Quality-wine prices continue to escalate at an unprecedented rate; despite the fact that there is a glut in the marketplace.
This phenomenon has to do with marketing, snobbery, deep pockets, and ultimately the economic well being of industrialized countries.
Today the most important criterion for a wine lover is simply the quality/price ratio.
This writer tastes thousands of wines every year and observed that while overall wine quality improved everywhere appreciably, some regions increased their prices well above the rate of inflation and offer little value, regardless of quality.
In 1972, a bottle of Chateau Pontet Canet (fifth growth Bordeaux) was retailing on Ontario for $ 6.30, all taxes included. Today, (2004) the same chateau’s wine costs $ 120.00 for the 2001vintage an increase of 19 fold.
Take Brunello di Montalcino for example, a wine invented and popularised by the legendary Biondi-Santi winery that decided to market it as a high-end wine, late in the 19th century. It is doubtful that anyone would be paying the prices charged for Brunello di Montalcino if it had not been launched as a high-end wine. In fact, many Brunello di Montalcino producers sell for less than half of what Biondi-Santi charges for his wines. This winery set high standards from the very beginning and established a reputation along with a clientele that is willing to pay regardless of quality, but more importantly, this market segment focuses only on Biondi-Santi’s wines at the expense of other producers.
Gaja in Piedmont is another vivid example of this situation. He makes impeccable wines and no one can deny that, but charges for his single-vineyard Barbaresco at least 40 percent more that his nearest competitor Ceretto.
Medoc has five first growth wines, which traditionally command twice the price of second growths.
Sauternes, of course has Chateau d’Yquem.
The Rhone valley’s Chateau Grillet carries and incredibly high price and does not ever offer a glass of wine to visitors for tasting, regardless of their country of origin.
Burgundy famously has Domaine de la Romanee Conti, which until Domaine Leroy came along, was an estate apart.
Napa Valley is the newest venue. Opus One undoubtedly an outstanding wine, retails for US $ 175.00 per 750 ml bottle and some others even more.
The highest quality/price ratio is always found in regions known for creating fine wines, but unfortunately (for them) lack a tide-raising producer. There are many such regions; Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans, Maremma all in Tuscany.
Then there are delightful Loire wines selling for much less, than their quality deserves.
Alsace is another region with excellent wines and reasonable prices offering good value.
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, and Rheigau wines also offer great value for those who appreciate fruity, off-dry or sweet wines.
In California, Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County, Mendocino County and Lake County offer superb wines at affordable cost.
Elsewhere in the world, Languedoc, Sicily, Jerez de la Frontera, Tokaji, some parts of Burgundy (Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, and Beaujolais come to mind).
New Zealand and Australia must not be overlooked.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and of late Pinot Noir represent excellent value, as do some Australian Chardonnays, Shirazes and Bordeaux blends.
The trick is to taste knowledgeably, and have access to the wines tasted. If ever these regions decide to promote their wines as their high-end counterparts do, their prices are bound to increase to unprecedented levels.
It is best to enjoy wines based on their merits and avoid drinking wine by the label.