Is there a difference between an expensive wine and a cheap wine that earned the same score?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have been using Wine Spectator's Xvalues app to find some great wines at a bargain. The guys at my wine store tell me a 90-point, $16 Cabernet and a 90-point, $60 Cabernet are worlds apart. Is there a different rating scale for value, or are they trying to upsell me?

—James, Franklin, Tenn.

Dear James,

I’m so glad you’ve been using our Xvalues app! For those not familiar, it’s a new (free!) app we released earlier this year that focuses on wines we highly recommend that are wallet-friendly—most of them ring up at $20 or less.

The wines reviewed for the Xvalues app—along with all of the wines we review, period—are reviewed in blind tastings, where neither the price nor the producer is known. That means both the $16 and the $60 Cabernets were tasted under the same circumstances, and judged on the same scale.

There is one nuance to point out. I’m not sure if the Cabernets you are referring to come from the same part of the world, but we taste wines in flights organized by peer groups. Cabernets from Napa Valley are tasted with other Napa Valley Cabernets, while Cabernet-based Bordeauxs are tasted with other Bordeauxs. By doing this, we get a chance to give the wines some context. We believe that in addition to a wine’s quality showing through, a wine should reflect where it comes from.

The results from a blind tasting can be surprising, even to the tasters. The more expensive wine doesn’t always score highest. The brand that’s been around for decades might not do as well as the newcomer. How are wine prices determined? That’s a complicated topic. Sure, some wines cost more to make than others, but in general, producers can charge whatever they want for a bottle of wine, for whatever reason.

—Dr. Vinny

Values Ask Dr. Vinny

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