A long time ago one of my wine mentors told me, “There ain’t no 50 cent Ferrari”. If you’ve ever been around me then you know that sentiment is one of the most important things that I keep in mind when finding wines - I try to search out and find those wines that have the quality level of a Ferrari but the cost of a Honda. Sometimes it's just self evident that if the price is half as much that the quality will be half, or more, less but there are super rare occasions where there is, in fact, a 50 cent Ferrari.
Like these two wines: Terrazzi Alti Sassella and Gianati Giorgio Grumello … they are both nearly half the price of their more famous neighbors but nowhere near half the quality. So what gives? Is it pure inflation on their two wineries competitors that they are double the money? Or is there something else at play?
There are a ton of factors that go into the price of what the bottle is on the shelf. Factors like the cost of the land, the upkeep on the vineyard, barrels … down to the cost and size of the cork in the bottle and the type of cardboard used for the wines box … all of that gets taken into consideration on what the price of the wine ends up. The most nebulous of all the factors is ‘prestige’ - if other people think highly of you and your wine then you can naturally charge more (there are also a ton of factors to ‘prestige’ too). The Terrazzi Alti wine comes from one of the 4 best DOCGs in the Valtellina: Sassella. The wines that come from Valtellina are powerful expressions of Nebbiolo - richer, denser and more full on than something like an average Barolo - and Sassella takes all of that power and turns the dial one more click up. Sassella wines are incredible and the main and most recognized maker of Sassella is Ar.Pe.Pe, whose wines can run into $90+ range. The Ar.Pe.Pe. Vigna Regina is completely worth the $95 that it costs but what about the Terrazzi Alti Sassella that runs $35 … is it 63% less of a wine?
Nope, not at all. It’s just that I can say Ar.Pe.Pe. to most wine savy people and they’ve heard of them but Terrazzi Alti … never heard of them. The Ar.Pe.Pe. is great wine, no doubt, but for me and my money? That’s on Terrazzi Alti. It’s nowhere near half the quality but is way less money but it’s also an unknown. It really is the 50 cent Ferrari.
Another great example of this kind of phenomenon is Gianatti Giorgio Grumello (Also from the Valtellina) and this one might be even easier to illustrate: Gianatti owns a parcel of the Grumello vineyard and his vines are direct neighbors to Ar.Pe.Pe.’s Grumello vines. Nothing but inches separates the vines but the Gianatti wine is more than half the price of the Ar.Pe.Pe. and, now here is the rub, I’ve heard there is an agreement between the two wineries that when Gianatti wants to be done making wine that the vines they own will be sold to Ar.Pe.Pe. because Ar.Pe.Pe. sees the quality and value in the vines next door.
This whole thing isn’t to illustrate how Ar.Pe.Pe. is simply charging more for equivalent quality wines but rather that with just a little digging I was able to find these two wines that are 50 cent Ferraris. If I can do it that means you can too. Ask your wine seller (hopefully me!) for recommendations where the quality of the wine is still extreme but the price is less. It’s not always do-able but when it is … well, when it is … you’ll feel awesome.