by Vickie Kline
What makes a cheap wine taste cheap? Have you ever pondered this question? I have on many occasions and decided it was time to find the truth.
The first step in my research was to locate the least expensive bottle of wine possible and compare it to a finer wine. I walked the aisles of the liquor store and looked down. The least known, least expensive wines are usually on the bottom shelf, unless they happen to cost less because they are on clearance or discounted to move. I found Boone's Farm for $4, but come on … been there, done that and don't need to ever taste that again. The next price level was at $6, so I selected this simple, straightforward
2013 Canyon Road
Chardonnay. Nothing fancy about the label and no extravagant description. So
far there's still nothing to tell me this should be categorized as cheap other
than the price.
There are three things that drive up the price of wine: oak, time and terroir. (Terroir being the natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as soil and climate.) Following is a brief insight for each.
Wine growers and producers know that aging wine in new oak barrels allows them to increase the price because it improves the taste by adding oak flavors. These barrels also allow oxygen to permeate and decrease the intensity of tannins, making the wine smoother. Oak increases the price of wine because the barrels themselves are expensive too. An 80-year old oak tree will only produce two barrels, with French barrels costing twice as much as American. The increased price to the consumer is about $2 to $4 dollars more per bottle.
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