During lockdown I’ve tasted a fair amount of wines, ranging from high volume supermarket brands to premium, more artisan wines. When choosing wines, one of the things I have always pondered about is the price and what encompasses the higher price you pay when it comes to premium wines compared to more mass produced wines.
I love buying wine for myself and also love gifting wine and so it was something I was keen to explore more, especially as I wanted to know what I was paying for when it came to premium wines. Was the price justified or was it a brand halo effect?
One of my favourite wine shops, Independent Wine, delved into this topic in greater depth and the highlights from their research were really interesting and it came down to the production process of the wine.
As the more high-volume “supermarket” wines are designed for easy and quick drinking, they tend to be produced using the speediest production methods possible that enable them to go from vines to shelves to fulfil demand.
The production process tends to be slightly more automated in that the grapes used in the wines are picked by mechanical harvesters, in vineyards that are often planted on flat terrain that the machinery can run swiftly on.
The flavours are also often manually adjusted in the winery through methods such as adding acid, stabilising chemicals and sweeteners. If the winemaker wants to add more toasty flavours, for example, they’ll often use oak chips and staves instead of real oak barrels.
These wines are not meant to be collected to store in your wine cellars or to age. They are produced for consumers to enjoy at the time of purchase or soon after. In terms of taste, these wines will tend to have a simple, sweet and fruity style that does tend to appeal to a large number of customers. Due to their affordable nature and down to the demand for cheaper wine that tastes good, these wines tend to be popular supermarket shelf options and some of them are excellent!
In contrast, Premium wines have a much more labour-intensive production process that takes a lot longer which justifies the higher price you pay. It is definitely a labour of love for these wines. The grapes are hand-picked in vineyards often planted on hillsides or unstable terrains. They are also aged for several years in real oak barrels. Once bought, some are perfect to be kept in your cellar to age for a few more years and open for a special occasion but at the same time, totally fine to consume at the point of purchase too!
High-end red wines tend to have a higher level of tannins which help them to develop a more complex character while in bottle. Perfect for those interested in learning more about the varying flavour depths in wines and who love tasting wine.
Both red and white premium wines benefit from higher levels of acidity and concentrated flavours. This is a key factor that makes them ideal to age – up to 10 years for whites and 20 years or more for the best reds. I have yet to wait 20 years to crack open a premium bottle of wine but I really should consider doing this rather than drinking them all!