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The Turning Point: Wine Prices Against Value

Everyone wants to get the best bang for their buck - especially in oh-so-expensive Singapore. Alcohol in Singapore is also famously pricey - with many casual drinkers either resigning to paying the higher premium for decent booze or simply settling for the cheapest alcohol. However, most cheap booze tends to have a reputation for being bad - but that’s not always the case. 

Regardless, quality is always sought after - but at what price tag point do you start paying for good wines? These lines are often blurred, especially in today’s modern age and particularly with wine, where most wines are actually pretty good; to the point that wine experts can be fooled (sometimes). Let’s take you on a journey to find the edge of where the greatest deals are greatest. 

At the bottom of the barrel (metaphorically), we have wines in the $10-$20 range. Overseas, these wines may be slightly cheaper than what you may find here: mostly due to Singapore’s harsh alcohol tax. So if you’re looking at the lower price points in Singapore, you may count yourself lucky to have any wines below $20. 

While running a wine taste test in developing this blog (one of the perks of the job), we fell in love with the Carlo Rossi California Red. A delightful sub-$20 red wine, the Carlo Rossi Red features delicious notes of berries such as blackcurrants and blackberries in a palatable medium body. This red is a perfect example of other sub $20 wines that are perfectly acceptable, particularly for casual consumption at the end of a long week. 

It’s quite difficult to offer a comprehensive guide on every sub $20 wine and how they compare. While most wines in this category tend to contain high amounts of residual sugar. Residual sugar aren’t corn syrup or white granulated sugar (as you may expect), but rather are the fructose of the grape. While most sugars are converted into alcohol during the winemaking process, not all the sugar is fermented, resulting in sweetness. 

Residual sweetness is common in cheaper wines, mainly due to cheaper grapes - higher quality grapes have a tendency to produce a richer flavour in the resulting wine without much residual sugar. 

Another reason for some wines being cheaper is due to mass production - wines that are mass-produced tend to more affordable as compared to their “rarer” counterparts. This doesn’t necessarily result in poorer tasting wines; in fact, most of the wines in the $20-$50 range tend to be sublime. A trait that tends to be rather prevalent amongst wine in this category is aging in  oak barrels. Aging in oak barrels infuse the wines with flavours of vanilla, clove, and spice, and more importantly, exposes the wine to oxygen. Oxygen permeates through the barrel and removes some unwanted intensity from the wine, giving it a smoother taste. 

However, aging in oak barrels can result in an additional markup of approximately $3 per bottle, depending on the quality of the barrels. Is this worth it? Absolutely. In fact, wines in this category tend to be where the quality to price ratio is optimal. One of our recommendations? 

The Trapiche Oak Cask Cabernet Sauvignon stands out amongst others. A full, rich, Argentinian cab, the Trapiche Oak Cask Cabernet Sauvignon treads the fine line between the affordability of mass-produced wines with the personal touch of smaller batches. Made with fast-ripening grapes which lend a fruit-forward profile with notes of blackberries, cherry, and vanilla, ageing the cab in oak casks further decorates it with strong oaky hints; which complements a slight pepper spice. Such complexity and integration are rare in cheaper wines; take it one notch higher, and wines like the Trapiche Oak Cask do the job perfectly.

Finally, we’ve come to the best of the best. We’ve all heard about crazily priced wines. Most of these wines tend to be older, vintage wines. Perhaps rather surprisingly, some wines go for exorbitant prices not for exquisite flavours, but simply because they were made in a unique year, resulting in rarity. For example, the Domaine Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru 1949 is famed for surviving the driest year since 1893 in the region with poor weather conditions. In fact, most wines in this tier tend to be Grand Crus, a status that is only granted to approximately 1% of the total production of Burgundy, which is where Grand Crus commonly come from. 

Generally speaking, Grand Crus are relatively safe options if you’re looking to hold wines that appreciate in value. However, it’s important to note that not only expensive wines get better (and more expensive) with time. While wines with history tend to fare better at auctions, less-established, less-expensive wines can also increase in value if they are highly-rated, particularly if they come from an exceptional vintage. 

So, at exactly which price point do you start discovering quality alcohol? One might be quick to assume the $20-$50 range. But truth be told, any price point bears treasure to be discovered. This is by no means a definitive wine list for each price point, so don’t be afraid to look (and taste around)!

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