Confused about Labels?

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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On a recent overseas trip I was happy to meet up with long-time friends, most of whom have now surprisingly moved from drinking spirits to drinking wines as their beverages of choice. As usual, I was peppered with a wide range of wine-related questions as each looked to learn a little more about the vast world of wine. I will share my answer to one of these questions:

Q. “I am confused when I see many wines from the same producer and grape varietal selling at very different prices: for example, a Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon or a Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay; what is the difference?”

A. There are some wine producers that make only one or two wines and as a result they pour every resource at their disposal into this one wine, which is usually sold at a premium. Most bigger wine producers operating in larger markets will make a range of wines at different price points. Not many wine drinkers will splurge for their daily sip; they might however do so for a special occasion.

Factors affecting the price of a bottle of wine

To get a better understanding of how wine prices can vary, we need to understand the main factors that affect how a wine tastes and costs to make. They are:

1) the type of grape(s) varietal(s) used to make the wine;

2) Where the grapes are grown the general land area, the environment in which it is grown, (the terroir - climate and weather, soil & slope);

3) the special care and handling given to how the grapes are grown & harvested;

4) How the wine is made; and

5) how wine is matured or aged

In the Vineyard

Some grape varietals are harder to grow, care for and make wine than others: for example, Pinot Noir is more difficult to handle than Merlot, hence why good Pinot Noir usually costs more than other similarly grown merlots. The place where the grapes are grown influences the flavour of the wine. Certain regions have a history of producing better-tasting grapes, so the grapes from these prestigious areas cost more. A producer making a lower-priced mass market wine might utilise mechanical harvesting equipment to shake the grapes off the vines or buy bulk grapes from the local grape growers, while that same producer will use experienced grape pickers to hand-pick and sort the very best grapes from the foothills in the premium section of his vineyard.

In the Winery

There are scores of decisions that the winemaker makes as he or she begins the process of converting grape juice to wine. To simplify, the higher-priced wines will go through very complicated fermentation and ageing processes while the lower-priced, entry-level wines will not. Decisions include ageing in oak or not, what type of bottles they will use, the label design and how the marketing will be handled. All of these things, and many more, affect the wine prices.

This is why a 2015 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley will sell on the US shelf for about US$34 while a 2014 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley will sell for US$173.00.

Take a look at the winemakers' notes to see the difference in the way these two Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon wines were made.

Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord




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