

So maybe not.


I bought a bottle of DRC Romanee-St-Vivant 1988 for £80 when I earned £150/week.


Going to be hard to trump that without getting into a ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch…!

Have to say when I saw the title of this thread, I thought it was going to be a stern lecture about exploited vineyard workers somewhere in Chile or similar!

Difficult to be certain that everyone is on the same playing field here, but when I was last employed on a salaried basis, I don’t think I paid more than an hour or two at most of wages for anything. On self employed basis, on full charge out rate, less than an hour definitely. I suspect that the hourly max would have been higher back in the 80s when I bought some good wine a lot cheaper but got paid a lot less!


My average bottle is about 2 hours work. On occasions up to 3 or 4.


£40/hr. Your obviously in the upper quartile. Well above our level.
Pension a lot less than that. Having said that, checking recent purchases we (or I) have been buying Tuscany wines at 2 to 2.5 x estimated hourly rate. I’d go for Alto Adige (Hofstatter) at 4x if they were available.



I’d say my average is probably very close to 1 hour’s salary after tax/NI/pension. I’m not including bonuses in that calculation. I’ve definitely bought far more 2-3 hour bottles this year than ever before though.


An interesting way of looking at how much I spend on a bottle of wine. I would say very close to 1 hour too. However I think it also depends on how many bottles I’m buying. If I’m buying 12 bottles of a particular wine, then it might be closer to 45 min per bottle, but if its only a 6 bottle case, I might go up to 75 min. When I only had 1 child, I would be willing to spend more, but with the children being 11 and 5 yrs old, I find that the little buggers are spending my “wine” money!


Next question…do you drink it faster than you earn it :wink: ?


As with many of these types of questions, it just becomes a contest to outdo one another.


I certainly didn’t have any competitive idea in mind when I started the topic. I was just interested in how much people who are more than averagely interested in wine might spend on a bottle compared to what they earn. There may be some who earn hundreds of pounds/hour; in fact I presume there are judging by the cost of some wines available from TWS. That wasn’t my point.

In truth it would make no difference to me if somebody was spending 100% of his income on a bottle. I’ve found it interesting to see a range from under half an hour to over half a week, and it’s somehow comforting that most are under 1 or possibly two hours even though others’ expenditure shouldn’t make any difference at all to me. Thanks for all your replies.

Thinking back some, well quite a few, years, my spend in hours was probably higher 15 or 20 years ago, though in money terms my spend per bottle has definitely drifted upwards. It’s just one way of looking at it.