Can wines be cheap and cheerful?
Thursday, 24 August 2017

Cheap and Cheerful?


Of the 50 or so wines I have tasted recently, priced below £8, many were faulty and undrinkable. That may sound shocking, but it really should not come as too much of a surprise. With duty at more than £1.90 a bottle; VAT at 20 percent, retailers’ mark-up at 30-45 percent, agents, shipping, bottle, cork and label to be paid for, there is not much left for grapes and wine-making.


Think about it for a moment: If you want to produce a cheap wine and still make a profit, you have just got to cut corners. The grapes will be of inferior quality, the bottle lightweight to reduce transport costs and will have the much-maligned screw-top. If the wine needs to be oaked or flavoured, substitutes will be used (eg. Pellets filled with sawdust or wooden chips will be submerged into the unoaked wine to produce the flavour demanded by the buyers.)


Believe me, there are plenty of other unscrupulous ways to lower price even further. I always remember an Italian producer, who was being squeezed on cost by a buyer from a low priced supermarket. “Of course you can have wine for that price,” he said generously, “but I cannot guarantee there will be any grapes in it.”


There was one drinkable Bordeaux & Loire wine in the range I tasted, but on the whole, I would suggest you steer clear of the cheap price level from the old world wine makers. Buy your low-price wines from South Africa, Chile or Argentina, where the production costs are lower and where you will get a lot more grapes to the pound.


Until next time. See you at Forbury’s!