How many grapes does it take to make a bottle of wine? Depends, as it so often does in wine. Ballpark: 600 to 800 grape berries.
In the vineyard, the berry count depends on vine spacing, row spacing, vintage vagaries, cropping techniques, and age of the vines. Vineyards roughly produce between two and 10 tons per acre. Sometimes more, although higher quantity almost always means less quality. Less quantity typically means more concentrated flavor and quality. Old vines produce fewer berries, but higher quality berries.
A ton of grapes roughly translates into a 60-gallon barrel of wine. A barrel of wine means about 300 bottles of wine. So, in general, a high quality, low production vineyard will produce around 1,500 bottles of wine per acre. A lower quality, higher production vineyard will produce around 7,000 bottles of wine per acre, perhaps more.
That explains much of the cost of wine. When you pay more for a bottle, you often—albeit not always—pay for the quality of the juice from a vineyard that produces fewer grapes, but higher quality grapes. You also pay for the skill of the winemaker. That noted, winemakers quickly acknowledge every great wine begins with a farmer in the vineyard.
Bottle price is not a certain indicator of quality. But it is true bottles costing less than $10 are not the same quality as those costing $30 or $300. If you are a newbie into wine, the lower on the shelf, the more affordable the wine, the less likely the quality. OK, nothing wrong with cheaper. It is where I began years ago. But as your palate—and disposable income—expands, you will appreciate what lower-yield, higher quality vineyards and more costly bottles deliver. In wine, as often in life, you get what you pay for.
• Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County 2017: Yummy with concentrated cherry and plum leading parade on the palate. Showcases grape more often associated as a blender. Smooth, fun, easy drinker. $17 Link to my review
• Château d’Aussières Corbières, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2016: Depth, finesse, and fruity intensity. Smooth and rounded easy drinker. $30-33 Link to my review
• Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, South Africa 2018: Delicious now and built for holding for another 10 years. Excellent fruit that gives the illusion of sweetness, balanced by superb acidity. $33-40 Link to my review
Last round: Spilling a full glass of good wine is the adult equivalent of letting go of your balloon outside when you were a kid.