Is the Wine in your Bottle Worth the £5 You Spent on It?

You may have read Guy Woodward’s recent articles in Decanter UK ”Wine drinkers are ‘discount junkies’, says research” and in the Guardian “Why won’t the British treat wine seriously?” The articles were in response to Guy being accused of being a wine snob by Asda, which took umbrage at his comment in an interview on BBC Radio 5 that “it’s pretty impossible to get a decent wine at £3.99 or £4.99″.

The case against him was strengthened by the fact that a £4.20 Asda rioja had won a gold medal at the Decanter World Wine awards. Guy is the Editor of Decanter magazine.

The Decanter article reports on a survey by market research specialists Mintel:

The UK has become a nation of wine-drinking ‘discount junkies’, fuelled by constant price promoting in supermarkets, a new survey claims. The latest report from market research specialists Mintel has found that 55% of all Britons who purchase wine to drink at home buy ‘depending on which has the best discount’.”

Most of you know my opinions on supermarket ripoffs (see my blogs: Supermarket Wine Ripoffs, and This Isn’t Just Bordeaux . . . This is Supermarket Price Fixing) but I do object to over half of the British wine drinking public being labelled “discount junkies”. It’s demeaning and offensive.

Everyone is feeling the pinch financially at the moment and I don’t see why hunting out a bargain should be demonised in this way. Most people can’t afford to do their shopping on the high street let alone spare the time to track down an independent wine merchant. The missing factor in all this is Choice . . . a lot of people don’t have any.

The trouble with buying wine on special offer in a supermarket is that unless you an expert or someone who is prepared to do some supermarket sleuthing you don’t know the real value of what you are buying. Many wine offers are artificial – the supermarkets play with the pricing.

One minute a bottle is sold at an inflated price and the next it is part of a discounted offer. The other problem is the tax that is levelled on the wine – we don’t get much for our money thanks to a duty of £1.81 per bottle plus 20% VAT on top.  Fluctuating exchange rates also cause a problem for merchants buying wines for the public as well.

Off Licence News Wine Report 2011 (data in the OLN Wine Report was sourced from Nielsen’s Scantrack Service) provides excellent analysis of the current situation in the British wine industry.  As they say:

“ . . . consumer confidence remains low and the economy fragile. When discretionary spending is being squeezed by declining real wages and ballooning household bills, it requires quite an astute marketing effort to get people to trade up. 

Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly for the wine industry, consumers are less interested in wine than they used to be. Using a yardstick for consumer wine involvement developed by Wine Intelligence, it’s clear there has been a falling-off in enthusiasm for the category.

Highly involved drinkers now make up just one quarter of the wine trade’s customer base, and are now outnumbered by low-involvement wine drinkers.

  Clearly the trade needs to find ways of reconnecting with bored or complacent consumers, and the debate about how this might happen takes place in various forms on a continual basis. If retailers need to persuade their customers to spend a little more, understanding how they make their decisions is crucial.”

One look at the supermarket shelves and you can see row upon row of branded wines: Gallo, Echo Falls, Blossom Hill etc.  No wonder people are getting bored as supermarkets don’t offer enough choice.

I come from a generation whose parents had to cope with rationing and even though rationing formally ended in 1954 I think many Britons have a legacy left from those years.  Bargain hunting is no bad thing but the issue at stake surrounding buying wines under £5 from your local supermarket is that most of them aren’t really bargains.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems out there but it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.   That’s where your independent wine merchant should come in . . .

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