After $50, what are we paying for?
A poster asked about the taste of a $300 bottle which got me thinking about what we expect at different price points. I have never spent even $100 on a bottle of wine, but my regular price point has been creeping up to the $30-35 range with $50 bottles finding their way into my closet cellar more and more often. At this price point, I expect more layers of taste, more complexity, more ...something. I don't always get it but i feel I'm drinking more interesting wines now.
I don't think I have drink expensive, but it seems that the step up can get a more personal wine makers expression.
What do others feel you get buy spending more money and how do you judge QPR?
First off, let me say that there are plenty of wonderful wines out there in the sub-$15 price range - you just have to find them. Having said that, my two most memorable wines would both cost more than $300. The first was in 1979 at a casino in Atlantic City - after being falsely arrested (go figure) the casino comped me to a nice meal which included a bottle of Vosne Romanee La Tache. I though the casino price tag of $80 was inflated but the wine was true perfection and the wine today (shifting to a more recent vintage) would be over $1,000. The second was in 1998 - a friend and I consumed my last treasured bottle of Graham 1955 port, which I did not decant but very carefully poured out of the bottle. Both of these experiences involved some kind of magic in the bottle. Could it also have been the circumstances? Maybe but why did this only happen with wines that happen to be super expensive?
On your question about QPR. I know they relinquished first place in the Championship to Burnley but I regard this as a minor setback and my judgment is that they will get promoted back to the Premier League at the end of the season.
When you go over that price you are paying for several different things, depending on your desires. Sometimes it is rarity, say a single vineyard PN from one of the Santa Rita Hills gurus, or a small production Cab like Match or the late Karl Lawrence. Sometimes you are paying for a much better wine because of the vineyard the grapes are sourced from, like a To Kalon or Herb Lamb Cab from one of the good producers. sometimes you are just paying for cache like Opus One.
Judging QPR is easy: did the wine give you greater pleasure/enjoyment than other wines costing the same; as much as other wines costing more? If so, the QPR (Quality-Price Ration) is high. OTOH, if you felt that you overpaid for the wine, that it wasn't as good as other wines you've had which cost far less, well then the QPR sucks!
In other words, while all of us can accept that there are some $10 wines out there with great QPR, fewer people recognize that the concept can also apply to $100 bottles or even wines that cost more than that!
For example, on a recent trip to Seattle, I purchased a bottle of red Burgundy off the wine list that was (IIRC) $90. It was better than any $150-200 bottle off their list, and the wine buyer/sommelier came over "to see who ordered the 'gem' off the list." Now, not only was the $90 bottle better than a wine costing 2x the price, BUT the markup percentage on that bottle was lower (i.e.: there was less disparity between retail and wine list pricing) than on other wines. It was, in a sense, a double QPR winner -- the markup was reasonable AND it beat the socks off of other offerings on the list!
I presume you're talking $50 at retail, not at a restaurant... 50 at a restaurant is a bargain these days, for anything other than fairly pedestrian wines.
50 is a nice retail breakpoint... much over 50 and you really should be drinking an impressive and memorable wine... if not, then you have any number of options at lower prices, including some really great wines.
That said, there are great varietals that you just aren't going to get (or a reasonable substitute) near 50 at retail... a vintage port for example, a ready-to-drink barolo....
You presume correctly, I seldom buy bottles at restaurants as my better half drinks only sparingly. I am seeing more 375ml offerings.
I think of ports and dessert wines as a separate catagory with its own price points. (which is not logical but what is?)
One of the things I guess people pay for is "vintages". I don't swim in that part of the wine pool yet. Having done a few vertical tastings now, I cannot trust my own palate after a few glasses and some nibbles. Sometimes the wines from different years taste like totally different grapes, and i get confused about what the base flavour profile is....But that is something else.
There are some regions of the world where the vintage is more crucial than others. California, for example, is blessed with a weather pattern that (generally speaking) varies over a relatively narrow range, especially compared with (e.g.) Bordeaux or Burgundy. A spring frost after bud break or rainfall at harvest are rare occurrences in Napa Valley, for instance, whereas they have occurred with maddening frequency over the years in both Bordeaux and Burgundy. Either one may ruin your harvest, and thus your wine . . .
1984, for example, a freeze hit Bordeaux *after* the Merlot had begun to flower, but before the Cabernet Sauvignon did. The result was that much of the Merlot crop was destroyed before it ever started, whereas the Cabernet Sauvignon emerged relatively unscathed. Still, the resulting wines were decidedly atypical for Bordeaux and were (almost) universally panned.
This year, 2013, hail repeatedly hit the Loire Valley and Burgundy, destroying vines, let alone grapes . . .
Once in a while I'll buy an expensive wine I'm curious about because that's the only way I can find to try it, but generally the only kind of wine that I'll pay over $50 for is mature Bordeaux.
I am paying for the "wow" factor that I didn't get before with my $30-40 wines. This actually describes well my recent experience - for the first time I ventured into the $60-70 territory while tasting Epoch wines in Paso Robles area. I was amazed and quickly purchased additional bottles. You have to judge for yourself if this additional "wow" is big enough for you to justify price increase.