I'm often asked if expensive wine is really that much better than the $15 bottles at Trader Joe's. In reality, there are great wines at every price point, but certain factors will drive the cost through the roof. Here's what'll make a wine break the bank:
1. Location. If a wine is from a region that is recognized for its quality (formally or by reputation), producers in that area will likely jack up the cost. Newer wine regions like Douro in Portugal or Casablanca Valley in Chile are great for cheap, quality wines.
2. Brand Name. A big name producer in Napa or Bordeaux can run you a small fortune. Unless you're looking to blow your bonus on a bottle, steer clear of the top tier brand names.
3. Wine-Making Method. Organic, oak and aging will make a wine more expensive. Complex wines come at a cost.
4. Rarity. Like everything else, if it's hard to get, it won't come cheap.
5. Markup. Retailers mark up wines substantially and restaurants are even more egregious offenders. A typical restaurant wine list will show a wine marked up 3x the original amount. A word of advice: if you're planning on drinking copiously, we suggest doing it at home.
6. What's Hot. Merlot is out, Pinot is in. Wine trends can last decades, but just because a grape is "cool" doesn't mean you'll like it. Try new varieties when given the opportunity...you may stumble across a great one that isn't being talked about.
Bottom Line Is: You don't have to go broke for good wine. There's great wine at every price point so don't be ashamed if you're favorite one rocks a $10 price tag.