How can winemakers justify the price of wines?

A Good question. And if you get satisfaction from a R20 bottle of wine, go for it. There is no exact scale of values in wine, as in most commodities. There’s no way you can judge accurately whether a R120 bottle provides three times the pleasure of a R40 bottle.

But there are also real reasons for the high prices of some wines. It’s not all marketing hype. Yield per hectare is one criterion. If you irrigate a vineyard during the ripening season you can achieve a harvest of 20 tons a hectare, but the grapes can be plump, watery and flavourless. On the other hand, if you limit production by not irrigating and even cutting half the bunches from the vines before they ripen, you may end up with only two tons a hectare where the berries will be small, intensely flavoured and they could make a big, flavourful wine. However, they will have cost you 10 times the amount to produce. It’s every farmer’s dilemma. High yields or high price?


Then there’s the matter of wood maturation. Oak barrels cost several thousand rand each, and are used for only two or three vintages. Cheaper wines, on the other hand, are often made in stainless steel tanks that last for decades and do not need replacing.


In the making of some top-quality wines the bunches of grapes are hand-sorted on a moving table before crushing and any unripe bunches are discarded. In some cases even individual berries are removed from bunches and discarded. All this requires labour and that doesn’t come cheap. So very often there is a good reason for charging a higher price for a good quality wine. But, as in any industry, there will always be some products that are overpriced. Your membership in the Wine-of-the-Month Club keeps the chancers at bay. When panel members find a pleasant, more-than-acceptable wine that is overpriced, they show it the door. It never makes it into a pack and, certainly, never into a Best Value pack. Finally it’s up to each of us to decide what we can afford and which wines in that price category please us the most.