When wine has a thirst for research. © FOTOLIA, Fotolia

When wine has a thirst for research

Spotlight on prices

What is the relationship between the price of a wine and its quality?  In a connoisseurs market - for example fine wine auctions - differences in price are quite a good reflection of differences in the quality of the wines.  But in a market that mainly comprises the uninitiated, what are the factors that can explain differences in wine prices? In fact, the price of a wine is mainly determined by the "objective" characteristics that are shown on the bottle's label (ranking, appellation, vintage, for example).  Surprisingly, price is only weakly linked to the quality that might be determined by expert panels based on sensory criteria.

Updated on 11/08/2013
Published on 11/08/2013

How wine "gurus" influence prices

Robert Parker is a celebrated American critic known for his guides on wines and the scores he gives to wines out of 100.  In 2007, INRA economists identified a "Parker effect", taking advantage from the fact that the "guru" had not made his annual visit to France in 2003. The researchers concluded that the scoring of a wine by Robert Parker led to an average increase in its price of €3 a bottle, or a 15% increment.  For the most prestigious wines (Pomerol or Pauillac), this increase could reach €14 a bottle.  The Parker effect is always positive: all wines are more expensive if they have received the blessing of the master, even if his opinion is very guarded!

The records of a famous Bordeaux château under the microscope

How are the price and yield of a great wine influenced by climatic conditions? Data from the archives of a famous Bordeaux château, covering the period from 1820 to today, enabled the analysis of a considerable amount of detailed information: climatic factors (minimum and maximum temperatures, daily rainfall), the dates each year when the vines entered their three phenological stages1, and annual yields.  Published in 2011, this INRA study showed that the effects of climate on prices and yields have changed over time.  Average temperatures (between April and September) have had a diminishing effect on yields, probably because growers have improved their control of production factors.  By contrast, the impact of mean temperatures on wine prices has increased over time.  In more recent years - particularly between 1980 and 2009 - globalisation (and speculation), and growing interest in wine and wine-related activities (experts, magazines), have driven prices upwards.

1 Periodic phenomena characteristic of the plant cycle and vine growth; during this work, the dates of flowering, onset of ripening and harvest were studied.

A few figures

In 2012, approximately 792,000 hectares of vineyards in France produced 42 million hectolitres of wine, or about 17% of world production.  30% of French wines are exported, which in 2012 represented a value of €7.83 billion.  In France, wine ranks third after the aeronautical and perfumes industries as a net exporting sector, and is the leading sector in the agrifood industry. Source: FranceAgriMer