Is A $100 Wine Better Than A $10 Wine?

The Pepsi ChallengeUpon finding out I was a wine writer and Sommelier, a new coworker turned to me saying “I have to ask, is a $100 wine really better than a $10 wine?” I smiled and start to answer, when a friend, who is my new boss says “Well, do you like Coke, or Pepsi?” Stay with me now, I knew where he was going.

The first consideration that goes into picking a $100 bottle over a $10 bottle of wine is the ability to taste the difference. If you fail the “Pepsi Challenge”, chances are you probably won’t appreciate the flavor difference in the two price ranges. However, once we discern you can tell the taste difference between the two, the question becomes is the price difference worth it to you. Everyone has a different threshold for luxury. Thus, it depends on what your “wine luxury” threshold is set to.

If you’re a mountain bike enthusiast, you can ride the trails on a $250 Huffy, or a $9,153 Santa Cruz Tallboy 2 Carbon XX1 Enev. You’ll still ride the same trails, but one ride is on a carbon fiber body and wheel assembly, and the other is on plain old metal. You may start and stop at the same place, but you certainly did it on a different level. If biking isn’t your thing, think Luxury cars, as Rob did. You can buy the $40,000 Nissan 370Z, or the $2 Million Pagani Huayra. Is there really a $1,960,000 difference in the way the car gets you from the house to the office? Probably not, but your luxury threshold causes you to buy one over the other. Luxury and taste aside, there are a few other factors that go into the pricing of wine to consider. And here’s where I got to geek out a little.

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Grapevines at Trefethen in Napa, CA

I have grapes growing in my backyard. They’re muscadine grapes, fairly common in Florida. They can be made into wine, and in fact, they are made into wine in parts of Florida. The wine tastes a little like cotton candy, and sells for about $10 a bottle. I wouldn’t drink it, but I could. Now, there are vines planted in Napa Valley, exposed to the perfect amount of sun, benefiting from diurnal temperature changes to maximize the ripening of the grapes. They are on premium land, and there has been generations of study invested in ensuring they are the perfect winemaking grape. They create wines that offer layers of taste, complex creatures that evolve over time in a bottle or in a glass. They sell for $100 a bottle, and I would and do drink them. So, while I would never consider buying a $9,153 mountain bike, my threshold for luxury related to wine is much higher than $10 cotton candy in a bottle.

Did I really answer the question of “Is a $100 wine really better than a $10 wine?” Probably not as completely as you’d like. In the end, it’s not that there are no drinkable $10 wines, and you have to pop $100 or more to get something worth drinking. That said, in my opinion, there is a definite quality difference between the two. There are complexities and facets of the $100 wine that make it fetch the higher price. However, I can point you to a killer Pinot Noir for $10 that’ll knock your socks off. So, in the end, it’s really a question of “what’s your wine luxury threshold?” Would you drink the Pagani of wines?

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