How to Distinguish Cheap from Expensive Wine [Experts Guide]


Enjoying a glass of wine can be an incredibly immersive experience. Its flavours should awaken parts of your taste buds as you pair it with different types of food and share memorable experiences with loved ones. While many tests have been done to show that even so-called experts are often unable to tell the difference between cheap white and expensive red wines, there are some crucial distinguishing characteristics that can help you tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine. Let’s explore these in more detail below.

How can you tell if a wine is of good quality?

The truth is that enjoying a glass of wine is a highly subjective experience. However, there are some common features that make one wine much better than others. Of course, you don’t have to choose the most expensive white wine or drink an expensive Italian red wine, but knowing your wine production process and its intricacies can help you avoid drinking low quality cheap wines that will leave you dissatisfied. Here’s what to look out for.


One of the first ways to determine how do you know a wine is rare and expensive is to check if it was aged in oak. Why is this important? Well, there are several reasons. Firstly, ageing wine in oak adds flavours to the wine such as vanilla and baking spice. Secondly, it exposes the wine to oxygen, which means that the tannins become less intense and you can enjoy a smoother flavour. Other flavours you could get with wine aged in an oak barrel include clove, allspice, nutmeg, coconut, almond, mocha, milk chocolate, dill, eucalyptus, smoke, sweet tobacco, newly tanned leather, candied fruits, dried fruit and raisin.


We’ve all heard the old adage that the older the wine the better it tastes. However, this mainly relates to red wine. Nevertheless, the ageing process of wine means that the wine will taste better over time because acidity is reduced and the taste of the fruit flavours will become richer. When acidity in a wine is reduced, it leads to a better quality wine that’s rounder and smoother.


People frequently ask are expensive wines really better? If you take a look at the production processes, you’ll soon realise that the answer is “yes”. Better wineries focus on reducing their yields or having their vines produce less grapes but higher quality ones. This increases the intensity of the wine. In addition to this, the vineyard’s location is also crucial. Some of the best locations are, believe it or not, places where vines struggle to produce grapes. Examples include vineyards that are planted on hills and in low-nutrient soils. This is in contrast to vineyards that are planted on flat, fertile soils or on lands that are closer to a river. This is why some of the vineyards charge a lot more for their higher-quality wines. The production processes are simply more complicated and require a greater financial investment.


Balance is an important element in the actual wine flavour you are tasting. It refers to flavours that are carefully crafted to give you taste symmetry, if you will. This will mean that there’s no single element that stands out more than the others. As a result, fruit flavours, alcohol, texture (tannin) and acidity (tartness) should be as harmonious as possible. On the other hand, unbalanced wines will usually leave you with a taste of too much sweetness or acidity at the back of your throat. Alternatively, you may find that you taste a lot of bitterness as an aftertaste. Although you don’t necessarily need to purchase expensive white wine, or even red wine (whatever your preference is), you should look out for the balance in the flavours.


Complexity refers to multiple different and subtle flavours that emerge with every sip. Examples of some of the flavours and hints you can experience include blackcurrant, cedar wood, spice, tobacco, earth, mint leaf, chocolate and more. Cheaper wines, on the other hand are much more one-dimensional and this is why if you’re wondering can you really tell the difference in wine, the answer is a resounding “yes”.


Curious about whether you can taste the difference in expensive wine? Take a look at its finish. The finish refers to the taste you’re left with in your mouth after swallowing the wine and seeing how long the flavour stays with you. The nicer the aftertaste and the longer it lingers, the better quality wine you’re drinking – irrespective of whether it’s red or white. Conversely, the flavours of cheaper wines will typically disappear right after taking a sip. This is one of the reasons that makes good red and white wines expensive.  Its also important to know that not every sparkling wine is champagne as well no matter how many champagne crates delivered to your occasion.

Bottom line

So, what makes a cheap wine? The answwer is simple: all of the factors mentioned above but in reverse. For instance, you need to pay attention to the vineyards and production processes, whether the wine has aged in oak, how much time it has laid in a barrel for as well as balance, complexity and finish. While there are wine lovers wondering can people really tell the difference between expensive and cheap wine, and the answer is that it will differ for every person because it is so subjective, there are objective criteria to help you determine whether you should be paying £8 or £80 for a bottle. At the Superior Wines & Spirits web store, we offer quality red, white and Rose wines to choose from to help you maximise your wine encounter. Whether a connoisseur or a novice, you’ll be able to select from a wide variety from different regions across the world that will give you a taste experience like no other.




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