Monday, March 25, 2013

Why IS Wine So Expensive? Reason #4

Pretty frequently I am asked what makes wine so expensive. I will attempt to answer this question in a series of short, individual points about this. Your time is valuable. So here we go:

Reason #4:  Grape Yields

To tackle this one, we have to picture the crisscrossing vine paths that cover the average acre of vineyard. How many bunches of grapes grow per yard of vine? How many grapes are there on an average bunch, and how big are they? How closely are the vines planted to each other? How many grapes actually make it to the winery, per acre? The final answer to this last question is the "yield", or production of usable grapes per unit of land planted. 

Many things can affect yield, including actual regulation in Europe for specific A.O.P. designations (protected appellations of origin). It is understood that intentionally low grape yields can maximize the extraction of nutrients from the ground, and the concentration of compounds in the grapes, and therefore the complexity of flavors that result in the wine. Where there is less competition for these nutrients (i.e. fewer vines), more can be gotten out of the ground per grape. The wines that result are expected to be superior. With this said, it is not an automatic given that superior wines result from lower yields. Other factors play a role as well.
But what if yields are low because of unplanned natural events, like excessive heat, excessive cold, sudden drought, flooding, or hail storms? Under these conditions, the vineyards that WERE producing at a high yield are simply losing their numbers. There is no benefit to the "reduced" yield. It's simply lower output, not better concentration of compounds within the grapes. So we're getting average wine, and less of it.  When the vineyards are planted and tended to reduce yields on purpose, yes we do get less wine, but the concentration and complexity is often superior. See how that works? In any case, lower yields always add to the price per bottle, whether the wine is considered high end by definition, or the price is driven up on average wine, due to these circumstances.
Feel free to comment below.

Read the previous reasons by clicking:

Reason #1 

Reason #2 

Reason #3

More reasons to come...
--  Marc Soucy,  FWS


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