The Price on Taste

The difference between cheap and expensive wine

There’s a popular belief that the more expensive something is the better it is, but is it really? Well, it depends, and it actually depends on many things.

Let’s start with the main point: you like what you like and you should drink what you enjoy rather than what experts tell you are the best. It’s especially true if you are just starting to drink wine because in most cases you are still months, if not years, away from developing the palate and nose needed to appreciate everything that great wines have to offer.

If you don’t believe me, organize a blind wine tasting at home with friends, and without them knowing the wines or prices, and without sharing information, it is likely that different people will choose different wines as their favorite.

So although you should experiment and be open to try new things, remember what you like and, by the way, what you like will change over time.

Going back to price, unless you drink to get drunk avoid most entry level wines. With very few exceptions, they are all low quality, and likely to be high in unnatural chemical compounds. Why? Because there are two main ways to make wine, the first is by following natural aging methods, which takes time and money; and the second is adding chemicals into the wine, which, although legal, will help most people achieve a big lasting hangover, and is the reason why most novices initially don’t like wine.

Let’s look at the reverse economics of a bottle of wine you buy in a restaurant. Chilean wines are usually the cheapest, and let’s say you pay VND600,000 for a bottle to go with your dinner, the value of what you’re really drinking, excluding the winery profit, will be around VND22,000.

However, if you increase your purchase of a bottle by 67 percent to VND1 million, the value of what you drink is almost four times, or in other words, you pay 67 percent more and get something worth four times more.

The way big wineries produce entry level wines at a low cost is by mass producing them, and if you give it some thought, the only way to produce, let’s say 20 million bottles of a wine, all tasting the same, when grapes come from different vineyards or even different areas, is by using chemicals, chemicals that will end up in your body.

If you visit wineries, especially in the old world, where a lot of importance is given to the terroir, you will see how grapes harvested in vineyards just a few hundred meters away produce totally different wines even if made by the same winemaker. So now is the time for you to decide the balance between paying little for entry level wines and having a good quality, healthier product.

Bottle in a restaurant





Restaurant margin





Importer margin





Transport and tax





Cost bottle, label





Cost of wine





BIO: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and has published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at

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