I have often heard, or even said it myself, that when it comes to good wine, price really does not matter. Until this past week, I have never really given that statement any real thought, but after a conversation with a few friends, all but one are wine drinkers, I gave it some thought and came up with an entirely different view. I'm not going to say that one is totally wrong when arguing price comparison, but to say price does not make a difference in the quality of wine, you must qualify that statement.
The way I would explain wine prices was to say that you can purchase wine from anywhere between $5 and several hundred dollars at just about any local wine shop. The more expensive wines will, or at least should, be much better than your $5 dollar wine. But, will that 90+ rated $50 wine be worth a +$45 to you. In many cases, if you are not a serious wine aficionado or connoisseur, the answer is no.
That though, does not answer the question. Are expensive wines a much better quality and is there a huge difference. For a long time I would have argued that paying an exorbitant price ($25+) is foolish, but now after 40 years of enjoying wine I can look back at all my wine buying and explain better what that difference is. This is the view I gave:
If you were to buy 25 bottles of wine at $10 each and another 25 bottles at $50 each, this is what you will most likely end up with.
First the $10 wines. Out of a 25 bottle selection you will probably end up with 10 bottles of plonk and another 10 bottles of palatable, OK to drink anytime wine and maybe 5 bottles of very nice wines.
As for the much more expensive $50 wines. You can count on 5 bottles of descent everyday table wine, 15 bottles of very nice wines and 5 bottles of outstanding wine. It would be rare to find a bad wine in that selection.
If you were to take that another step let's say to $100 bottles, then you can probably count on at least 24 of them being outstanding.
The big issue is affordability. I have never in my life spent $100 on a wine and I do look for good values. Especially now when wine info is so easily accessible on the internet. There was a time when half of a mixed case of cheap wine was thrown down the drain, but now I can read what others are saying about any wine on the market and then go on a value wine shopping spree.
My conclusion: Price does make a huge difference in quality, but you don't have to pay that price to buy quality wines. You just have to know what you are buying and by reading blogs and reading wine publications you will find what you need to know.
Starting this week I will be posting reviews on many $10 wines. Most of these I have been sharing with friends over the past three weeks and many of them were very good. I also like to walk into the locked coolers at some of the local stores and pick up something a bit pricey once in a while and I'll occasionally throw one of them in.
If you have a favorite "cheap" wine let me know what it is and why you like it and I'll give it a try. I'm always looking for good wines that won't empty the wallet.