A Year of Drinking Better Wine

Posted on: 03 February 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

With 2011 barely even started, VAT was raised once again up to 20%. What the overall impact of this will be remains to be seen, but for wine it is certainly not good news.

The recent VAT rise comes on top of multiple rises in duty over the past few years, which now means that in the UK we are paying some of the highest taxes on alcohol in the modern world. A quick calculation and you could work out that if you buy a bottle of wine costing £4.99, more than half of the price of that bottle will be made up of tax and duty combined. The rest has to pay for the bottle, the labels, screw cap or cork and capsule, marketing costs, shipping costs, margins for producers, importers and retailers, oh, and I nearly forgot; the wine!

So for me, 2011 will be the year of drinking better wine. For a long time now I have been hammering on that the most exciting wines can be found roughly in the £7 - £20 bracket. As duty on alcohol is a static number (unlike VAT, which is a percentage) it makes sense to aim a little higher. In fact the more expensive the wine the lower the total percentage of tax and duty combined is and this should have a positive effect on the quality of the wine as more money will go towards the production of the juice. Ultimately that should result in a more interesting wine.

I believe value for money is all too often construed as cheap. Offers like three for ten or buy one get one free, while very popular in the supermarkets, don’t always fall into the value for money category. Yes, they are definitely cheap, but how interesting is the wine going to be when the producer must surely struggle to make a living out of those rock bottom prices?

Now I know it is an unwelcome expense to be spending more on your wine in the current economic climate. Yet I am worried that with a model that is so clearly unsustainable the consumer choice will become increasingly poorer and then we all lose out. Value for money in my book should mean a good and interesting wine at a fair price and I tend to find those wines more often in the slightly higher price category.

This month’s wine is all about this ‘value for money’ bracket and is an example where spending a few pounds more gets you an infinitely more interesting wine. Join me in my quest to drink better and keep the wine world the interesting place it thankfully still is today.


Malbec 2009


Mendoza, Argentina

£8.50 - £8.99 –  www.strictlywine.co.uk

Really cool dark fruit, cassis and blackberry with a savoury note and a hint of dark chocolate. The palate shows a perfect balance of freshness against the big, but silky tannins. Full bodied, dark fruit and chocolate and a satisfying length. Six months in a combination of French and American oak have helped give the wine its complexity and balance. No wonder this one picked up a few trophies along the way, including a Decanter Gold Medal. Not a mean feat. It deserves a good juicy steak but makes a great partner to most meaty dishes.

By Pieter Rosenthal

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