Does a $10,000 Bottle of Wine Taste Like $10,000?

by in Drinks, January 25th, 2012

expensive wine bottle
When you write about wine, you sometimes get to taste the really expensive stuff. I’m not talking filet mignon or even white-truffle expensive. I’m talking splurging like Diddy-in-a-diamond-hoodie-on-a-yacht expensive.

When a collector shares one of these bottles with me, friends later ask, “Does it taste like [insert obscenely expensive price]?”

The honest answer: It doesn’t, at least not to the untrained palate, and probably not even to most trained palates.

The lesson here is that while the price is often reflective of a wine’s quality, it is so only up to a point. And even when a wine is of high quality — from the best grapes handled by the most talented hands — it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically taste its full price. In fact, some of the most-prized bottles can evoke qualities — think soy sauce or pencil lead or even a barnyard in August — that are off-putting to the uninitiated.

So next time you’re thinking of ordering that $50 bottle instead of one that is $30, or when you’re embarrassed about ordering the least expensive bottle, consider these non-quality factors that play into a wine’s price:

  • Scarcity: When wine is expensive — and especially as costly as the bottle described above — you’re also paying for the privilege of being one of the lucky souls who can lay their lips on it. It’s simple supply and demand.
  • Marketing: Some higher-priced wines, including most top-tier Champagnes are no different than Prada loafers or Gucci handbags: They are luxury goods with expensive marketing budgets (glossy ads and beach umbrellas) that are built into the price of each bottle.
  • Pricing: Some wines are priced more expensively to make people value them more. A few years ago Stanford Business School did a fascinating study in which subjects registered more pleasure in their brains when they were told a wine was more costly, even when it wasn’t. The power of pricing is powerful indeed.

Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

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Comments (12)

  1. carole greaes says:

    you pay for what you get yes it does make a difference in how much you spend

  2. Cameron says:

    Please elaborate so I can give the opposite view some consideration too.

  3. Kelly says:

    my husband and i are new the wine world. Our favorite flavors are fruity, sweet and carbonated. So far, we love "Yellow Tail – Mascoto" What else would you recommend us trying?

  4. Nicthalon says:

    The best wine I've ever tasted was a $6 bottle. Price is NOT everything, and those who think otherwise are the reason there exist $10k bottles of wine. Proof that there IS a sucker born every minute.

  5. Mary says:

    for a rich red, we love "14 Hands" cabernet….for a not heavily oaked white, we like Rodney Strong Char.
    Val de Vieso's malbec is really good for under ten bucks.

  6. terry says:

    I agree on the low cost is sometimes tastier. I prefer Vendange white merlot. Average 8.00 a bottle can drink it everyday without going broke or hungover. Lol

  7. Okaasan says:

    We've tasted some remarkably delicious wine that only cost $3 — and some remarkably horrible wine for the same price. :) You just never know until you try.

  8. Kristin says:

    I love the Yellowtail Shiraz and Knarly Head Old Vine Zifandel. Great prices and great tasting.

  9. Kristin says:

    One of my absolute favorite charonnay is Toad Hollow. It so good! Its great for cooking and drinking. Fruity but not too dry or sweet.

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