Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Supermarkets like Sainsbury’s have their own value wine. It’s normally in a large bottle and very cheap. What is the difference between this wine and more expensive wine?
—Katherine, Nottingham, England
Less expensive wines typically cost less to make. I don’t know about Sainsbury’s wines in particular, but in general, many of the brands you see in the supermarket are made from grapes that are grown with higher yields and in less desirable locations than the grapes used for more premium labels. Instead of expressing a single type of grape from a single vineyard site, these wines are probably blended from several vineyards, or even from several types of grapes. You can cut down on the cost of barrels by using alternatives like oak chips, and cut down on the cost of grapegrowing by buying grapes or even already-made wine on the bulk market. The packaging is probably modest, and they aren’t spending a lot of money on marketing or advertising.
That’s not to say that supermarket wine is bad, it’s just a different expression of wine. If you want to drink wine that comes from special vineyard sites, made by top winemakers in a no-expense-spared winery, you’re going to have to pay more. But for solid values and innocuous quaffs, there are plenty of good buys to be found on the wine aisle. You just need to find something that matches your palate and your wallet.
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