Do Your Duty

POSTED ON 15/02/2015

In the same month that Aldi pipped Waitrose and Majestic to the best place to buy wine award, the great Burgundy estate, Domaine de la Romanée Conti, held its annual tasting in London, with its priciest wine, Romanée-Conti on offer for £2,110 a bottle plus VAT and duty. Which would you rather, 635 Aldi bottles at £3.99 or one £2,534.05 bottle of Romanée-Conti? Even if you could afford it, you still can’t buy the latter because by popular demand, it’s strictly allocated.

In the same month, The Wine & Spirit Association launched its ‘Drop the Duty!’ campaign. Backed by independent economists, the WSTA claims that a two per cent cut in duty in the Chancellor’s 18 March budget would add an additional £1.5 billion to the £39 billion the UK alcohol industry is worth. If so, the argument appears to be unassailable. It’s certainly true that the 56 per cent tax we pay on an average bottle of wine, up 54 per cent since 2008, is the third highest in Europe, and out of whack with Europe. The €12.5bn wine and spirits duty that this brings in comes to almost 40 per cent of all the alcohol duty paid by consumers across the EU’s 28 Member States.

Lurid news stories of Saturday night alcohol mayhem in town centres obscure the fact that not only is binge drinking decreasing, but alcohol consumption in the UK is down 19 per cent from a peak of 11.6 litres in 2004 to 9.4 litres 10 years on. We are 16th in the European league of litres of alcohol per head drunk and a modest 22nd in consumption per head of wine at 20.2 litres compared to more than twice that in France an Italy. The 142.5 million cases of wine we drink is less than half that of China, the USA, France and Italy, and that’s down 10 per cent in five years. This must be a cause for celebration since only sparkling wine is showing an increase, of 21 per cent over the same five year period.

Although 26 million people enjoy a regular glass of wine in pub, bars and restaurants, far from being the nation of soaks and enlarged livers that the temperance killjoys and medical scaremongers would have you believe, we are in fact more moderate in our consumption of alcohol than before and more moderate than 15 other European countries. Of course the industry is well aware of alcohol misuse and involved in campaigns for units labelling and to prevent underage drinking. The vast majority for whom a drink is an enjoyably civilisiing influence should not be penalised. Come on George, you’ll still pick up £422 VAT on that bottle of Romanée-Conti, so it’s time to do the right thing.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2014 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Region

Atlantic air-conditioning breezes and altitude create the perfect vineyard conditions for refreshing, herbal-scented Sauvignon Blanc aromas with crisp, dry gooseberry flavours and a zesty oceanic-influenced freshness very much in the mould of Sancerre. £8.99, down from £11.99, Waitrose.

Dinner Party

2012 Viña Leyda Canelo Syrah

The intensely aromatic, sweetly spiced fragrance of this stylish Leyda Valley syrah is supported by a succulently juicy mouthful of blackberry fruit infused with black pepper and spice in Chile-meets-Crozes-Hermitage syrah vein, moderated by a lively Pacific-influenced freshness. £11, Oddbins.

Splash Out

2009 Spalletti Brunello di Montalcino

A powerful example of the sangiovese grape from the hills of Montalcino, sumptuous cherry aromas are enhanced by succulent sour cherryish fruit flavours framed by a 36 month stay in oak that brings a seductively silky, savoury, finish. £23, Sainsbury’s.

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