Mas­ter of Wine Emma Jenk­ins ex­am­ines the ques­tion of qual­ity and cost and what lies be­hind a higher price tag.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

What makes one bot­tle of wine bet­ter than an­other? Why does one win gold medals while an­other lan­guishes in crit­i­cal ob­scu­rity? Why does one cost $10 and an­other $100 – is the lat­ter re­ally 10 times bet­ter? And while you’re at it, how long is a piece of string?

Leav­ing aside try­ing to make the sub­jec­tive ob­jec­tive – after all, the best wine is the one you en­joy re­gard­less of its price or other peo­ple’s opin­ions – there are gen­er­ally agreed upon wine qual­ity pa­ram­e­ters. Wine judges look for bal­ance, in­ten­sity, length, con­cen­tra­tion and com­plex­ity. There should be va­ri­etal char­ac­ter and hope­fully an in­trin­sic ex­pres­sion of the place in which it was grown – a rather neb­u­lous qual­ity the French call ‘ter­roir’. The com­po­nent parts of fruit, acid, al­co­hol,tan­nins plus any resid­ual sugar or oak, should be har­mo­nious, the sum be­com­ing greater than its parts. Hope­fully, you’ll even be trans­ported by the sheer rich evoca­tive­ness of the wine. A lot to ask? Well it should be, as chances are you’ll be part­ing with at least $30 per bot­tle for the ex­pe­ri­ence (the sky’s the limit from there!).

The higher the price of the wine, the higher the av­er­age qual­ity, and while this is by no means the sim­ple lin­ear scale that would make life easy, the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is gen­er­ally true. Bet­ter qual­ity grapes plus more time and ef­fort in the win­ery equals more com­plex, con­cen­trated wine. The best vine­yards pro­duce the most ex­pres­sive and in­tense grapes (and there can be plenty of added cost via a top vine­yard – France’s Mon­tra­chet vine­yard in Bur­gundy is more ex­pen­sive per acre than Man­hat­tan’s CBD), but they cost a lot to man­age... then add on low yields, hand-picked grapes and gen­tle, time-in­tense wine­mak­ing. Of course, ex­tra spend­ing will also have gone into la­bel de­sign, pack­ag­ing and pro­mo­tion, but de­spite any added mar­ket­ing puffery, in the end it is what’s in the bot­tle that counts and, thank­fully, as the vast ma­jor­ity of wines are judged ‘blind’ (with­out the judge know­ing what the wine is), this should mat­ter lit­tle.

So, is that $100 bot­tle re­ally bet­ter than the

$10 one? In a nut­shell, yes. Bet­ter qual­ity wines do gen­er­ally have more in­ten­sity and char­ac­ter but they also cost more to make. Of course, there are al­ways bar­gains to be had (see be­low) and there are also horses for courses – no need to quaff that $300 bot­tle of vin­tage port! But if you re­ally want an ex­pe­ri­ence in a glass, a wine that tells a story and has a sense of place, you are go­ing to need to seek out qual­ity… and be pre­pared to pay for it.

The best wine is the one you en­joy re­gard­less of its price or other peo­ple’s opin­ions.

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