Wine is almost never priced for the exact value of what’s in the bottle. A lot of opaque economics—from the cost of vineyard land to a region’s reputation—get in the way. And, of course, fair value is in the eye of the drinker.
There are wines that overdeliver (from places like Australia, Chile, the unknown properties of Bordeaux) and wines whose prices have outpaced whatever they can offer (California “cult” wines, some top Burgundies, and so on). Obviously, we all want to be on the first half of that equation, but there are times when spending dearly makes sense.
A few things to keep in mind:
It’s hard to find wines under $15 that are distinctive and made with care; it’s even harder under $10, a category in which most wines are made by big corporations. But it’s easy under $20.
Few places in the world can justify a wine over $100. They’re only worth buying if you do your homework first (and that doesn’t mean just checking wine scores).
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The best values often come from places that have fallen out of fashion. Friends may question you, but once the bottle’s open, your smart taste will be evident.