Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Last updated: 2 years ago

Does the price of wine actually matter?

Photo Josh Curran/The Ubyssey

Photo Josh Curran/The Ubyssey

Spoiler alert: maybe.

There’s something about wine that leads people to be a bit more dubious about its price. Perhaps it lies in the higher costs compared to beer, subsequently leading to the sometimes unintended visage of pretension. And because wine can be a difficult thing to communicate about, it’s understandably convenient that consumers might treat wine quality and its cost as a neat linear scale. But if we skip the whole Economics 101 supply and demand thing, we can look at the price of wine from two ends of the spectrum. So let’s enter the world of alcoholic analogies.

Think back to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones or your favourite massively multiplayer online role-playing game. There are always those elusive weapons that happen to be carved from the rarest metals for which someone needs to climb dangerous monster-infested cliffs, or potions made from forest faerie tears that are so scarce that you need to save up your precious gold pieces and trade on the black market.

What I love about wine is that it’s sometimes equivalently mystical: the world’s most prized dessert wine, Sauternes, is a coveted golden liquid whose best wines must be created from grapes affected by “noble rot,” also known as Botrytis cinerea. Perfect weather conditions control the stage and therefore the rot’s chancy quality. And although technically a fungus, if controlled carefully the rot can concentrate the wine’s sugar and acid, making it both luscious and long-lived. It also contributes an inimitable and mostly indescribable flavour which might sound disgusting in theory, yet it commands legit dolla billz: there’s your rare faerie potion, with +100 points to your happiness stat.

Repeat similar stories about the difficult growing regions of Champagne and cooler areas of Germany, and suddenly, the wine snob who gets excited about a Champagne vintaged 2002 doesn’t seem so far from the gamer whose flame ruby-bejewelled adamantium sword is about to slay the final boss.

But also think about mass-produced coffee and some famous branded clothing. Wine can have parallels here, where prices are held mostly by reputation or marketing. Quality can be pushed into the backseat simply because, on the extreme end, money becomes the driver. Though I’d be hard-pressed to come up with specific cash-commanding wines that aren’t necessarily matched in quality (mostly because I’m a poor student), Yellow Tail is a prime example of a well-selling wine on the lower end of the price spectrum, even though it doesn’t exactly command much complexity or excitement.

Sometimes, the whole thing doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy, you’ll buy it; as long as it has caffeine, you’ll drink it. It’s almost like the shirt I bought from H&M, which I recently discovered had a hole in it. But then I remembered that it was from H&M. You can’t always expect fantastic things out of the cheaper bottles, but there are the disjointed bunch that provide great value or more adventure. You’ll just need to know where to look to find out which ones they are. Or drink more. Bottoms up!