“What am I paying for?”

You’ve thought about it at some point. What is the difference between a $15 bottle of wine vs. a $75 one? Does it really make a difference? Is it worth it? All are common consumer questions which stem from one simple curiosity. 

To keep this short series at bay (and from becoming a beast of a novel), I will focus on condensed versions of limited topics—like mini pocketbook digests for quick consumption. I won’t go into detailed accounts of varied cork usage and I won’t be getting into the scientifics of wine additives or even bottle fermentation. Let’s save that for a deep dive day! This is an incredibly broad topic, and even with as succinct as I’d like to make this, its depths are still quite substantial regardless.

The idea here isn’t to bash any one style or price point, the idea here is to exercise thinking about a bottle for more than what is seen or tangible. To take interest in what goes behind the scenes before that bottle actually makes it into your hands. Let’s love and appreciate those bottles!

Check the Real Estate

Where the grapes grow matter, and not just because of taste. Land value is a big chunk of wine cost. That feeds into the average cost of growing grapes. Take Napa for example, one of the most premier and sought after regions in the world by consumers. Even if you only compare pricing between Napa and Sonoma, the variance in pricing between the two is drastic! While there are certainly other factors which determine price, this one is a huge influence.


Limited production? Only 500 bottles ever produced? Inaugural release of a particular varietal from a producer? This can affect the cost as well. On top of the high-anticipation factor, many limited releases actually require a lot of behind-the-scenes handiwork, yet with less amount of product to sell. Vintage Champagnes are the perfect example of this. That aging process is time. And time is money. Plus, they are released in prime vintages, and there are barely a handful of those in a decade.

Labor (Sourcing)

Labor is such a broad matter in itself but for this particular point my focus is on harvest. While the distinction between things like hand-picking vs. machine-picking can either be due to preference, the laws of a wine region or even part marketing ploy for others, one thing is for certain, you can’t deny that it is exactly that: labor. That cost is certainly not cheap. Ever think about how grapes are picked on those extra steep slopes of Mosel? Very much by hand, and even with those with little machine involvement it doesn’t make the trek any less dangerous. In some instances it actually makes it even more dangerous! Almost as if every harvest’s a death sentence. 

The Prestige Flex

Similar to brands outside the realm of wine, prestige also holds a price. Think about famed artists and the price points of their art, designer shoes, popular high-end gaming systems. You pay a premium for a piece of reputation, history, luxury. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of What Am I Paying For? The Cost of Wine here on www.shallwewine.com! Remember that value and how one perceives it is certainly subjective. The idea here is to see wine for more than face value. Enjoy wine from all spectrums of the cost spectrum!