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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