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

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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

More In Dr. Vinny

If most vines are grafted onto rootstocks, why do some grapevines thrive in soils where others struggle?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny, with an assist from U.C. Davis' viticulture department, …

Jul 1, 2020

What does “buttery” mean when talking about Chardonnay?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where "buttery" flavors come from in wine.

Jun 29, 2020

Are French oak barrels for aging wine made from white oak or red oak?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why white oak is the preferred wood for aging …

Jun 26, 2020

Are freezable tumblers OK for drinking a glass of rosé or white wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how freezable plastic tumblers keep beverages …

Jun 24, 2020

What’s the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which grapes are used in France's Bordeaux and …

Jun 22, 2020

How do wine critics review wines that aren’t ready to drink?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how experienced critics assess a young wine's …

Jun 19, 2020