Let’s start with the basics- what is wine? Some would have you believe that its a highly complex potion. Something brewed in rainbows and aged with fairy dust. Let’s be frank here- wine is grape juice. Fermented grape juice, but grape juice. Im not saying that to minimize wine, because if you know me, you know that I think that wine, its history, its present, its flavors, and all of its properties are beyond fascinating. I am pretty obsessed. But I want to be clear as well - this obsession is in grape juice and that it isn’t anything to be intimidated by.
So why is there such an air of, well Ill just say it, pretentiousness to it?
Wine has always been a hot commodity. Greek poets included it in their prose-raving of its sweet pleasure. In Italy often people would mix wine into their water to make their water more drinkable. It is well noted that wine was key in trades, country to country or family to family, throughout history. Its value was more than money. It is frequently referenced as a motivator for England to colonize- to find a place where they would be able to grow their own wine producing grapes, and thereby be able to offer wine as a trader rather than receive it. The British, due to proximity, most frequently traded for wine with France, and the French knew the worth of their grapes, specifically those of their Burgundy region. Those were the choice wines of celebration for the King of France as well as the Papacy. To follow simple economics, during the medieval ages these dignitaries placed a restriction on exporting these wines, which made their legend grow and became more desirable. This desire hasn’t subsided yet, allowing Red Burgundy and White Burgundy to reside among the highest priced wines.
Of course these prices aren’t purely based on lure from centuries ago, the wines of Burgundy stand on their own.
I know- I’ve already said we’re just talking about grape juice right? So why am I willing now to say that a high price tag on a bottle of this stuff is justified? Well here’s the the short answer- wine, true wine, once that grape juice has been fully fermented and properly aged, etc- wine takes on a life of it’s own. See here’s the thing- the flavors of wine, the personality that wine offers to its imbiber isn’t something that’s made up by sommeliers who are looking to confuse you. No, the fruits, flowers, savory qualities - those are all hallmarks of the land where the grapes were grown. Those flavors are telling you a story- they’re telling you about where they grew up, where they spent their summer on the vine, and how their farmer took care of them. Every vintage will tell you about how hot or cold the season was, how much rain was present, and what the farmers had to do to make sure that they ripened. Every bottle will tell the secrets of the soil that their vines are rooted in, and in that the history of their land. I think of wine in this way- when we open a bottle in our home, to share with our family in friends, the wine, in turn, is then inviting us to their home, where they were developed and tells us the story.
The simple answer to why some wines cost more than others- is some just have a better story to tell. The earth that grew them gave them something better, and we pay for that. So what goes into those stories that make the wines, good or bad? Well stay tuned- I’ve gotcha covered.