There’s a rather confusing aspect to fine wine.
It has to do with the relationship of price to perception. Let me explain.
Now top quality wine costs a reasonable amount to produce. It can also only be made from certain vineyard sites, and so its supply is limited. This pushes up the price.
Once something becomes expensive, it becomes the object of conspicuous consumption. Well resourced individuals, driven by their biology, purchase and consume it to demonstrate their wealth, and by extension their reproductive fitness.
This doesn’t mean the wine they use in this primordial display isn’t of great quality. The problem is that for wine geeks, intrinsic wine quality – its desirable sensory properties – are what matters. But for most people who buy very expensive wines, this is not the primary concern. They want it to taste nice, and as long as it does, that will do fine, as long as the criterion that it is truly expensive is met.
Things become confusing when wine becomes a Veblen good. [Google it if this term is unfamiliar.] Then, the more expensive it is, the more desirable it becomes. Sometimes wines can become famous, and costly, even if they are not great wines (according to the definition of the wine expert or geek). It is a sort of virtuous circle.
This then creates another level of complexity. These expensive wines can end up defining ‘quality’ in fine wines. People benchmark with the most expensive wines, and these end up defining ‘quality’. Wines become highly esteemed because they are expensive, and other wines become desirable because they resemble these highly esteemed wines.
There is therefore a tension in the world of fine wine. Some people are wine nuts, and for them, the wine’s sensory properties are all that matters. For others, this is a secondary consideration. It is a complicated situation.