Buying Wine

When buying wine, a little risk can reap big rewards.

There is no doubt that we have become wine drinking nation over the past 20 years, and it’s a fair claim that, lacking a strong domestic production, we have one of the most varied selections of wines in the world on offer here in the UK.

That said, the vast majority of UK consumers play very safe in their selections, both in terms of what they buy, and in the price brackets they buy in. ‘I know what I like’: sounds familiar?

This is understandable given the vast and bewildering range of wines available. It also explains why predictable, homogenous supermarket ranges have dominated the market and is a great shame, as most miss out on the really exciting wines, and the best value that’s out there.

Pricewise, the market is dominated by the sub £8 price point, but consider this: a £5.99 wine includes £1 VAT and £2 duty, leaving £3. Taking of the supermarket’s profit, at least 33%, leaves £2. This has to cover the bottle, cork, label, transport from source, marketing costs, etc. etc. so the actual wine in your bottle cost less than £1. (A few years ago £1 would have bought 1.5 Euros worth of wine, but now nets you about 1.15 Euro’s worth!).

A £12 bottle by contrast retains £8 of value after VAT & Duty; the other costs are not much different, so your actual wine is worth roughly £4.50: more than 4 times the wine, for only twice the price!

Now to: ‘I know what I like’. If it’s a big name, Rioja, Aussie Shiraz, Kiwi Sauvignon, or whatever, the best examples will fetch top dollar. Underneath, a plethora of ordinary to good wines will fetch decent prices based purely on name, and the market can be relied upon to buy what it knows.

Small producers in up and coming areas meanwhile must strive to produce exciting, quality, vibrant wines that punch above their weight, just in order to stay afloat, and to build a reputation. Most winemakers are not wealthy, it is often a labour of love.

Similarly, if your independent wine merchant waxes lyrical about Negroamaro from Puglia, or Godello from Galicia, it is probably not because they see a moneyspinner: more likely someone with knowledge and passion has found a lovely wine that offers great value, and they want to share. Believe me, selling Rioja or Kiwi Sauvignon in much easier, but that’s not what we are here for!

These days, unlike 20 years ago, there are very few genuinely undrinkable wines around, but there are plenty of dull, samey ones. So go on, take the double risk: spend a little more than usual and buy something you’ve never heard of! You won’t waste your money, and you may well discover something delicious.