# What's the major difference between cheap and expensive wine?

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What's usually the major difference?

Could cheap wine be made through less expensive processes or costs so that the wine is less beneficial or even more damaging to health? I understand that wine isn't generally considered to be good for health after all.

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Posted (edited)

The difference is the grape selection process and how fussy they are about where they get them from. Storage time as well. 'Cool' or exclusivity factor mainly though.

Edited by StringJunky
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35 minutes ago, kenny1999 said:

What's usually the major difference?

Could cheap wine be made through less expensive processes or costs so that the wine is less beneficial or even more damaging to health? I understand that wine isn't generally considered to be good for health after all.

The choice and sometimes blending of grape varieties, age of the vines, control of the crop size and, most significantly and hard to analyse, the land they are grown on.

The basic process is the same though, so provided there is no actual adulteration of the product with harmful substances (cf. Austrian antifreeze scandal), the wine making process should have minimal impact on how the wine affects the health of the drinker.

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An important factor is that stronger wines are more expensive (for tax reasons) and also more harmful to health.

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44 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

An important factor is that stronger wines are more expensive (for tax reasons) and also more harmful to health.

I don't think this is right, actually. According to the link below, in the UK the tax per bottle is the same for any wine between 5.5 and 15%.

Furthermore, as a rule, expensive wine has no higher alcohol content than cheap wine. A bottle of good Bordeaux will have an alcohol content of 12.5-13% and cost £20-50 per bbl, whereas a bottle of supermarket plonk will have the same or slightly higher alcohol and cost under a tenner. Table wines in general are between 12% and 15% in alcohol, which is not that much of a variation from the health point of view. (Though personally, having a susceptibility to atrial fibrillation, I admit I tend to avoid wine >13.5% and beer >4.5%, to improve my chances of staying out of trouble).

Fortified wines are something else, port being ~20% for example. And it's true they can be jolly expensive. But again that's not really due to alcohol content. You can see from the link the difference is only a pound at the most.

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I seem to remember (in the 70s) that certain regions   of France were permitted by the government to add sugar to the  grape juice  which resulted in a higher alcoholic  content.

I think regions that could not do this felt hard done by  and so I think that too low an alcoholic content must have made the product less saleable.

I have no idea if the practice  continues.

I remember that the grapes used for champagne had a low alcoholic content (possibly necessarily  so as I think the whole process  is quite different to ordinary  wine)

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2 hours ago, exchemist said:

I don't think this is right, actually. According to the link below, in the UK the tax per bottle is the same for any wine between 5.5 and 15%.

Oops!
Someone changed the rules while I wasn't looking.

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8 hours ago, kenny1999 said:

What's usually the major difference between cheap and expensive wine?

Usually the cost.
Drink what you like.

I can buy a nice bottle of Argentinian, Chilean, Spanish, French, Italian or South African wine for as cheap as Can$10-12 per 750 ml bottle. Yet a bottle produced in the Niagara Region ( 5 Km away )will cost me Can$ 16-18  per 750 ml bottle.
And is nowhere near as good.

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8 hours ago, geordief said:

I seem to remember (in the 70s) that certain regions   of France were permitted by the government to add sugar to the  grape juice  which resulted in a higher alcoholic  content.

I think regions that could not do this felt hard done by  and so I think that too low an alcoholic content must have made the product less saleable.

I have no idea if the practice  continues.

I remember that the grapes used for champagne had a low alcoholic content (possibly necessarily  so as I think the whole process  is quite different to ordinary  wine)

Chaptalisation. It’s still allowed but less necessary because of climate change. The issue now, increasingly, tends to be holding the degree of ripeness down, to avoid excess alcohol which upsets the balance of the wine.

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40 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Chaptalisation. It’s still allowed but less necessary because of climate change. The issue now, increasingly, tends to be holding the degree of ripeness down, to avoid excess alcohol which upsets the balance of the wine.

I read it that the best Champagne-style vintages  are predicted to be moving northwards to southern UK due to climate change.

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2 hours ago, StringJunky said:

I read it that the best Champagne-style vintages  are predicted to be moving northwards to southern UK due to climate change.

Yes some truth in that. Some English méthode champenoise can be rated as highly in tastings as champagne these days, now that English producers are learning how to grow the grapes (chardonnay and pinot noir I think) and make it well. I was given a bottle of vintage Nyetimber some years ago which I forgot about and then found and opened last year, by which time it was starting to go a bit orange, and it was very good indeed. But when I visit Oncle Philippe in Rouen, for gatherings of my wife's family, he generally serves Deutz, which I like very much, so that's what's in my cellar. I don't drink champagne often enough to start experimenting with English producers.

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There are many things that affect our perception of taste, even music can be designed to enhance taste.

Money, or price, has it's part to play, but that depends on how much we trust the informer.

For instance, if you can't afford a chateau lafite and someone on the TV says "this Chilean <insert name>" is just as good, then it tastes just as good; even though you've never tasted a château lafite.

