Put yourself in the following scenario. It’s your birthday and you’ve received 2 bottles of wine. The first bottle has been given to you by a colleague at work and is a well known brand name (retailing at £3.99). The second is from your rich Uncle who has given you a vintage Claret from his private cellar (worth about £90).
If someone were to ask you which of these two wines is the better one, nine times out of ten you’d select the expensive Claret. Correct?
Now imagine that you taste these wines blind. One of them is full of colour, tastes of intense fruit and delivers a noticeable amount of alcohol. The other is a little paler, delivers less fruit on the palette, is smooth and tastes slightly vegetal.
If someone were to ask you now which is the better wine you’d now be more inclined to choose the wine that simply tasted better to you.
Some people argue that assessing the quality of a wine is purely a matter of individual taste. The theory goes that if you like a cheap wine over an expensive wine then that wine is clearly the better wine.
And yet reduced to its logical conclusion, this argument would hold that if you prefer eating at McDonalds to eating at Claridges then McDonalds must be a better restaurant.
Personal preference only serves to show what an individual likes, so what are the other factors that determine quality?
The first question to ask is actually how much wine is the bottle? Once you’ve taken out duty, the suppliers margin, the retailers margin and the marketing costs, then there is very little left over for the wine in a £3.99 bottle. As duty is a fixed amount, you can start to calculate that for every extra £1 you spend on a bottle of wine you are getting a much bigger proportion of wine in the bottle.
The second factor to consider is how the wine is made. At lower prices, the wine will tend to be mass produced to ensure economies of scale and the winemaker may use a higher level of additives (e.g. fattening agents) to ensure that the wine has a consistent taste. The winemaker will also use cheaper materials such as wood chips rather than barrels to provide the oaky taste. At this price point the winemaker can’t take any risks.
For each extra pound you spend on a bottle of wine, you are actually paying for more time spent making the wine, better equipment, more careful harvesting (e.g. better grape selection) and better processes (e.g. more time in oak barrels).
Lastly you need to factor in the ageing process and the rules of the market. Good wines get better with age but the level of stock starts to diminish as soon as they get released into the market and the price then become hugely inflated. It is a fact that a £10,000 bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild is not 100 times “better” than a £10 bottle of Rioja from your local wine merchant, but it maybe a 1000 times rarer.
The happy medium sits in and around the £15-£20 level. It’s at this price point that you are going to get the best wines, while the (significantly) better wines can be found at the £7-10 mark. BUY quality wines from Classic Wine Direct online.