Let’s not confuse the two. Cheap is not the same as bad, and expensive does not mean good. Besides, in “What is vinos sin protocolo” I argue that there’s no such thing as a bad wine… But that’s another discussion.
What is worth mentioning is that cheaper wines are usually simple wines. What is a simple wine? A wine meant to drink young, very fruity, and usually it is not aged in barrels. It is easy to drink, aka your “everyday” wine. Impossible not to love.
Time in barrel is one of the many factors that elevate the costs of production. Barrels are very expensive and their most traditional format (around 200 l) is not very significant to a winery producing big volumes of wine. It takes a lot of barrels to deliver a relevant number of bottles; and each of those barrels requires a serious investment. You can appreciate that a wine aged in barrel is going to be a bit more expensive.
Is a wine aged in barrel better than a wine aged in tanks? Not necessarily. It really depends of how the wine comes out.
Another factor to consider is the variety. It is not for nothing that the wine aisle is full of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc These are easy to grow and easy to vinify. Unlike Pinot Noir, that is a big pain in the vineyards and in the cellar, which usually requires another kind of financial commitment.
Is Pinot Noir better than a Chardonnay? Is it even comparable? I don’t believe it is.
Other factors that can also affect the price of wine are: the type of farming, the traditional being cheaper than organic ; mechanization, with mechanical harvest being cheaper than manual harvesting; plant yield, that is, the higher the yield, the lower the cost of the wine.
Is a hand-picking better than mechanical harvest? Not at all.
I could go on and on, however my intention is not to analyse the production process but to show you that are many factors that drive wine prices up or down, that do not necessary speak to its quality. The quality is dictated by the choices made in the vineyard and in the cellar, by agronomists and winemakers; and by the quality of the grape and how well they can work with it.