Our desire to find decent wines at knock-down prices has become a national obsession, says Victoria Moore 17th Feb 2011
A confession: question five of my New Year quiz was not set idly. I asked how much of the price of a bottle of wine on sale at £5 is swallowed by duty and VAT at its new 20 per cent rate.
The answer, as so many of you correctly calculated, is £2.52. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that this leaves a pitiful £2.48 to cover everything else – and this on a bottle that costs a shade more than the UK average of £4.59.
It provokes glowers of outrage and trenchant resistance every time I say it, but here goes: we need to spend more money on wine.
A shiny 4WD car, a takeaway cappuccino, a bottle of perfume or organic olive oil: these are items we perceive as a luxury experience and we fork out for them quite happily. Why should wine be different?
“The trouble with wine is that the status symbol is: is it a bargain?” as Tim Finn of Neudorf Vineyards put it when we discussed this over dinner. “They say: 'You’ll never guess what I paid for this.’ It’s never: 'You’ve got to have a glass of this, it’s delicious.’"
JN Wine's Judith Scott comments
Clearly the whole idea of ‘cheap’ wine is a thorny issue but ultimately the tax man is taking considerably more of a cut on wine so the consumer’s choice becomes do you spend the same and get poorer quality wine or spend a bit more and get better quality wines?
It’s not quite as straightforward as the more you spend the better the wine, but there is a good deal of truth in this, particularly at the lower end of the scale. For those who care about what they drink and where their money goes, it’s worth spending some time with an independent wine merchant. You may not find the big brands at bargain basement prices but you’ll get a good selection of quality and interesting wines that offer good value for your money. It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that some producers and growers are selling wine and grapes at a loss in an attempt to avoid going out of business – a clearly unsustainable practice.
There are numerous small producers out there making great wines on a smaller scale and these are well worth seeking out and supporting. Adi Badenhorst is one such winemaker who makes absolutely delicious wines that offer great value for money. The Secateurs red and white wines are really well made, tasty and interesting with elegance and finesse and at £8.99 per bottle they’re an absolute bargain. Chile is a good source of reliable, good value, very drinkable wines – the Casablanca Cefiro range being a perfect example. The varietal reds and whites are only £7.50 per bottle and really enjoyable. If Australian wines are your thing, then the Kilikanoon range is well worth investigating.
France has plenty to offer too at the cheaper end of the spectrum. You can get a lovely Côtes de Gascogne such as Domaine Rieux for only £7.55 and great varietal wines from Domaine Gayda for about £6.99. The Villa Wolf wines from Germany are well worth investigating too – delicious, fragrant, fruity whites such as Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris for only £8.99.
We are not immune to discounts either – our annual sale is on at the moment with some wines at 50% off. Mount Edward Riesling from NZ is just delicious and at only £7.12 down from £14.25 absolutely brilliant value for money. We also offer 10% discount on purchases of 12 bottles or more and a rewards scheme so there are plenty of incentives to buy from us. This way you can choose what you genuinely want to drink instead of waiting for something to be on offer. There’s a world of exciting wines out there to discover and although price is a consideration it would be sad to think that it was everything.