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Are Cheap Wines Bad Wines?

This is a question asked by individuals new to wine and those who consider themselves quite versed in wine. 

Even now, as I taste my way through the excellent wine selections for my WSET course, and the suggestions of other wine school directors, I find myself asking every now and then, "Is cheap wine bad?" What makes wine cheap, anyway?

There are a couple of things to consider:
  • The name of the Producer 
  • Where the wine is from
  • Methods used during harvest (hand- picked, versus machine)
  • What occurs during the wine making process
  • Vintage
All of these factors play a role in the price you pay for your wine.  However, I admit: it can be discouraging scrolling through Instagram and looking at accounts of wines with price tags that make you want to consider other less expensive hobbies!

While I have enjoyed expensive wine, I have also enjoyed wine with price points that allowed me to still pay my bills! 
Enjoying wine is not about locating and only drinking wines from the Right Bank of the Bordeaux or the top vineyards of the Cote d'Or. Sometimes, especially for those new to wine, it can be as simple as seeking out those hidden gems.

People automatically assume "inexpensive" wine is not of good quality, and that is not true. Take a look at some of the wine regions of Chile. Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley produce fine wine that can compete with some of Napa Valley's finest, but they are priced much lower. Does that mean we should steer away from Chilean wine? No way! If we did, we would miss the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful Clos Apalta. It is the top wine of Chile and one of its first iconic wines.

Most recently, I discovered a wine from Switzerland, Alpine Roots Johannisberg AOC Valais. This wine is not considered a popular choice, nor does it carry a hefty price tag. I was attracted to it due to its origin and the grape used. The grape is called Johannisberg in Switzerland, but we know it as Silvaner. It was not a bad selection either. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting what you want to buy ("cheap" or not):
  • Know your budget and work within it.
  • Ask for suggestions from friends (check out the Wine Intellect Blog and see if there is a wine that catches your interest).
  • Be adventurous! Choose a wine from a region you have never been to. Choose a lesser known producer.
  • Take notes on the wines you taste. Your notes will serve as a reference point, and you can compare similar tasting wines or other vintages.
So what is the takeaway? There are several factors that should be considered when deciding what is a cheap wine? Sometimes, the price point alone will not tell us everything. Do your research first,  but most importantly, if you end up selecting that "cheap" wine, don't forget to enjoy it.