Ever heard someone say, “I got this $100 bottle of wine” — implying, “I got the good stuff”? I’m going to debunk that today.
One of my favorite wine regions is Tasmania, an Australian island originally colonized by the British in the 1850′s as a place to house convicts. (The jails in London were packed.)
But for most of my life, I had never heard of Tasmanian wine; after all, France, Italy, and California get all the glory. Once I started paying attention to wine regions, I noticed specific places that receive tons of wine press (no pun intended) like Malbec, Argentina and Marlborough, New Zealand. But Tasmania?
Why hadn’t I heard of it? Well, Tasmania is a bit of an “emerging” wine region within Australia — it hasn’t yet sealed its reputation on the international stage. And that makes its wines gosh-darn cheap.
You see, I’ve done a fair bit of – uh – studying on this topic. And you know what I discovered? (Shhh. Here’s a secret.) There’s actually very little correlation between quality and price.
What matters is market dominance.
Wine, like any other product, relies on its brand name and recognition. If you’ve got a well-established large vineyard that’s been producing decent wine for generations, you can slam a nice markup on your brand. If your vineyard is big enough to have an advertising budget, you price that overhead into the retail cost of your bottles — and add a markup, as well.
A few Tasmanian vineyards are well-known within Australia, and they charge a nice premium. Their wine is legitimately delicious, but the customers certainly pay for it.
If, however, you’re a mom-and-pop operation or a start-up vineyard, you’ll have trouble getting liquor store owners to return your cold calls. It doesn’t matter that your Riesling tastes like the nectar of the gods. You might produce the finest wine on earth, but you’ve got no brand, no marketing budget, and no buyers network. Until you establish a brand, you’ll practically be giving your bottles away.
What happens in wine … happens in liquor and beer.
This is true for all types of alcohol, not just wine. In TIME’s It’s Your Money blog, Brad Tuttle quoted a Reuters blog that noticed the same thing about vodka: while Grey Goose has glossy ads and brand recognition, there’s a lesser-known Polish brand called Wodka, selling for only $10 a bottle, that has blown the critics away. That same Reuters piece also reported that a New York Times blind taste test found that people preferred Smirnoff (a discount brand) over the higher-priced Ketel One or Grey Goose.
Want to drink fine wines, craft beers, or smooth liquor without paying the high-roller prices? Skip the brands that have an advertising budget. Skip the brands on prominent display shelves. Try the tiny bottle collecting dust on a back shelf. Better yet, go online and order a start-up brand that can’t get stocked at a store.
Who knows how it will taste? It might be awful. Or it might be the best you’ve ever had.
What do you think? Are high-priced drinks worth the cost? Leave your comments below, or start a discussion on Facebook.
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