Does the bottle hint at the price of the wine?

Posted by Jay Lee & Peter Koff MW on 30th Jan 2023

There was a time when looking at a bottle of wine gave strong indications of its quality. The appearance of the bottle, the label, the foil and the closure, were indicative of the quality or at least the price. Lower priced wines, generally lesser wines, tended to be bottled in lighter glass, with inexpensive labels, plastic foils and lower quality corks or closures; the wine quality tended to be commensurate with the packaging quality. The value of wine is not absolutely proportionate to its price but it generally costs more to make better wine; better grapes, smaller quantities, more care and attention during the wine making, greater investment in equipment, the use of new oak barrels and the like. Wines like this are sold at a premium that allows for higher quality packaging; heavier bottles, higher quality labels, better corks and more expensive foils.   

This balance is now less true than it was. Some savvy marketers now bottle lesser wines in higher quality packaging, giving consumers the impression of greater quality wines. The theory is that the increase in cost is easily covered by the ability to sell the wine at a higher prices, based on its appearance. The challenge for the consumer is to know the difference. Unfortunately, this is not simple for beginners. Look for pointers such as appellation; for example, Napa Valley is a high quality appellation and not like to be at a low price. An expensive wine with a simple California appellation may be a warning sign but there are many high quality wines with simple California appellations. The producer is a pointer; high quality, boutique producers are very unlikely to use these artifices. Consumers should ask their trusted wine retailers for advice, check comments on the internet and wine publications and buy online from trusted sources.