As many of you will have seen, McDonald's launched a coffee ad campaign that faced some pretty harsh backlash online. In case you need a refresher, here’s the image that went viral in the coffee community:
The idea being, coffee should be affordable - right? Well, sure, but only to a point. From the time the beans are planted to when you take your first sip, costs add up quickly. To keep coffee that cheap, corners have to be cut along the way. Whether they sacrifice bean quality or the workers' pay, something has got to give.
While this is a coffee advert, we think the sentiment applies to the wine world. With supermarkets still selling wine for less than a fiver and natural wine becoming ever more trendy, it won’t be long before big chains have Low Sulphite and Biodynamic stickers all over their wine aisle – for a too-good-to-be-true price point and posters like this on every corner.
So. Quality wine, should it cost a fortune? Not beyond reason.
However, it’s difficult to produce wine without racking up costs pretty quickly. Here are just 3 of those factors, to show you why we think paying a little more is usually worth it.
1. Most natural wines are hand-picked.
You could stick to machine-harvesting grapes. Then there’s no need to pay those silly humans to hand-pick!
But here’s the thing, machines aren’t people. Hear me out: standard vine-shaking machines don’t know the difference between grapes that are ripe, underripe, rotten or mouldy. They can’t see if they accidentally pick up the occasional bird’s nest, insect or rodent with all those grapes.
It all goes in the mix.
This is partly why so many chemicals and sugars get added to commercially produced wines… so that it still tastes like wine.
So, if machines are out, then we need people to pick the grapes and sort them by hand. Plenty of pickers worldwide work off-the-books and are often the first to get exploited for their labour. All of those people work hard and deserve a fair wage, and winemakers with the integrity to give them one take on that necessary cost.
2. It’s cheaper to trash the earth than to farm sustainably.
This is a byproduct of industrialised farming, that harsh pesticides and chemical fertilisers have become so advanced and widely available that they’re cheaper than taking the man-hours to farm without them.
There’s a much greater risk of crop loss with organic and biodynamic farming, and these practices require a huge amount of time tending the vines. And this is just for the practice itself, let alone the certification.
Each of the certifications that guarantee your wine is organic, biodynamic and/or vegan costs money. They all come from separate certifying bodies who all have costs to keep that certification logo every year.
3. The British government loves upping their annual duty rates.
Since 2008, still and sparkling wine duty has skyrocketed, whereas before then the increases over the years were much more gradual.
Quality wine shouldn't cost a fortune, but spending a bit more ensures that you're supporting fair labour practice, sustainable farming and actually paying for the wine (and not just the tax).