Yesterday, in my post about wine and money, I asked you to share your thoughts on what people typically pay for when they spend more on wine. Today I’d like to discuss that further.
Just like with so many other products out there: clothing, cars, food… you name it, often when you pay more you might get a little more in terms of quality, but often you do not. What is the difference between the T-shirt I buy at Target versus the Gap versus Ann Taylor versus…? We could keep going on this, but I think you get the point.
In some products there is, in fact, a difference, (my T-shirt might be cut from a better fabric or it might have a different fit) and yet in others there isn’t much of a difference, or that difference is often not proportional to the increase in price.
The same goes for cars. All cars (should) go, and at some levels as you pay more you get more features, but at what point does the proportion of what you spend equal the proportion of additional features and benefits you get and when are you spending more just for the privilege of driving that car?
I believe wine is very much the same.
Here are some reasons I have found as to why wine’s price varies:
Some wines cost more because they are crafted differently.
After spending a just a few hours with Javier Alfonso of Pomum Cellars, I could tell that he cares deeply about the grapes he buys and the wines he crafts from those grapes. He is extremely particular about his growers and their growing practices. His grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and handled with extraordinary care. His soul is in every bottle of wine he crafts, there is no doubt about that. And his wine tastes delicious. He is not a mass production operation and every single decision requires his personal attention. Pomum Cellars wines cost more to make. His wines cost between $25- $38 and I find them to be fantastic, hand-crafted wines that are worth paying more to buy.
Yes, there are many other winemakers that share Javier’s philosophy and craft beautiful wines. And individual attention does cost more. But Javier, and the winemakers and small wineries like him, make up only one piece of the market.
Some wines cost more because the company believes they can get a higher profit margin.
This is a massive part of the free market system. Companies are going to charge for their product what the market allows. For needs (like wine or Beanie Babies), not wants (like basic foods), it is up to the consumer to help make that decision by buying products at fair prices or choosing not to buy them if the prices are unacceptable.
Some mass produced wines are priced higher because consumers will pay more. And that is okay, too– to a certain extent, and as long as we know what it is we are paying to get.
Some wines cost more because they truly are extraordinary.
Some wines are exceptional, whether that be because of how they were crafted or how they were grown or how they were handled. Some wines are worth a higher price. But not all wines are. Some wineries respect that by charging more only for an exceptional vintage or only offering special wines when the conditions are perfect, as Anthony Road Wine Company has done with their 2008 Riesling Trockenbeeren. Johannes Reinhardt, Anthony Road’s winemaker, explained to me that they will only make Trockenbeeren in the years it appropriate, as he wants his customers to expect only the best when they are paying extra for it. And he delivers.
Some wines cost more because they have been awarded a certain number of points by wine reviewers.
Wines that have higher ratings by critics are priced higher. Sometimes higher points are a result of an extraordinary wine. But oftentimes a critic’s opinion doesn’t dictate whether YOU will like the wine any more or less. So should you buy a more expensive wine with a higher ranking because a critic or reviewer liked it, especially when you don’t know why the score is what it is?
Some wines cost more because the wine company has convinced us that sophisticated or hip people drink their wine, so if we buy it, we will be the same.
Flip through a magazine and take a look at the wine advertisements. The ads often tell me one of two things:
- I am not wealthy and sophisticated enough to buy the wines advertised.
- If I want to be (or appear) wealthy and sophisticated, I should drink their wines.
Most often the ads don’t tell me anything about how the wines taste or even anything about its quality, but they show me how sophisticated it is.
So what are we paying for when we buy a bottle of wine? Are we paying for what we like? Are we paying for what a critic might like? Or are we paying for more quality that we can appreciate as the price increases?
What do you think? I’d love for you to share in the comments…