Monday, November 10, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, October 26, 2008: Cheap Wine: the hidden and not so hidden costs

There are two theories about how wine drinkers react to a recession. One is that they buy more because they share a bottle at home instead of going out. The other – no prizes for guessing - is that they cut back on the grounds that wine is a luxury.

If you’d tasted some of the wines I’ve encountered at recent supermarket tastings, you might question the definition of luxury, but all the same it’s looking as if, currently, the former theory is more a case of wishful thinking on the part of wine sellers. The reality, for now, is that consumers are cutting down – buying cheaper or buying less.

The trouble with buying at the bottom end is that the cost of getting any wine on the shelves has risen sharply this year. Duty has jumped 14p a bottle to £1.46, the euro is punishingly strong, and packaging and transport costs have soared. There is also 17.5% vat to factor in, together with margins for the producer (if he’s lucky), retailer and perhaps middleman. We’re fortunate if, at under £4, the wine accounts for 50p. Even more fortunate if it’s drinkable.

2007 Asda Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, £2.98
Simple, soft and fresh with blackcurrant pastille flavours (Asda).

2007 Cuvée Pecheur, Vin de Pays du Comté Tolosan, £3.69
Crisp, light, grapy, grassy, off-dry white (Waitrose)

2007 Sainsbury’s Old Vines Tempranillo, £3.79
Medium-bodied Spanish red with spicy, plummy fruit and a clean dry finish.