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A non wine drinking friend (who can’t fathom anyone paying more than $5 on wine) was giving me a hard time today at work about how I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a $10 wine and a $50 wine, bla, bla, bla… we have all heard this argument before.

Everyone on this board knows that there are quality wines at various price points from each wine region in the world, the fun is finding them. What his argument got me thinking about is, what region do you think most consistently increases in quality as the price increases? Say from $10 to $50.

My vote if for Bordeaux because my experience with $50 bottles (Pontet-Canet comes to mind) blow the doors off of $10 bottles. I’m not saying Bordeaux doesn’t make outstanding wine at $10, I’m saying I consistently see an increase in quality with a higher price point like the Pontet.

Conversely, I’ve had way too many $50 Cali Cab’s that taste like the random $10 Cali Cab that came in a gift basket.
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My gut reaction to your question is that every region shows consistent quality increase with price increase from $10 to $50. In the stuff I drink, i.e. mostly European wine, I'm certain of this, and even in regions like Oz and Chile, the jump up is pretty dramatic.

You could be right about Cal cab, but I so rarely drink those wines, especially at the $10 pricepoint, that I really wouldn't know. Certainly in the $20-$50 bracket the distinction is blurred, and elements like location and brand prestige can easily add tens of dollars to a price tag.

Some practices simply cost a lot of dollars, like buying new oak barrels for every vintage, and for doing extended ageing before release. It costs money to do multiple pass, hand harvesting, to do sorting, and all of the vineyard care that comes before you even get to those points. In short, quality costs.

I think because Cal cab is such a lucrative market here, that the competition has pushed the quality bar quite high, and that's a good thing for consumers. And anyway, just because one can make good cab in an appellation where vineyard space is relatively inexpensive, say, Lodi, that fact doesn't do anything to diminish the higher costs of making a similar cab in high rent district like Napa.

Start factoring in things like showplace wineries, guest accommodations, and winery support in the marketplace to their distributors, and it becomes pretty tricky to really say how much a wine should cost.
How about the opposite effect: diminishing returns as price increases. Personally I find Aussie Shiraz like this. A $20 is generally pretty good but an $80 wine isn't a whole lot better, just different. Ditto for CduP, a $35 wine is great, an $85 wine a little better but for $400 you don't get a lot more in the glass. Barolo also fits this description.

At various price points I collect the following:
$25-50: a lot of Chianti Classico Riserva, some Amarone, CduP, some lesser Super Tuscans, Cotes du Rhone, Rioja and some other Spanish wines, Shiraz, Chablis

$50-75: Bordeaux, Cally Cabs, Washington Cabs and Merlot, Chilean Cabs, some Super Tuscans

$75-100: Brunello, Barbaresco, Barolo, Super Tuscans. Nothing over $100 yet, my wife would kill me, however I'm sneaking in some Solaia this fall.

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