According to the online wine marketplace and wine app Vivino, an average bottle of white wine costs $14.41, while its red counterpart comes in slightly higher at $15.66. Those averages tend to rise precipitously as perceived quality increases. Vivino scores wines on a five-point scale, and considers that one scored 4.5 is better than 99% of other wines on the planet. The wines it considers virtually never reach a score of 5, but the “extraordinary” bottles that achieve 4.8 record a median online price of $280 for white, $528.82 for red.
Even those stratospheric prices are chump change compared with the most expensive wines available. The New Zealand-based wine database and search engine Wine-Searcher, which tracks wine prices in retail outlets around the world, has just released a jaw-dropping report on the most expensive wines of the decade.
Despite the economic downturn of 2008, by 2010 spending on pricey non-essentials had risen dramatically. As Wine-Searcher’s Don Kavanagh put it, the past 10 years were “the decade when wine went mad.” Inspired in part by a series of smaller-than-usual harvests, “Prices soared, [and] demand went through the roof….”
Is any bottle of wine worth thousands of dollars? If we’re talking about the pure sensual enjoyment sipping it might bring, the answer is pretty clearly no. Wine can only be so good. Even the most refined, complex, delicious examples — the ones that make the drinker stop and think “I had no idea that anything could taste this good” — are, after all, just something nice to drink. They won’t change the world or even your daily life. They’re just amusements, indulgences, ultimately rather simple pleasures.
Anyway, price doesn’t guarantee quality. Plenty of wines have inflated reputations, with their success depending more on marketing than on winemaking. That can be as true for a $10 wine as for a $1,000 one. Here are 11 ways to tell if a wine is actually really good.