When it comes to wine, how much do you really know? If you think the most expensive wine is also always the best wine, the good news is: you’re wrong! While a high price tag often indicates quality, when it comes to the fermented grape, there are a ton of factors involved in a bottle’s retail cost. Some wines are more costly because the producers only make a small quantity per year. The law of supply and demand is clear here: when there’s less of something and a great demand for it, it probably won’t be cheap. Other wines are expensive because of the name attached to them. The wine world, unfortunately, is not without its cliques and status-conscious producers. But just because some wine magazine or Web site declares that the $3000 bottle of 1992 Romanée Conti Burgundy is delicious, it doesn’t mean you should run out and buy it for your date night dinner. Unless you have a disposable income–or a Masters Sommelier diploma–there’s no need to splurge on an everyday bottle.
This is especially true if you have a healthy appetite for the juice; only buying the most expensive wine will make you go broke in under a month! There’s plenty to appreciate at a mid-level range, and we’ve got some suggestions for you across the board, from very specific to more general. It doesn’t hurt to take note of the super high end stuff, of course, and plan a purchase for a super special occasion.
Instead of a 2004 Dom Perignon ($189), try a Yellow Label Veuve Cliquot ($59), and instead of the decidedly luxury Veuve, try a sparkling wine from Spain (avoid Prosecco as it has a much different flavor profile).
Instead of a Brunello di Montalcino, try a Rosso di Montalcino.
Instead of an Oregon Pinot Noir (trendy and not cheap), check out many of the Pinots coming out of New Zealand now.
Instead of an aged Napa Valley Cabernet, try a Cab from Chile, an up-and-coming wine region.
Instead of a Hermitage from the northern Rhone, try delicious but far less pricey Crozes-Hermitage, also of the Syrah grape.
Instead of a Premier Cru White Burgundy, try a less exclusive Chablis or an lightly-oaked California Chardonnay.
Instead of a dry German riesling, opt for a bottle from Australia’s Eden or Clare Valley.
Remember that when you’re shopping for wine, chances are the local wine store clerk is not going to try and upsell you. If you give him your price range, he’ll hopefully help you find the best fit bottle based on your preferences.