Does a $10,000 Bottle of Wine Taste Like $10,000?

Related To:

When you write about wine, you sometimes get to taste the really expensive stuff. I’m not talking filet mignon or even white-truffle expensive. I’m talking splurging like Diddy-in-a-diamond-hoodie-on-a-yacht expensive.

When a collector shares one of these bottles with me, friends later ask, “Does it taste like [insert obscenely expensive price]?”

The honest answer: It doesn’t, at least not to the untrained palate, and probably not even to most trained palates.

The lesson here is that while the price is often reflective of a wine’s quality, it is so only up to a point. And even when a wine is of high quality — from the best grapes handled by the most talented hands — it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically taste its full price. In fact, some of the most-prized bottles can evoke qualities — think soy sauce or pencil lead or even a barnyard in August — that are off-putting to the uninitiated.

So next time you’re thinking of ordering that $50 bottle instead of one that is $30, or when you’re embarrassed about ordering the least expensive bottle, consider these non-quality factors that play into a wine’s price:

  • Scarcity: When wine is expensive — and especially as costly as the bottle described above — you’re also paying for the privilege of being one of the lucky souls who can lay their lips on it. It’s simple supply and demand.
  • Marketing: Some higher-priced wines, including most top-tier Champagnes are no different than Prada loafers or Gucci handbags: They are luxury goods with expensive marketing budgets (glossy ads and beach umbrellas) that are built into the price of each bottle.
  • Pricing: Some wines are priced more expensively to make people value them more. A few years ago Stanford Business School did a fascinating study in which subjects registered more pleasure in their brains when they were told a wine was more costly, even when it wasn’t. The power of pricing is powerful indeed.

Photo by: Amy Fletcher ©www.aefletchers.com

Amy Fletcher, www.aefletchers.com

Every week, Mark Oldman -- wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the series The Winemakers -- shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he'll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Taste Wine — Outsmarting Wine

Learn how to taste wine by using these three ways to build your wine-tasting vocabulary.

Wine Tasting Terms to Know

Swirl your wine, breathe deeply, take a taste, and think about what comes to mind. Here is what to look for when tasting wine.

Some Like It Cool: Serving Temperature and Wine

The following wine temperature guidelines for white wine and red wine will cast your wine in the most flattering light.

Enter for a Chance to Win a Zig Zag Wine Bottle Holder

Win a Zig Zag Wine Bottle Holder by Emilia Ceramics!

How to Send Wine Back — Outsmarting Wine

The easiest way to send back a bottle is to bring your server into the fold and ask his opinion.

Affordable Weeknight Wines — Outsmarting Wine

Here are three wine types that will enchant any night of the week and won't break the bank.

Chefs’ Picks: Top Holiday Bottles

If you want to buy a few celebratory holiday wines, dazzle your guests with these chefs’ go-to bottles to serve, gift and brighten spirits.

Budget Wines

Wines under $10, recommended by Michael Green

How to Buy Wine

With all of the anxiety and intimidation surrounding wine purchasing, it is a bloody shame that there is no user’s manual for visiting a wine shop. No matter: These strategies will help you get the most out of a wine merchant.

On TV