Have you ever splurged on a bottle of wine and felt underwhelmed with how it tasted? Perhaps you’ve purchased a bargain bottle in a pinch and it became a new favorite. As both of these scenarios illustrate: you can’t judge a wine by its price tag.
If not for the taste, what makes one bottle of red $8.99, and another $89? Good question! There are some key differences between value wines and top-dollar varieties aside from the sticker price. They are generally related to where the grapes were grown, how the wine was aged and how long it was aged for. Here’s why these factors matter:
Where the grapes were grown: Good grapes are a product of their environment. Vineyards with temperate climates, plenty of sunlight, and fertile, well-draining soil will produce superior grapes and wines. Slopes and hillsides are even better for grape growing. You’ll pay more per bottle for wines that come from a desirable locale. For example, a wine made in Italy may cost you $15, where a wine produced in Tuscany in specific may cost $20. Tuscany is known for its favorable growing conditions and high-quality wines.
How the wine was aged: Wine should be aged at cool, stable temperatures, out of direct sunlight. It takes time and effort to create the ideal storing conditions, which is reflected in the price tag. Many fine wines are aged in oak barrels, which can be quite costly, and up the sticker price. Wine aged in steel barrels is typically cheaper.
How long the wine was aged: Aged wine becomes more complex (and delicious) as it matures. A winemaker understands how to perfectly age their varieties to extract the best flavor profile. When a wine is held for years, it takes up time and space that adds to the overall cost of the finished product.
Expensive wines were typically grown in a highly regarded region and can be worth the splurge if you’re up for it. Treating yourself to a more expensive wine can make an occasional all the more special. Aged red wines can make for better splurges as they typically benefit more from the aging process than whites.
Still, it’s important to remember that a vineyard is going to want to offer you their very best no matter what. Don’t ignore a wine because of a modest (or even a budget) price tag. In the end, it comes down to matter of preference, so choose what you enjoy.
If you’re not sure where to begin, stop by your local vineyard and ask some questions. The staff will be able to describe the growing season, grape varieties, aging process, and more. And best of all, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a modestly-priced purchase that was locally grown and harvested. Supporting the local economy and sipping on something delicious — what could be better?