Wine Shop vs Supermarket wine: when choosing matters


Wine Shop

Author: Tony Cowling

Why do some of us buy our wine from Supermarkets, whereas others buy from an independent wine shop? Well, let’s investigate why.

Supermarkets are of course super convenient, and always seems to be offering us 25%, 33% or even 50% off, so if you’re a bargain hunter, like most of us, you’ll likely to buy supermarket wine. But are we really getting a bargain from Supermarkets?

Much of the wine that Supermarkets sell, is what we call ‘bulk wine’. What is ‘bulk wine’ I hear you ask; well, it’s wine that comes to the UK in large containers and is then bottled in the UK. It’s wine that has cost relatively little to the importer, for example in 2018 the UK imported £400m in ‘bulk wine’, which sounds a lot, until you find out that it was retailed for £4bn (WSTA -Wine and Spirts Trade Association -figures). That’s a 90% margin, for those of you that need help with the maths.

So, the Supermarkets are selling many wines that they pay very little for and they are then selling them for what appears to be a bargain…and we the consumer are duped every time we see 25%, 33% or 50% off.

Wine Shop: discovering small and quality-minded wine producers

What’s the story then with an independent wine store or wine merchant? What do they offer that’s different?

With a wine shop you get a full personal service, where you are able to talk to someone knowledgeable, who can help you with your choice, and you get true provenance with the wine shops, who will be sourcing their wines from smaller boutique wine producers, and they will have an intimate knowledge of these wines, that they can then pass on to you, the discerning consumer.

No, their wines might not often be on offer, and no, you might not find many wines being sold for less that £10.00, but you might walk into the wine shop one day and get to try, before you buy, some local English wine, and meet the producer, who has come in to promote them. You will then understand the unique story of the wine you drink.

What price do we pay, on average, for wine?

Well, according to recent WSTA figures, most of us, on average spend £5.93 on a bottle of wine, that we’ve probably bought from a Supermarket. So, let’s break down what we’re buying here @ £5.93.

At the time of writing, from this £5.93, £0.99 is VAT, and £2.23 is excise duty, then you have the cost of bottling, labelling, shipping, UK distribution, the importers margin, the distributers margin, and the retailers margin. This leaves very little for the producer!

Therefore, if you want to know your wine’s story, and want to source single vineyard boutique wines, where you know that the producer is receiving a fair price, then you’re likely to be visiting your local wine shop.

For those of us who want to take this a step further, we can source direct from producer, as we have many great local vineyards in the UK, like Stanlake Park Vineyard, in Berkshire, who have their own food and wine shop. We will then, not only be making sure that the producer gets a fair price, but we’ll be buying greener and who knows, we might even have a new wine producing friend.

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