Is Expensive Wine Worth It?
Wine has become available to most of the world at a variety of price points. There’s the bottle you pick up at the market or corner store to sip while you’re cooking and use to deglaze your pan, the Wednesday night bottle that you have with dinner at home, and the ‘top shelf’ bottle you splurge on for special occasions. With such a price disparity you can’t help but wonder ‘what makes one more expensive than the other?’ and ‘is the expensive bottle really that much better?’
What makes the wine cost?
There are several factors that go into the pricing of a bottle of wine. Where did the grapes come from? Was it a well known and reputable region of a developing country/appellation? Who made the wine? Does the estate or winemaker have a following and years of experience? How much is made? 1000 cases or 10000 cases? Is it being aged? Are they using stainless steel or oak barrels?
Cost of wine production
First, let’s look at how the winemaking process effects cost. Are the grapes being grown on land owned by the winemaker or purchased elsewhere? If they are grown on the land you’re looking at a labor cost. Pruning, irrigation, and harvesting require staff. If the grapes are being farmed organically the on going care to avoid loss of product to pests and disease is higher. Is the vineyard high production or low production? Low yield vines generally produce more high quality grapes but require more attention than high yield vines. If the grapes are hand harvested you’re looking at a longer amount of time (and cost) than using a machine. Is the wine being fermented or aged in stainless steel or oak? Oak barrels are not cheap and French barrels are nearly twice as expensive as American oak.
How is the bottle valued?
Next, we have to consider the perceived value of a bottle. This is determined by looking at several factors. Where were the grapes grown? Are they from a well known region? A bottle from California, for instance, can simply put ‘California’ on their label indicating that the grapes are sourced from several sites throughout the state and can often have smaller price tags. If the grapes are from a specific appellation price generally begins to creep up. Grapes grown in Napa are known for a certain level of quality and therefore cost more. Even more cost can be incurred if grapes are purchased or grown in more specific sites within a growing region, such as the Diamond Mountain District of Napa.
Once we move past the source of the grapes we have to consider the people making the wine. How many years has the winemaker been at it? A seasoned winemaker, particularly one who has gained a reputation for consistency or quality will add a bit of cost to a bottle. Not only are you increasing the perceived value of the end product but a skilled winemaker is obviously going to be paid more than someone just starting out.
Is it worth paying more?
Now, is a more expensive wine really that different from a cheaper one? It’s still a complicated question. The bottle of wine from a specific site, made by a well known winemaker in a low production winery is going to imply a certain level of quality right off the bat. It’s a safe choice, which means yes, it’s worth it. You generally know what you’re getting in that situation.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cheaper bottle can’t be good. Lesser known regions produce wine that is often quite good for a fraction of the price. It doesn’t have the higher price tags because the reputation isn’t there to inflate the price of grapes. A bottle from an up and coming winemaker is another great bet. Someone at the beginning of their career maybe doesn’t have years of experience under their belt but can still produce a great product and don’t yet demand a high price. Looking for a great bottle but tight with budget? Simply use Wine Picker, a great wine app for Android and iOS and it help you find the right wine for the right price.