How do you pick the ‘perfect’ bottle of wine for an occasion or as a hostess gift? Do you use wine scores draped on racks that hold the wine you’re speculating in the store, or do you use price point as your gauge? In my books, neither should be your driver, especially not price, and the ‘perfect’ wine depends on you, and what you like. The matter of price, however, is one that I struggle with often. Friends who class themselves as oenophiles, often discuss rare vintages that they’re indulging in, and of course these wine rarities usually come with a hefty price point. I’ve had occasion to try some of these highly priced wines, and I won’t lie, they were, for the most part, damn good! But what about the more moderately priced wines; are they lacking in palate enjoyment because of their price point? I think not. Often times, the difference in wine prices will depend on the process involved in making the wine. The more labour intensive or advanced the wine making techniques, the more you’ll naturally pay, but if your occasion is one of a casual gathering with friends who are interested in drinking great tasting wine, you’ll probably be able to serve the affordably priced wines, and still produce many smiling faces in the crowd. Through full transparency, and because I want you to go into your wine selections with both eyes open, some of the lower priced wines, if you do your research, are machine harvested and or have additives included at the end of the production phase for enhanced flavouring, whereas the pricier wines usually employ labourers to harvest grapes and use different techniques during fermentation to produce natural and complex aromas and flavours from the grapes. The process involved in making lower priced wines is not necessarily a bad one, but it lessens in wine complexity.
With wine market share laying in the 26%, the industry’s goal should be in creating an accessible wine culture. Those just experimenting or casually delving into the world of wine, from time to time, need as little barriers to entry as possible. Things such as labeling wines based on varietals versus geography, and making the price point palatable for the common libation drinker is key. On our blog here, we make it a point to review more than our share of wines that fall below the $15 price point, giving commentary associated with real world experiences, as making wine accessible means making it relevant and easily intertwined in our daily lives.
Ultimately, one should have no fear drinking what they personally like, whether it be $10 or $60. The beauty and essence of wine, is that with the abundance of wine regions, varietals, blends and techniques in wine creation, it really is possible to find your unique self, well, in a bottle, as funny as that sounds.
Food for thought:
In January, the Huffington Post performed their own blind taste test, using price as the difference. They performed their test with two reds from the same region and varietal and then did the same thing with two whites. Below are the results:
Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Blend Cabernet Sauvignon (a.k.a. Three-Buck Chuck), California, 2011 — $3
Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, California, 2007 — $65
Price difference: $62
Tasters’ verdict: Only 38 percent of our tasters correctly identified the more expensive wine, and 62 percent preferred the $3 variety from Trader Joe’s. Surprising, right? Think about how much more wine those tasters can get for their buck.
Glen Ellen Reserve Concannon, 2010 Chardonnay, California — $5
Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California — $45
Price difference: $40 Tasters’ verdict: 60 percent of our tasters correctly identified Cakebread Cellars as the more expensive wine, but many comments suggested there wasn’t much difference between the two
Image courtesy of: The Georgia Council on Economic Education