The 'tippling' point: when does what you pay for wine become too much?


8 days ago

Does that bottle of wine taste better if you think it cost a lot?

Are you a wine snob or one of those people just happy to enjoy a glass because "vino is vino"?

South Africa’s most expensive wine (4G Wines) costs around R8,000 a bottle, Business Insider reported in February.

A number of experiments have shown that people raise their enjoyment rating of a wine when its price is higher than another on offer - even if their glass actually contains the cheaper one.

I think it's accepted that wine generally tastes better the more you spend on it, but I think we have to get to a price point where it makes no sense to spend more... Is it at R100, R200, R300?.

Bruce Whitfield, The Money Show host

Is there such a thing as a "tippling" point (expression courtesy of 702 presenter John Perlman)?

Whitfield chats to Michael Fridjhon, well-known international wine expert (Wine Wizard).

Fridjhon explains why "it works both ways".

At the bottom end there are basic costs that have nothing to do with the fluid in the bottle... That's what you're paying for if you're buying too cheap (glass, packaging, transport, markup...). There is nothing in it for you.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

At the other side of the spectrum you're either paying for real shortage or perceived shortage. When those two come together.... [for example a small estate producing a countable number of cases] all that ever happens, is the price goes up.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

There are lots of millionaires with nothing else to do with their money and the idea, that at some point in their lives, they need to either have or show off or share what is believed to be the apogee of fine wine.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

When you put those two combos together you arrive at this ridiculous point where the wine that wasn't taken off the sea bed after three centuries but is actually available as a current release, and is therefore in a sense too young to drink, can cost upwards of a few R100,000 for a single bottle.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

As long as we're all relatively sane... there is a point where we realise that what we're really doing is paying for the 'illusion', or maybe delusion, that what the producer has persuaded us is a justifiable price, at the point where shortage is not an issue,

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

Fridjhon discusses the points system for rating wines and notes that he does a blind tasting of a product.

I put into the Wine Wizard, which is a search engine... a spec of Cabernet which was readily available with price not the issue... The highest-rated Cab at the moment is the 2014 Delaire Graff/ Lourens Graff reserve, which is R3,750 a bottle. It scored 95 points.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

Yes, I should be able to taste the more expensive wines - it will have more obvious oak, better tannins and so on... At 95 points I say it's a really smart wine. It gets a one-star value ranking - it's a fairly arcane algorithm that tries to see the relationship between price and value as a constant. As prices go up because of inflation it adjusts the algorithm accordingly.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

But if you go down two on that list and you get to three-star value with a Cederberg Cabernet - which is a really smart Cab - it's R200 a bottle and it's 93 points...

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

When you look at the score, that score is arrived at purely on the perceived quality of the wine and the price is unrelated until it's revealed. You have to say to yourself: Why are people paying R500 or R2,000 or R3,000 a bottle? Because it is not reflected in the points that the wines are getting.

Michael Fridjhon, International wine expert - Wine Wizard

At a blind wine tasting, Fridjhon says, in his experience there is no necessary connection between the perception of quality and the price that people will pay.

Listen to the discussion with the wine expert:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : The 'tippling' point: when does what you pay for wine become too much?

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