Do I Have to Spend a Lot to Get a Good Bottle of Wine?

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By Alex and Priya, A Vine Romance

Question: Do I Have to Spend a Lot to Get a Good Bottle of Wine?

Alex: The answer to that is that it depends on what you’re looking for, so ‘yes and no’.

Priya: This is the most common question in wine and also the hardest to answer because there are so many factors involved.

A: First and foremost it’s based on your personal palate, what you like and what you consider to be a good wine.

P: Good point because what you and I like are often very different. I’m still a casual wine drinker who prefers big, fruity, bold wines (that often come from the New World) while you prefer more classic, rustic, ‘Old World’ wines. Is that a fair comment?

A: Somewhat. While I prefer a classic style I like any wine that is well-made. Furthermore, being a good wine has nothing to do with it’s ‘style’ to me. Rather it’s a complex, objective appraisal of all its various components—while being well aware that subjectivity is hard to avoid.

P: Wow, that’s a Sommelier talking. I just know what I like and I don’t worry about the ‘components’. It just has to taste good. So, with that in mind let’s get back to the question. Is the price of wine directly related to how good it is?

A: No it isn’t. That’s the simple answer. I routinely buy great wines under $20 while I’ve been baffled by how disappointing a $100+ bottle has been. It’s complicated and the simplest way to look at it is that, while it doesn’t cost a lot of money to make a good bottle of wine, it does cost a lot of money to buy a vineyard in a famous region of the world and bring that bottle to the global market.

P: True. It costs a lot to market your wines across the world, and that cost is going into the ultimate price of the bottle.

A: Sure, and other factors go into that bottle price as well—such as flying winemakers or consultants, state of the art equipment and labour costs (especially in countries which pay their workers a fare wage).

P: Ok, that is complicated. I really thought it was as simple as Old World is more expensive than New World because I often love wines from Chile, Argentina, California and New Zealand and I usually spend under $20 for non-special-occasion wine.

A: Experience has taught me over time that certain regions have a minimum starting price to get a good bottle. For example, I know I can’t spend less than $45 on Barolo and the times that I have, they have been consistently disappointing and not representative of the region. However, I know that I can find a great bottle of wine from Greece or South France for around $20. There are certain wines and certain grapes which you just cannot find a good representation of for under $50.

P: Like Amarone, my favourite wine but yes, while it starts at $40 you really have to spend $50 or more to get a really nice bottle. Sad but true. With all that said, what are some tips on how to find great wines in the $20 ballpark?

A: The great thing about wine today is that regions which used to only make bulk table wines now all produce quality wines. And it’s those regions you should look to. In other words, stray from the famous ones (Burgundy, Napa Valley, Chateauneuf-du-Pape for example) and look to places like Languedoc-Roussillon (South France), Southern and Coastal Italy (Campania and Abruzzo), Spain (in general, really), Argentina and Chile. For white wines, Germany and Austria provide fantastic options and are often overlooked. With our current exchange rate, American wine is now more costly than ever.

As with so many things relating to wine, sometimes it all comes down to what you like. Over time you’ll develop your own value-to-price scale and where a wine sits on your personal scale will be all that matters, regardless of what renowned wine critics might say.

To paraphrase a famous quote, “Life is like a bottle of wine, you never know what you’re gonna get.” At the end of the day, part of the enjoyment of buying wine is the gamble of not knowing what’s inside so you have to learn to love the gamble. Conversely, if uncertainty isn’t your thing, just find a handful of wines you really love and stick with them.

We’ll see you at the tasting bar!

Alex and Priya are not only wine lovers, but lovers in real life. No wine snobbery here — they’re all about bringing wine back to the masses. Together, they are the hosts of the upcoming television series, “The Drink” on Bell FIBE1.

PriyaAlexAlex is a Certified Sommelier who lives, breathes, and of course, drinks wine. He is very passionate about wine and is currently the in-house sommelier for celebrity chef Susur Lee’s “Lee Restaurant”.

Alex was the only person in a class of over 200 students to earn a perfect score on his Wine Specialist Exam in Napa, California.

Priya, an actor and on-camera host with top Canadian film talent, is a casual drinker and an entertaining hostess. With her background as a comic performer and producer, Priya has also produced and hosted events for groups of 100 to more than 2,000 guests.

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