7 years ago

Why $30 wines are better

Are you a die-hard frugal wine drinker? Bill Belkin, category manager for our Wines & Spirits locations, explains what makes some wine so expensive … and why you might want to splurge a little this holiday season.

We’ve all heard our self-proclaimed oenophile friends remark, “Hey, there’s no difference between that $30 bottle and this $10 one … ”

Well, with apologies to Mr. Know Nothing, there actually is.  Or at the very least, there should be. Make that BETTER BE!

You see, wine, like real estate, is all about location, location and location. And the best grapes in the world, like the best homes in the world, are planted on expensive soil. Not only the dirt itself is better, but the angle to the sun, the drainage, the exposure to the wind and the immediate effect of any large body of water all serve to make the raw materials better than those planted in areas that are too flat, too hot and too close together.

Because, unlike perhaps your uncle’s corn crop, grapes like to be spaced relatively far apart so that yields per acre are relatively low. Thereby the intensity and complexity of the resultant wines are somewhat remarkable. As a reference point: Currently the best, most in-demand Cabernet from Napa sells from growers to winemakers at over $30,000 per ton. Yes, that’s correct!

A ton of grapes only makes about 60 cases of wine. So you can do the math and see what a great bottle of wine has to cost.

Conversely, bulk wines are cropped at a much higher rate per acre (often machine harvested vs. hand harvested) go through little or no sorting before being rudely crushed (seeds, stems, insects and all) into huge capacity stainless steel tanks. Wines like this on the bulk market often can be obtained for next to nothing … true.

Did I forget to mention that those fancy French Oak barrels that hold only 225 liters (that’s only 25 cases) cost upwards of $1,750 USD each?

Additionally, did I mention that said barrel of wine may age undisturbed in a cellar on the property of the winery and grower for over two years? This is a very expensive business proposition. No money coming in and plenty going out for over two years!

And while we are at it, let’s hire a really good winemaker. They don’t typically work for free.

Whew …

Throughout this whole diatribe, I am not saying that really good, sometimes bordering on great wines cannot be had for $12. It’s just that the real inner beauty of a wine starts to be revealed when you get up near the $30 mark. Try one this holiday season. Ask one of our shop managers to pick out a seriously good wine for your own pleasure or gift giving. See if you can tell the difference!