It may sound rather obvious, but you get what you pay for. This simple mantra is what is driving more wine lovers to trade up in quality and down in quantity, and it’s a trend I’m fully on board with. Although on occasion we’re all guilty of overindulging, it’s far more rewarding to swap those two cheaper bottles of wine for one much more special and memorable bottle. Choosing quality over quantity opens up a different world of experience and flavour, offering a thrilling taste journey through wine regions and styles.
The sound economics of spending more
In the UK, if you spend around £5 on a bottle of wine, less than £0.30 of that is actually spent on the liquid inside the bottle — the rest goes on tax, shipping, duties, trade margins and the bottle itself. If, however, you spend around £20, more than £7 of that will be spent on the wine itself; spend £40 and you’ll have well over £20’s worth of wine in your glass. It doesn’t take a statistician to tell you that you are getting a far better deal by spending more on wine, with the quality increasing exponentially in your favour.
Producers who can afford those margins on the lower end of the spectrum (they barely make £0.10 on each £0.30 bottle) are those working with mass volumes, which doesn’t translate to great wine.
Wine is a centenarian art, honed for centuries and millennia around the world. Each bottle takes many years in the making: not only is it the result of a year’s work in the vineyard and several months or years of patience and attention in the cellar, but it also requires decades of experience in both the winemaking and cultivating grapevines, which only hit their stride after 25 years in the ground.
Time, after all, is money, and no producer can afford to make a great wine with very little time or income. Paying more for wine, in the same way as is often the case with local and slow food, helps support small growers and wine producers to have a sustainable business which can continue for generations to come.
Wines made on an artisanal scale are handcrafted — from picking and selecting the best grape bunches by hand, to artfully blending the best barrels of wine from the vintage. Every hand-chosen detail counts when it comes to the final quality in your glass, and those handcrafted wines painstakingly reflect the people and place that made them.
Travelling through the looking glass of wine
Smaller quantity also translates to greater quality in the vineyard. The more grape bunches a grapevine produces, the less concentrated and more dilute they are. If you compare an industrialised vineyard, one vine might produce around 15 bottles of wine; whereas for a Premier Cru Bordeaux you can expect no more than a bottle of wine per vine; and in Sauternes it isn’t unheard of for a vine to produce just one glass of wine!
Greater concentration leads to greater character and precise expression of the place — able to transport you there in a glass. The rich aromas of ripe berries and spice in a warming, full-bodied glass of Grenache can take you to the old vines on the hot, sun-baked hillsides of the southern Rhône; while crisp green apple and orchard blossom notes in a mouthwatering Chablis can whisk you away to the chalky hills of Burgundy on a chilly Autumn morning. For that insatiable taste of wine travel alone, it’s worth spending a little extra!