Naked Truth

6 myths about expensive wines

Every day, I see people falling for the same old tricks that marketers use to pry folks from their hard-earned cash.

three card monte trick
Keep your eyes open and don’t get conned. photo: ziodave

To earn their salaries, they have to convince wine drinkers to spend a lot more money for a little bit more wine. And these are the six most egregious tricks they use to do it.

Look out for these common cons:

  1. Famous regions must be expensive! Famous wine writer and editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson, once wrote “The joke is that wine is not very expensive to make. Production costs of even the grandest red Bordeaux are rarely more than €10 a bottle, €30 at most if the château is run on bank borrowings….Icon: is that one word or two?” The truth is most famous regions have very reasonably priced wines if you know where to look. But marketers will always take the opportunity to charge an extra buck if they think the reputation of the region can support the price hike.
  2. Cult wines have to be very very pricey. You’re supposed to believe that the very very very best wines, must be expensive just because they’re made in small quantities and have extra attention lavished over them. But even when our winemakers work on a tiny cult scale (like just a few barrels of wine), and they’re hand harvesting and picking just the best grapes, doing barrel selections to separate the very best for a reserve cult wine, and aging for years and years, the bottle ends up costing less than $30 for Angels.
  3. Oak aging costs an arm and a leg. Marketers want you to think that as soon as something has a whiff of oak, it must be very good and very expensive. New French oak is expensive, no doubt. Over $1000 for a barrel that can hold about 300 bottles worth of wine. But let’s do some math. That’s a little over $3.33 a bottle. And you can use a barrel for multiple years (even if you only use 100% new oak on your big Napa Cab, you can use the barrel for a few years on other wines and even use neutral oak for several years after that).
  4. The good stuff needs nice corks and packaging. This is wine marketing 101. If you spend a dollar on the quality of the wine, nobody will know until they taste it – and even then, it’s up to your subjective tastebuds to tell if the wine is any good. If a marketer spends $1 on embossing the label, getting a big heavy glass bottle, putting a wax seal on the label and maybe some of that fancy gold netting and a long fire-branded cork… that’s a big visual cue that makes people think the wine is really expensive. And the crazy part is that the packaging doesn’t even improve the wine. I understanding spending a bit more on cork if you’re getting better cork that avoids spoilage. Or getting a darker bottle to protect a delicate white from harmful light damage that can occur on a supermarket shelf. But a heavier bottle? A deeper punt? An embroidered label? These are shallow, superficial tricks.
  5. Real luxury only comes from fancy pants French farts and other world famous regions. A lot of people think that to get real quality you have to go to Old World countries like France and Italy, but New World wines have proven time and again that they can compete. And sometimes at a fraction of the price. And even within the old world, you’ll often find regions or classifications of wine that don’t pull the same prices as the famous stuff even though they have heaps and heaps of flavor and actual quality.
  6. The biggest lie of all: Expensive = Good therefore Good = Expensive. It’s really twisted, but marketers use our good common sense against us. We think you get what you pay for, and they take advantage of that. The more you learn about wine, the more you’ll realize you can get GREAT wine without mortgaging your house.

The truth is there are only 2 things you can taste.

Great grapes, and great winemaking. And those don’t cost as much as you might think.

Our Angels fund talented independent winemakers to make their dream wines. We buy them the best fruit and all the things they need to make top quality wine. And then when it comes to all the expensive marketing gimmicks and tricks, we say “no way Jose!” Click here to learn more and consider joining the waiting list to become an Angel.

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