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When it comes to wine, do you get what you pay for?

According to Jörn Kleinhans “the vast majority of wine is awful” at the $US10 price point. He does add that there are however exceptions including Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region; stating “it’s not possible to buy a bad New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.” (Kane, L 2015).

Again, according to Jörn Kleinhans “The $US20 level is where quality wine begins”. He says that most bottles at this price point provide good value. (Kane, L 2015).

So do I agree?

We’ve all seen the stunts where the average punter is subjected to a blind taste test – the $10 bottle versus the $100 bottle. Alas they can’t tell the difference. OK so the approach probably wasn’t too scientific but it made for good viewing. What it does highlight is that most people are novices when it comes to wine appreciation but most significantly it reiterates that wine preference is personal.

I can’t answer for personal taste but let’s look at what makes a wine expensive and relate that back to the $10 bottle versus the $100 bottle.

Oak barrels. Oak barrels are expensive because only two barrels can be made from an 80 year old oak tree. French barrels are in demand so they cost about twice as much as American barrels. (Wine Folly 2015). To reduce costs, use oak chips and to avoid this cost altogether, don’t oak the wine. The $10 bottle wasn’t oaked and the $100 bottle was oaked in French barrels for 2 years.

Time. Storing wines for years takes up space and costs money. (Wine Folly 2015). To reduce costs, ship the wine when it’s young. The $10 bottle was not matured in oak and was shipped immediately and the $100 bottle was matured in oak for 2 years then bottle aged for a further year before being shipped.

Location, scale and efficiency. Location and terroir affect yield. High yield equals lower cost but also lower quality. Vines that produce less grapes result in wines that are more flavour intense. Using economies of scale, technology and automation, big producers can reduce costs. Boutique wineries often hand pick their fruit and rely on traditional wine making techniques. (Wine Folly 2015). The $10 bottle was one of tens of thousands of bottles of that wine produced from grapes grown in a number of warm climate high yield vineyards, the grapes were harvested by a machine and fast modern wine making techniques were used and the $100 bottle was one of only a thousand bottles of that wine produced from grapes grown in a single cool climate low yield vineyard, the grapes were harvested by hand and slow traditional wine making techniques were used.

So yes I do agree that when it comes to wine, you do get what you pay for. Australia is known for consistently good, high volume inexpensive wine, mainly due to our warm climate, vast pastoral lands and efficiency through the use of technology and automation. In my opinion, roughly the $15 level is where quality Australian wine begins. Note in Australia, a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is also imposed on consumers.

Jörn Kleinhans is very fond of Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley region, he believes $US100 for a bottle of Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley region represents good value and I certainly agree with that. (Kane, L 2015).

Does organic or biodynamic wine cost more?

In Australia and New Zealand, organic and biodynamic wineries are boutique wineries producing low yield and higher quality wines. They often hand pick their fruit and rely on traditional wine making techniques. Therefore most certified organic or biodynamic wines cost at least $15 a bottle; though we do sell certified organic wines from $10 a bottle.

But do organic or biodynamic wines cost more than conventional wines from boutique wineries?

Organic and biodynamic farms have lower overall input costs (driven primarily by lower fertiliser, chemical, energy and fixed costs) and higher labour costs due to manual organic and biodynamic practices. The nett effect is organic and biodynamic wines cost no more and no less than conventional wines. (Wheeler, S A and Crisp, P 2009). It should also be noted that organic and biodynamic farms often use woofers to help with labour. All they need to do is to provide shelter and food in return for labour. Inevitably much cheaper than paying wages.

Here’s my picks for the very best value certified organic wines we sell:

Nature’s Step 2019 Pinot Grigio $13.90
Angove 2015 Merlot $14.95
J&J Vineyards Rivers Lane Shiraz 2015 $25.00
Agrarian The Frisky Farmer Chardonnay 2019 $15.00

And they are even cheaper when you buy by the 6-bottle case!

Cheers

References

Kane, L 2015 ‘How To Get The Best Quality Wine At Any Price Point’, Business Insider Australia, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/best-quality-wine-at-any-price-2015-1>, viewed 15 March 2015.

Wine Folly 2015, ‘The Truth About Cheap vs. Expensive Wine’ <http://winefolly.com/tutorial/truth-cheap-vs-expensive-wine/>, viewed 15 March 2015.

Wheeler, S A and Crisp, P 2009 ‘Evaluating a Range of the Benefits and Costs of Organic and Conventional Production in a Clare Valley Vineyard in South Australia’, Australian Agriculture and Resource Economics Society, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

 

 

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