Expensive wine is a mysterious thing. The average wine consumer rarely gets a chance to actually drink a bottle of wine that costs more than $75. It’s put on a pedestal, reserved for special occasions, and generally the kind of wine that people would rather have than actually drink. Since expensive wine is so highly regarded and so few people have the opportunity to drink it regularly, we assume that it must be really great. After all, if you’re spending six times more money on one bottle than you normally would, shouldn’t it be six times better? Curious, we put expensive wine on the spot in our most recent class at the Boston Wine School: Wine Mythbusters.
We took a bottle our Lot 53 Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina (2008) which retails for about $16, and another bottle of Cabernet from a very well known producer (we won’t name names) in Napa Valley that retails for $90 (2007), put them in paper bags, and poured them side by side for our ten person class to taste. All the class knew for sure was the varietal, and that one bottle happened to cost $75 more. It was a pretty close competition – six people preferred Sample A, and four preferred Sample B. As it turns out, Sample A was the pricey bottle. But did it really deliver?
What surprised the class the most was how similar the two wines were. When we asked if one wine tasted $75 better than the other, the response was a resounding no. Sure, they might invest in that famous Napa Cab for a birthday or anniversary, but even the students who preferred that wine to ours would be happy to drink our Lot 53 Cabernet on a day-to-day basis. They still liked it after all, just a smidgen less. Plus, one student pointed out, for $90 would you rather have one bottle of excellent wine or six bottles of pretty darn great wine? Most people would take the deal that offers both quality AND quantity.
So is expensive wine all its cracked up to be? Maybe, maybe not. If you invest in a bottle, cellar it, age it to perfection, and pop the cork on a truly special occasion, then you most likely got your money’s worth in both the quality of the wine and the experience. However, five to ten years is a long time to wait for an investment like Sample A to reach its peak. You’re going to need a LOT of wine while you wait, and don’t you want those everyday drinkers to (at the very least) be almost as good? We definitely do. So stock up on wines like Lot 53 that can hold a candle to the really fancy stuff, and (special occasion or not) you can drink great wine anytime.