When I was younger, I always thought that my very own dad was the man solely responsible for coining the phrase “you get what you pay for”. But, I have learned over the years of buying and consuming wine that sometimes you get what you pay for….and MORE! I have sampled many different varieties of wine over the last two decades and discovered that it does not have to be expensive to be good. Don’t get me wrong, there are a slew of wines on the market that I wouldn’t wash my dog with, but, there are also some very enjoyable, well-made wines at reasonable prices.
I have had many people ask me what makes wine expensive or not expensive? There are many steps taken from the grape to the glass, and there are several different factors that go into the production of wine. The number one factor that determines cost is the real estate and the land within. Prime vineyards in prime locations can be very costly to the vineyard owner and eventually to you. Other factors include viticulture techniques, harvesting (hand harvesting verses mechanical harvesting) and methods of production, including fermentation and aging. To ferment or age your wine in a brand new French oak barrel is a whole lot more expensive than throwing a bag of oak chips in the wine vat. Also, wine produced from ideal vineyards, in well-known regions from well-known, high priced grapes, like Napa Valley Chardonnay, will definitely command a higher price on the market.
When purchasing wine, the key to maintaining value without sacrificing taste is to seek out wines from lesser-known regions. For example, if you enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, try one from Mendoza, Argentina or Coonawarra, Australia. You may find that it delivers all the valuable characteristics that you love in Napa Cab for half the price. Here are some other regions for value-based wine of good quality: Côtes de Provence for good reds and rosés, Languedoc-Roussillon, including the regions of Fitou, Côtes du Roussillon, Corbières and Minervois for good red blends. If you like Rioja, try wines from Navarra. If you like Valpolicella, try a Bardolino.
Also, search for wines made from lesser-known grape varieties. This an excellent way to save money and discover new and exciting wines. If you enjoy full-bodied whites try a Viognier from California, a Semillon from Australia or a Roussanne/Marsanne blend from the Rhone. If you enjoy lighter style whites, try Vinho Verde from Portugal, Chenin Blanc from South Africa, Muscadet from Loire Valley or Tocai Friulano from Northern Italy. If you prefer red wine, try Dolcetto or Barbera from Piedmont, Cru Beaujolais from Burgundy, Carmenere from Chile, Malbec from Argentina or a Grenache, Syrah blend from the Côtes du Rhone. For day to day purchases all of these wines can represent good quality for the price, but, it is always a good idea to splurge once in a while and treat yourself to the many levels of quality wine.