This is a real apples v oranges, chicken v egg question. Is a $30 bottle of wine any better than a $5.00 bottle? It’s just grape juice that’s been fermented, right? So what’s the difference? Is there a difference?

Quite simply, yes. It’s maybe not so much about the price, though, but about how well-made and prepared the wine is and when you try one that’s good quality, you’ll know.

There are actually measurable differences between mass-produced, cheap wine and wine from a micro-vineyard where the grapes are serenaded every night (this doesn’t really happen). The differences come from the growing methods and the winemaking methods involved. Even if you’re not a big wine fan, you should understand that scales of economy, production techniques and time can affect the price of wine – or indeed, any product,

The quality of the vineyard matters

The best soils and climates are limited, so people will pay a premium for vintages from these places. This is the terroir – the total environment that the grapes are grown in – the soil, the amount of sunlight and the wind direction all have an effect.

If a vineyard is in a great spot, you’ll get great grapes, which, given expert treatment, results in great wines. This comes at a premium, as these places aren’t necessarily the easiest places to farm on.

Then there’s the winemaking process itself

The techniques used, the equipment, the barrels, the aging process, the small children who have to be bribed to squash the grapes… It all has its part to play too. This process is handled by experts, each of whom has his or her own twists and touches. This expertise costs money – quite rightly too, because you’re paying for years, maybe generations, of experience.

These guys have to produce wines with the right balance between acid, alcohol, tannin and sugar, regardless of the grape. This takes skill and the application of subtly different fermentation techniques to achieve this balance and maintain the taste of the terroir. You try that at home, kids!

Then there’s the barrels

Storing and aging wine costs money. These barrels aren’t shoved into the basement and forgotten about – aging is a dynamic process that requires monitoring and judgement.

Of course you could say that it’s all subjective, and if you like your $5.00 plonk more than the $30.00 vintage, then fill your boots! You can’t, however, say that the cheapie is as good.


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