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Why are some wines more expensive than others?

I get lots of questions like our heading today. In a way they seem childish, like “How is it the sun and the moon can just sit in the sky?” Yet try answering and you find yourself on a sticky wicket. But I`ll try. The wine question, I mean! First, it can be a simple case of numbers. The economies of scale.  Farming large flat spaces is cheaper than cultivating vines on steep, difficult to access slopes. It`s naturally possible to produce a cheaper product if your vines bear plentiful fruit, as compared to vines which don’t. Further savings are made throughout the winemaking processes, right the way through to large, versus small, bottling runs. Similarly, transporting large volumes of wine represents a cost saving over the transportation of small volumes, an advantage the supermarket chains have over us independent wine merchants. In the end, though, low-yielding fruit and the small-time producer would lose every time if the measure was volume and low price alone. Their bottles simply would not exist on our shelves. In fact, they wouldn’t exist, and us independents likely wouldn’t either. We would be reduced to a homogenous world of large corporate wine producers and supermarket chains. But happily, there are many such wines, and we thank the stars for them. Indeed, many of them are family concerns, passed from generation to generation. Because there`s the second factor in this equation in answer to the titled question: the matter of quality and diversity. Some wines are simply better and more interesting than others, and inevitably more expensive. Producer X has chosen the tricky south-east facing slope despite the high cost of cultivating his vines, exactly because they produce low yields of concentrated, delicious fruit. He then chooses to mature his wines in expensive oak barrels to make the best possible wine. In return we are asked to pay a higher price. It`s simple economics, but if you don`t drink decent wine you may not value the distinction. Mercifully a great many of us do.

 

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