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Is expensive better ?


I'm sure there are a lot of articles on whether or not a wines cost is proportional to how good it will be, but it continues to be something that comes up in conversation so i thought that i might have a go at giving my view based on wines i try, the winemakers i talk to and my own ongoing attempts at winemaking.

I'll start with a romantic view that wine is only about the grapes that go into making it, however i think much of the wine drinking public know there are a few other tips and tricks across the whole process that impact the outcome, however in the end grapes are the single most important input.

Given the importance of the raw material i have read that fruit that goes into the Torbreck Laird can fetch up to $16000 a tonne, and fruit that goes into the ultra premium Teusner wines tips the $9000 mark, to give some scale you could produce 900 bottles from a tonne of fruit, which is $18 worth of fruit for Torbreck and $10 for Teusner, but it doesn't stop there.

Wine is a packaged consumer product, and it's the time from commencing the winemaking process to deriving an income that inadvertently impacts the price of wine. A wines life starts in the vineyard, with only one crop produced each year, the cost of production for an estate vineyard depends on labour cost, land costs, infrastructure costs and any number of consumables such as water, fertiliser etc. When the grapes are ready for harvest a team of pickers swarm on the vineyard, or a machine picker is hired to harvest the grapes, expensive equipment such as crushers, sorting tables and presses are ramped up for their 3 weeks worth of usage for the year, and staff monitor ferments around the clock… sound expensive already ?

The next step with reds is to choose the maturation vessel, and oak is not cheap, quality french oak is about $1000 a barrel, with each barrel producing about 300 bottles of wine (~$3 a bottle), most reds will typically sit in barrel for a period of 12 - 24 months, with occasional attention. When the time is right they will be bottled, another once off expensive exercise, and after all this you expect it to be ready to be sold ? … no , often a wine (red) needs at least 6 - 12 months in the bottle to come back together after being bottled. Its a long and expensive journey, you would hope you have a good wine at the end of it that you can sell ! Oh yes there is also the cost of marketing and running a business… i almost forgot about that !

Even given my loosely factual account above you can't help but think that with labour costs and all the other bits thrown in $800 for Grange and $900 for Laird may be a bit steep, and a dozen bottles of Murray Street Benno may be a better bet.

This is where it gets more interesting, and in my view scarcity, whether real or perceived and the power of marketing takes over. In life people try to be objective, but unfortunately subjectivity will often impact, and wine is no different. People want a $800 wine to taste better than a $10 wine. The moral of the story here is that i'm not saying expensive wines are not good, or in fact brilliant, but for an everyday consumer some similar quality wines can generally be found around the $50 - $150 mark

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  • Guest - PA

    In blind tastings, how do expensive wines rate against inexpensive wines?

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