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Wine Price Surges? Winning Tactics for Shoppers

So, what to do about rising wine prices. Three possible responses here.

2023 has seriously shaken up the price of wine shopping.

First, world-wide inflation created significant upward price pressure.

That has been exacerbated here by a new regime for alcohol duty.

Their combined effect has made a rarity of bargain priced wines of a reliable standard.

Here, then are three things wine drinkers should now do.

  • First, look out for those (mainly white) wines below 11.5% abv that attract less tax.

That changes the relative value of, for example, vinho verde and many German wines.

  • Secondly, exploit any available “25% off when you buy 6” deals.

These may precipitate changed shopping habits – with folk no longer just grabbing a bottle with the groceries.

Instead, there could be more specific, but periodic, expeditions to buy wines in greater bulk – even in supermarkets.

Our alerts from Eddie the Eagle-Eyed help tell you when these deals are in force.

  • Finally, though, we do also need to “bite the bullet” and expect to pay more for the wines we enjoy most.

Fixed costs like duty and transport do have less impact the higher the purchase price.

Although its prices need to be updated, my old mantra of “double the price and treble the value” still points the way.

When duty, transport etc added £2 to each bottle sold, my calculation meant that a bottle retailing at £4 devoted (£4 – £2 = £2) to the wine inside – while an £8 bottle devoted (£8 – £2 = £6) to it.

Here, then, are some wines that illustrate the step up in quality available once you accept my “bite the bullet” advice.

As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.

First well-priced New Zealand sauvignon.

2022 Emma Marris Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (from £7.99 at Majestic and 13% abv):

New Zealand winemaker Emma Marris ploughs a different furrow to her father (Brent, creator of The Ned Sauvignon).

While his wines often have rounded, tropical fruit elements, her sauvignons tend to be a touch more austere- but are none the worse for that.

Floral and intense, this one exhibits fleshy but balanced greengage and cooked apple flavours combined with sharp citrus acidity.

Grapefruit peel zip, a neat mineral backdrop and subtle traces of sweetness complete the picture.

Those Plaimont guys again

2020 Les Vignes Retrouvées Blanc Saint-Mont (£9.50 at The Wine Society and 13%):

When demand for spirits declined, the region making Armagnac had to change.

Led by their acclaimed Plaimont Co-operative, one response centred on “Les Vignes Retrouvées” (rediscovered vines).

Almost unknown, traditional local grape varieties were rescued from potential oblivion to create unorthodox, delightful wines like this.

Nicely perfumed and concentrated, it delivers ripe melon, apple and greengage flavours coupled with gentle lemon acidity and a creamy texture containing hints of mace.

This is not “re-discovered” – it never went away

2021 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz (from £10.99 at Laithwaites and 14.5%):

Probably Laithwaite’s bestselling wine over the years, Black Stump continues to delight.

Although there is a slice of shiraz here, it is based on the durif (petite sirah) grape – a variety created in France over 150 years ago and famed for its dark and bold red wines.

Consistent with that description, this features generously proportioned, smooth, blackberry and elderberry flavours.

Those components are supported by gentle acidity (with tannin to match) and rich cinnamon traces.

Crianza – possibly Rioja’s “sweet spot”

2017 Joya de Reyes Rioja Crianza (£9.99 at Adnams – but discounts may be in force – and 13.5%):

As regular MidWeekers will know, Rioja’s wine maturation hierarchy has four main levels.

They start with the youthful joven and rise to the illustrious gran reservas.

Crianza is on the second rung up and usually provides nicely aged red wine that avoids being seriously expensive (that elusive “sweet spot”).

Medium bodied and attractively minty, this impressive example brings us well defined plum and black cherry favours.

These are coupled with gentle tannin and good acidity garnished by hints of rosemary, espresso and vanilla.

Call in again on Monday when the spotlight falls on Top Tips that do still offer reliable quality under £7 – an endangered species, I fear.

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8 Responses

  1. Great balanced recommendations again Brian. It may be worth mentioning that Majestic prices usually only apply to “mix six” purchases.

  2. I remember reading that after removing duty, profit, transport, bottling and marketing costs etc., etc., the value of the actual wine in a £5 bottle was about 25p. Which means that by doubling the price you pay you are probably far more than tripling the investment in the wine itself

  3. Fair point and thanks for welcome praise, Alf. I use the “from” catch-all phrase to signify that the quoted price will not apply to all purchases. It is particularly relevant with Majestic because the company apply the “mix six” price to even single bottles in Scotland because multi-buy promotions are not permitted there.

  4. Yes that old mantra of mine was a blunt instrument (ignoring marketing costs and examples where the “deal” is better – like the one you describe) but what it lacks in precise accuracy it makes up for with simplicity, catchiness and getting the point across. Not only that but I still rather like it!

  5. The Black Stump is indeed a good wine. It is made exclusively by the producers of ‘Yellow Tails’ my favourite is their Malbec. Thanks to your advice have just bought 6 more before the 25% offer from Sainsbury expired. Bought 6 of the Romanian Pinot Noir you recommended a few days ago. Tried it last night with some beef. Tremendous, have to wait for the 25% to come back again.

  6. Hi Brian.
    I certainly get your reasoning on this ” real value in the bottle” thing. It has always as long as I recall been spoken of in those terms.

    It’s a massive percentage difference because of that specific, iniquitous, same duty on any and every bottle thing, that does not take into consideration perceived quality nor value! We have to take that on the chin and pay money to find out for ourselves.

    Sainsbury’s for instance have their House Wine range and Lidl have something similar in the way of their cheaper Cimarosa generic bottles. These ranges have crept up in price recently and significantly at around £5 they rarely feature in any decent discounting offer. Personally I rarely buy any of them nowadays preferring to improve my chances and enjoyment of wine by judicious buying.

    When a 25% off buy 6 bottles applies we can have for instance a much better quality AOC or DOCG for almost the same money as these £5 ”house” wines.

    On a double-dip from £8.50 down to say a shelf price offer of £7, that becomes £5.25 on a buy 6 deal!!

    For people who are regular social drinkers of wine at home, and especially using it to accompany appropriate food, a plus- 6 bottle purchase in one go to cover wine consumption for maybe meals taken over a 2 to 3 week period, bulk-buying/stocking-up seems to me to make massive economic sense even as the government continue to screw us on duty and vat. It’s just like filling the freezer with meat and fish when it’s cheap. Or freezing fruit and veg in quantity when we’ve grown it.

    It baffles me here in the UK people still don’t recognise wine the same as do the Europeans, as another part of their food and agricultural economy when we more strongly relate to it as part of the hospitality industry that more often than not charges way too much without delivering decent quality, especially in chain pubs and eateries! But don’t get me started on THAT one ….. LOL!!

    Great stuff as ever Brian and to Paul Turner, you lucky, lucky man. My Sainsbury’s trip for 6 bottles of Zana Pinot Noir proved fruitless. I must wait for another deal but will have a one-off anyway when it comes in stock, it sounds so good …

  7. Yes, at the price, I considered Zana terrific value. Obviously not a rival to top level Burgundy but boxes ticked for a lot of pinot “must haves”

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