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Feb 14, 2007 11:38 AM

What's are the differences?

I am not a wine connoisseur. I enjoy the odd glass of wine with dinner or with friends. Usually red (shiraz, pinot noir) but sometimes pinot grigio or chardonnay.
I'm curious what people expect from an expensive bottle of wine. I usually buy bottles of wine in the $10-$15 range and they taste good to me. What would someone expect to be the difference with a $40-$50 bottle?

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  1. To some extent it depends on the wine. Ideally more dimensionality -- depth, breadth and length -- as well as greater complexity, purity and finesse. In some cases, greater concentration and ageability. Often more or better oak treatment. Of course, some of these things -- concentration and oak, especially -- can be overdone.

    1. What carswell said. I'd look for more character, more complexity. And in most cases a bigger nose too, meaning a more aromatic wonderful smell emanating from the bottle or decanter.

      I'd describe it as the difference between a good fast food cheeseburger and a really fabulous steak at a fine restaurant. Both are tasty, but the more expensive one will have a more complex set of flavors /aromas and is made with more love and care.

      There's probably a price ceiling at some point, where spending more money just yields diminishing returns, but I rarely spend more than $50 on a bottle, so I haven't found it yet.

      1. For $40 or more, I usually want an aged wine.

        1. When I get to that range (retail and NOT restaurant), I expect the wine to offer nuances and offer them in layers, not just hit-me-with-your-best-shot and be done. I expect a depth of character (though not necessarily fully varietal-specific). Richness and depth should start coming into play. I want these wines to start revealing some aspect of their "place," or the person(s) responsible for it - character in a word. Hope that this helps, and is not too metaphysical, or esoteric.


          PS, when I get into the next tier above, I REALLY expect a bunch of "character," and layer, upon layer of nuances.

          [EDITED] Oops, oolah just hit the board ahead of me, with "character."

          1. To me , a great deal of how I judge a wine is in the finish. For example, my favorite reds have a long, austere finish that lingers without being cloying. For example, a properly aged Cab or Barolo in which the fruit is still present but the tannins have mellowed so there is not longer a "puckering effect". In a white, I like a clean finish that is refreshing. To me , this is a well made, properly chilled Riesling. Great up front fruit, and a clean palate at the end. Gotta go, my glass is empty !

            6 Replies
            1. re: TonyO

              A good wine has a plot: beginning, middle, and end (aroma, taste, and finish).

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                And plot twists! i.e., vitality in the glass, so the aroma, taste, and finish change as you're drinking the glass and the bottle, so each sip (gulp) is linked to but different form the previous one(s).

              2. re: TonyO

                TonyO, is it unusual for someone to like the tannins? My wife commented to me the other day that she likes a wine that gives her a "puckering" effect. We are newer to the world of wine and it seems that tannins get mentioned a lot in a negative sense. She specifically looks for it in a Barolo or Barbaresco as well as her Bordeaux.

                1. re: bobby06877

                  greetings, tannins are inherently neither positive nor detrimental but are integral (on a molecular level I suspect, but I don't possess the chemistry chops) to many other things going on in your palate and olfactory senses , most pronounced in big ageworthy reds like your wife's favorites, and in ports. (the way ports are made extract huge amounts of tannins from the treading, human or robotic, and I think this is part of the structure that keeps the wine from 'falling apart' after 40 years of cellaring) If you glance at the pros' tasting notes of these wines there's always a sentence to sum up the tannins. There's a very old variety in Umbria that is packed with the phenols /flavinoids that evolve and transform in the cellar;extremely tannic(mixed with water in earlier times for sacramental uses), it's bitter and black in youth, marvelous with age. It's said the Japanese like tannic reds because their tea drinking gives them a higher tolerance than Americans raised on soda pop. cheers

                  1. re: bobby06877

                    Like most components of wine, it's a question of style, balance, and personal taste. What's too much, just right, or not enough varies with the type of wine.

                    Wines to be aged need to have a fairly high level of tannin (and/or acid and/or sugar) to preserve them. Wines made to be aged for a long time can sometimes be so tannic as to be undrinkable on release. These tannins mellow and fade with age. At some point, with luck, the wine comes into a lovely balance. If you're not lucky, fruit fades before the tannins and you end up with something that tastes like leathery tea.

                    1. re: bobby06877

                      To my friends in the Nutmeg State (assuming the 06877 is your zip code but then again, it could be your birthday.....), tannins are part of a wnes "DNA" so to speak. Like many other CH'ers have said, it is personally preference. I personally like them toned down a bit, partially why I like wines that are ready to drink when released (give me a big juicy Zin or Syrah anyday). However, there are those that like that sensation and the flavor profile that goes along without. To them I say Cheers !