Is more expensive wine better?

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Let’s talk about the price of wine. If you think that the price of a wine is based on its quality, you are mistaken.

Supply and demand

The most significant driving force behind the price of a wine is a supply and demand. Winemakers generally know how much they can charge for the bottle. If the wine is from Bourdeaux, you can’t expect it to cost 5£. The reason is that winemakers charge you for the brand which Bourdeaux carries. But to be fair winemakers in regions like Bourdeaux have to follow much stricter rules than in Marlborough (N.Z.), for example.

There is a really nice example of a supply/demand bubble that happened between 2005 and 2015. What happened was that wealthy Chinese investors were spending lots of money on French wine. Which drove prices as high as 20,000$ per bottle of Lafite.

So what is exactly included in manufacturing and transportation cost?

Costs of growing and harvesting wine

Can you do the maintenance and harvesting by hand or can you use machinery? If the slopes are too steep or you have to follow strict regulations, you have to do it by hand. But if you are not restricted by the features of land or by regulations, the machine harvesting is the way to go. A good example of this is Champagne (France) and Marlborough (N.Z) regions. The general rule is that people are more expensive than machines.

Yearly yield

Before I took the WSET course, I never realised the winemakers could affect yearly yield. Which is one of the factors that affect the price and quality of the wine.
There are multiple ways how to do it. You can use “Fruit thinning
, Canopy Management to Improve Yield and Quality (canopy management article, pdf format) or use irrigation.
All these techniques cost a different amount of money, and the final price is affected by how much wine do you produce at the end.

Storage and ageing of the wine

Before the wine is ready to go to bottles, it has to be stored somewhere and in something. The wine is usually stored in the winery. The vessel which the wine is stored in makes all the difference and affects the price differently:
Stainless steel vats – cost less and you can reuse them every year.
Oak vats/barrels – cost much more and also take up much more space. You can reuse them only about three times and then the oak effect on wine flavours will diminish significantly.

Bottling the wine

As you know, most of the wine is sold in glass bottles. Bottles can be cheap or more expensive. There are so many different types that I will just point you toward the wiki about the wine bottles.

Most bottles have a cork top, but the screw top is getting more popular in last 20 years. You will find more information about screwcap and cork here.
Wine has to get into a bottle somehow, and this process costs money too. Winemakers can rent these machines, or they can own them.

The way how the wine gets to you

The way how the wine is transported and sold affects the price. If you move the wine between countries, you have to think about the taxes and exchange rates too. Then the wine merchant adds to the original price his fee, which is the last piece in a price puzzle.

Next time when you look at the 10£ bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zeland and 30£ Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, it doesn’t mean that the most expensive one is better. But how can you be sure until you try them both? 😉

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