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Marina Elettra Snow
January 5, 2021 | Marina Elettra Snow

What makes a white wine less expensive than a red wine?

Let’s talk about a question that I received regarding, "What makes a white wine less expensive than a red wine?" And in fact in a couple of virtual tasting that I've done over the past days, the question has come up even with respect to red wines in general. So what makes a wine cost more than another wine?

Let's start with a question about White versus Red.

First and foremost white wines are typically "drink younger", meaning that they go through a shorter aging process and this has a dramatic effect on the price of wine. For instance, imagine that to age a wine in wood, you would need to buy the oak barrels and have room in the cellar to store them. Also would need to have a significant skill-set oenologist to manage the process. Especially some wines that are a blend of grapes and have different age and require periodic test and tasting to decide when each individual varietal and barrel is ready for the final product.

So all of those processes come into the cost associated with a wine and for the most part when we're talking about white wines those issues are not a factor.

Now, I would say that an exception to that are white wines that are aged in wood, a trend that we see quite often here in California, particularly with Chardonnay.

It is a white wine that is traditionally, particularly here in California, aged in oak. And so that's why you would see Chardonnay wines costing a bit more than others that are release more directly to the market.

But I would like to add, that also in making red wine, the Riserva style or the Gran Riserva are wines that require more aging. A lot of Italian denominations require a certain number of years that a wine must be aged before it can be sold. Some require 5 years of aging, part of that in wood, part of that in the bottle in the cellar and it goes down from there.

Also when making these high-end wines, many producers will harvest the fruit selecting only the best grapes, impacting directly on the cost of producing a wine.

Some of the wines in Italy go through a process that we call “appassimento” (used to make Amarone), where the grapes are harvested and dried. They're either laid flat or hung to dry for as much as 90 days.

And again, this requires space in the cellar, appropriate drying racks, takes time, takes resources, takes space and all of those factors that go into making one of the great red wines

So basically when you're looking at the higher price point wines, you will find a lot more effort, a lot more care, and perhaps the best fruit and the longest wood-aging processes.

You have to look very deep at how the wine is made, how the grapes are harvested, and all of the different steps that go into making that wonderful bottle of wine that you'll be pouring and sipping over your dinner or with friends. So I hope that helps.

We'll come up with another idea for a video again soon.

So until then enjoy, stay safe, and will see you soon. Ciao for now!


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