While the high value of a bottle of fine wine can never be disputed by its legions of drinkers, the definitive price of wine is much harder to pin down. Comparing estimates such as the price of wine in Hong Kong, New York, London and Paris can yield wildly different results for extremely similar vintages, and although the price of wine is determined to an extent by a vintner’s opinion of his own work, there are several objective factors that affect the price of wine around the world.
The location of a winemaker’s vineyard is a central factor in its price because of the storied tradition of winemaking. Although the hardy grapevine thrives in a variety of environments globally, the regions that produce the best grapes such as the historic foothills of rural Italy are hotly desired and prohibitively expensive to maintain, leading to higher prices among winemakers who have access to these lands.
The location of the source vineyard can also have a dramatic effect on the final price of a bottle in a given locale after factoring in hidden expenses such as shipping and customs, costs which are usually passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices per ounce.
Another core factor in the price of a bottle of wine is its availability or lack thereof. Most of the wine community’s most highly regarded vintages are produced in small quantities to preserve their exclusivity, and the relative rarity of these bottles leads to much higher prices in the open market.
These bottles are often individually numbered to highlight their short supply, and wine enthusiasts at the wholesale, retail and consumer levels are often willing to pay extremely high premiums for these wines. This effect can be even more pronounced in areas not known for their access to fine wine or wineries.
As with all industries, the name and legacy of the producer also have an effect on the price of a bottle of wine. A vintner who is virtually unknown in one area of the world may have an established following in other countries, and these countries charge a higher price for a vintage based on its domestic reputation.
Premium winemakers also employ higher-end materials in the manufacture of their finished products, such as oak barrels for aging, colored glass to prevent light damage, higher quality labels that endure over time for the convenience of wine collectors. Even the grapes used in the actual production of top-shelf wines are frequently more expensive than grapes used in their less expensive counterparts or can be less common in certain regions, meaning that the price tag of a superior wine begins climbing the day the grapes are harvested.