DECEMBER 2014 ;e Costco Connection 79
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
DECEMBER USHERS IN winter and festive
holidays, and is the month for giving. Wine
can be a sensational gift to grace the table of a
dinner party, or a warm token of appreciation
for a friend or colleague. In any case, cabernet
sauvignon is perfect for the occasion.
Cabernet sauvignon is widely
considered the most classic red
grape varietal and is successfully
grown throughout the wine-pro-ducing world. The small, thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon
berries grow in loose clusters and
produce varied flavors, from cassis,
black cherry and jammy blackberry to tobacco, slightly herbaceous and earthy notes.
This grape variety is rooted in vineyards
from the Old World—e.g., Bordeaux,
Tuscany—to the New World—e.g., the
United States (including California and
Washington), Chile, Argentina. Although
cab is relatively easy to grow in a wide range
of soils, Mother Nature can play a role in
coaxing out very different results.
Fortunately, a vast range of cabernet
sauvignon is available, from everyday wines
for casual drinkers to some of the most col-
lectible and expensive wines produced any-
where. I am often asked if a $200 bottle of
Bordeaux is really better than a $75 bottle
from Napa Valley or a $20 bottle from
Chile, and if price is a measure of quality.
Bordeaux is really better than a $75 bottle
These are great questions: Why does price
vary, and what makes one wine better than
the next? The answers lie in the economic
fundamentals of wine production and, of
course, your individual preferences.
Land, labor and more
A number of key factors determine the quality and price of a
wine. Among the essentials are
land cost, viticulture and winemaking techniques.
The price of land suitable for
growing cabernet sauvignon grapes
ranges from $750,000 per acre for
premium land in the Medoc region
of Bordeaux to $250,000 for a premium acre in Napa Valley to $15,000 in
Chile. Land costs can be sky-high in areas
with an established history of producing
high-quality fruit, and can also be pricey in
newer areas with strong potential.
On top of that, planting a new vineyard
can cost $12,000 to $70,000 per acre. The earliest that cabernet sauvignon grapes are suitable
for winemaking is the third harvest, but many
quality producers wait until the fifth harvest.
Costs are also influenced by farming
techniques, which can vary greatly depend-
ing on the amount of technology and labor
used in the winemaking process. Top vine-
yards require a great deal of hands-on atten-
tion, including hand-sorting grapes in the
vineyards and harvesting on steep hillside
slopes. In large-production vineyards, mech-
anized farming, including machine harvest-
ing, is more common.
A wide range of technology (and costs)
exists for winemaking as well. Some of the
most expensive cabernet sauvignons are carefully handled through grape selection, crushing, fermentation and aging in very costly
new French oak barrels. The more basic wines
are made on a larger scale with more modern
technology and can be aged in large wood
casks or stainless steel tanks, while using oak
alternatives. Most cabernet sauvignons are
aged 12 to 24 months before bottling.
The economics of wine
Just when you thought you had pricing
variables down, throw in currency exchange
rates; sales and marketing costs; and wholesale, distribution and retail profit margins,
along with supply and demand. As daunting
as this all sounds, the good news is you can
find a tremendous number of quality cabernet sauvignons at every price point.
Most important is your own individual
taste and what you are willing to pay for a
bottle of wine. Since everyone has a different
preference, your palate will determine if a
wine priced at $200 is better than one at $20.
Whether you are selecting a cabernet sauvignon that is fruity and easy to drink or one
that is silky and elegant, many options from
the New World and Old World are available
for you to choose from.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s
time to seek out the perfect bottle to treat
yourself or that someone special. Cheers, and
happy holidays! C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s wine,
spirits and beer program.
Cabernet sauvignon is the
perfect wine for the holidays
You’ll ;nd these ;ne cabernet
sauvignon wines at select Costco
Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Cabernet
Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile
Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet
Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills,
Columbia Valley, Washington
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet
Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet
Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California