What makes a wine expensive?… or really expensive?
You can find dozens of not hundreds of different wine labels in your local supermarket, their prices can vary from two-buck chuck to hundreds of dollars per bottle, some specialty store may carry wines that cost over $1000 per bottle. So, what makes a wine so expensive?
First, let’s talk about the main ingredient, Grapes. The central valley of California is known for having produced the largest volume of wines in all of California and therefore the whole of US. These are less expensive wines, commonly known as . One acre of planted grape vines from this region could yield up to 10-12 tons of grapes, each ton of grapes can yield to over 700 bottles of wines. Compared that to Napa Valley, a region that is more focused on smaller production and highly crafted wines, some selective vineyard only yield 2 tons of grapes per acre.
With smaller yield, grapes can concentrate their flavors and then can be turned into more flavorful and rich wines. Not to mention, the labor and attention that went into producing smaller batches of wines. Everyday wines can range from under $10 to $30, depending on one’s budget. Good quality wines from Napa Valley will set you back around $50/$60 per bottle. This is a good starting point for beautifully crafted wines, however, prices will increase exponentially for higher quality wines and of course their scarcity. Currently, Screaming Eagle tops the chart as the most expensive wine in the US, it is made in Napa Valley. A bottle at retail will demand around $3000.
But can you really justify paying over $1000 for a bottle of wines, does its taste really that much better compared to something that maybe cost around $300?
An average wine drinker can certainly tell apart bottles that cost $10 from those that cost $40/$50, the quality difference is quite apparent. When it comes to higher end wines, “Beauty” or Taste is in the eye of the beholder. When a wine reach a few hundred dollars per bottle, each of them tend to have unique characteristics and taste profiles that wine lovers sought after. Just because it is expensive, doesn’t mean it will taste good to everyone. In fact, easier drinking wines with fruit-forward notes will attract a larger crowd and they will appeal to the general public with more reasonable price point.
At the end of the day, some of the most expensive wines in the world cost so much because not only they taste very good but also just as important they are rare to come by because of limited production. It is not uncommon for some to prefer less expensive bottles simply because to them the taste is better. In a way, wine is like art.
If you can afford a Picasso, most likely you may be enjoying it with a glass or two of some of the most expensive wines in the world.
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-Certified Sommelier (CMS)
Napa Reserva -Falling for wine, one sip at a time. TM