But if you can't afford "this Chilean <insert name>", then I'll have a "mothers ruin" and learn to like it...

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14 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

There are many things that affect our perception of taste, even music can be designed to enhance taste.

Money, or price, has it's part to play, but that depends on how much we trust the informer.

For instance, if you can't afford a chateau lafite and someone on the TV says "this Chilean <insert name>" is just as good, then it tastes just as good; even though you've never tasted a château lafite.

But if you can't afford "this Chilean <insert name>", then I'll have a "mothers ruin" and learn to like it...

Speak for yourself.

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Speak for yourself.

How do you prove that this wine tastes better than this one, if I don't want to be convinced?

Edited by dimreepr
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2 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

How do you prove that this wine tastes better than this one?

Proof? Proof is for logicians. But  evidence? That I can give you.

OK, when I was at Shell a group of us got invited to a wine tasting evening at Berry Bros. We were a complete mixture, some with some knowledge of wine, others not.  We had a lot of fun learning the difference in taste between Beaujolais (Gamay) , Pinot Noir from different places etc. At the end they gave us one more to taste, without telling us what it was. Everyone - and I mean everyone - went quiet and said it this something really special, way ahead of anything else. They then revealed it was a £100/bbl mature Bordeaux.

People can tell. It's not just bullshit.

It's a bit like my late wife, who expressed no interest in cars. However once in a while she'd comment: "Ooh , that's a nice car", to which my reply would be: "That's a Rolls-Royce" or "That's a Jaguar".

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3 minutes ago, exchemist said:

OK, when I was at Shell a group of us got invited to a wine tasting evening at Berry Bros. We were a complete mixture, some with some knowledge of wine, others not.  We had a lot of fun learning the difference in taste between Beaujolais (Gamay) , Pinot Noir from different places etc. At the end they gave us one more to taste, without telling us what it was. Everyone - and I mean everyone - went quiet and said it this something really special, way ahead of anything else. They then revealed it was a £100/bbl mature Bordeaux.

How can you tell how much of that experience was due to the price of the bottle?

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Just now, dimreepr said:

How can you tell how much of that experience was due to the price of the bottle?

Are you stupid? I've just told you we did not know what the wine was until after we had commented on it.

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2 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Are you stupid? I've just told you we did not know what the wine was until after we had commented on it.

I hope not, but you were in a group and that sort of question, tends to reduce ones sensitivity too, stupid...

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10 minutes ago, exchemist said:

Are you stupid? I've just told you we did not know what the wine was until after we had commented on it.

I don't think the wine was intrinsically better (if you were saying that) but that it met the general expectation of how it might taste.

If that bottle had given everyone a  headache and a deli belly  maybe their taste judgement would have changed down the road.

I never drink (or eat) except in combinations and have no understanding why anyone drinks wine or similar  on its own (obv  they do)

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Thanks for the neg from, whoever; but what's the argument?

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I read some comments with envy. Unfortunately, ANY wine - expensive as well as cheap - give me headache. Also, beer, Champaine, liquor, ...

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17 minutes ago, geordief said:

I don't think the wine was intrinsically better (if you were saying that) but that it met the general expectation of how it might taste.

If that bottle had given everyone a  headache and a deli belly  maybe their taste judgement would have changed down the road.

I never drink (or eat) except in combinations and have no understanding why anyone drinks wine or similar  on its own (obv  they do)

Oh yes I agree it's better to drink wine with food generally speaking.

My story is simply to show that a wide group of people, with different  experience and tastes, can come to a common judgement about the relative merits of different wines, and that that judgement correlates with the judgement of those who get to determine the price.

This ought not to be surprising, as there are centuries of experience and expertise devoted to making good wine. These French and Italian vignerons have been doing it for generations. It's not just for fun or to bullshit the public.

21 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Thanks for the neg from, whoever; but what's the argument?

It wasn't from me but your point, whatever it was supposed to be, was unclear to say the least.

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Posted (edited)

Cheap, really cheap wines, or with too high a % of ethanol can be made by mixing the juice with ethanol from distillation.. So basically a scam..

Here, if a wine costs less than the equivalent of €5, I approach it very skeptically.

Edited by Sensei
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Can't help but think of Miles, in "Sideways" as I read this thread.

Like Miles, I'm a pinot noir fan.

Miles Raymond : ... it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, TheVat said:

Can't help but think of Miles, in "Sideways" as I read this thread.

Like Miles, I'm a pinot noir fan.

Miles Raymond : ... it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet

Well I suppose that if a variety or an example is evocative  then that could be called an intrinsic quality.

But ,I don't  think it is controversial to note that tastes and perceptions evolve over time .

And scarcity drives perceived value right up and down the "food spectrum"

As per dim's earlier  remark Gin used to be consumed by the  pint glass and was indeed healthy insofar as it was better than the filthy water available to people then.

When I used to buy wine for the  customers I  chose a wine that I thought might give least offense (Merlot ,as it happens) 😃

Edited by geordief

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