Wine cost is a puzzlement. What is difference between $5 bottle, $50 bottle, $500 bottle?
• Start with the bottle. How thick the glass, how deep the punt (indentation at the bottom), what color the glass? Bottle can cost up to $3.
• Next cometh grapes. Average cost of a ton of Napa Valley grapes is more than $3,600. Average cost of a ton of Central Valley grapes is $340. Do the math.
• Oak? Barrel aging is important element of many wines, contributing complex flavors, vanilla, tannin, structure. A premium French oak barrel can cost more than $2,500; it holds up to 300 bottles, so there’s $8-plus per bottle for new French oak alone.
• Corks. Depending on quality and length, up to $3 per cork. No wonder screw tops are attractive.
• Labels. How fancy do you want it?
• Three-tier system. Residue of our ridiculous experiment with Prohibition and each state’s idiotic and idiosyncratic alcohol laws, wineries must sell to a middleman—the distributor—who then sells it to the liquor/wine store—the retailer—who then sells to you. Each step adds expense.
Bottom line: a winery may sell a bottle at $10, making a dollar or two, and by the time it gets to you, it is $25-plus bottle of wine.
Through economies of scale, wine factories—Constellation Brands, Gallo, St. Michelle, Kendall-Jackson, J. Lohr, others—may deliver quality at reasonable prices. Smaller, artisanal efforts survive by selling directly to consumers through wine clubs and tasting rooms, or selling at a premium at retail stores. Most Texas wineries are in the latter group. It is vexatious, but typically it is not wineries’ greed, but the convoluted system and cost of production that drives wine sticker shock.
• Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Grigio Central Coast California 2014: Simple pinot grigio, very nice for price. $9
• Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2009: There are bigger, more bombastic Rioja wines, but not ones as easy on the wallet. $14
• Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2012: Easy drinking pleasure from legendary Aussie source. $22
Last round: You say it is Wednesday. I say it is Thursday Eve, the day before Friday and time for wine. Same logic works for Monday and Tuesday.
Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow tasting notes on Twitter @gusclemens. Website: gusclemens.com. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine.