Down the Escalator

POSTED ON 01/03/2014

In the unparalleled choice of wines available to us, we wine drinkers in the UK have never had it so good. First there were the classics, then came the New World and Europe fought back with a step-change in quality from its outlying Mediterranean regions. Now there’s a new New World of wine lapping at our shores.

Duty on wine in the EUDuty on wine in the EU

We’re starting to see an influx of wines made in countries not previously associated with wine, among them Brazil, Uruguay, Turkey, China and Japan. Not forgetting that the 128 wineries that make up an industry once laughed at produce an average three million bottles; the UK wine industry, that is.

We’re lucky and we’re not. Duty on wine in the UK is the third highest of the EU’s 27 countries and growing all the time. It’s all to do with the duty escalator. This is the annual increase on wines and spirits at two per cent above inflation that the government has imposed for the last five years.

Bottle of wine dutyBottle of wine duty

The result of the 50% increase in tax on wine and 44% on spirits is not purely an increase in prices. According to the campaign calling on the government to end the ‘supertax’ (, the tax hikes are crippling a wine and spirits industry that directly or indirectly supports 475,000 jobs here.

Faced with the problem of binge drinking, the government is making noises about barring shops from selling booze at below cost price from 6 April. The floor price is £2.41 on a bottle of wine, but this is just the duty and the VAT element. It’s a laughable piece of sticking-plaster and a price that bears no relation to the real cost price of a bottle of wine.

Not surprisingly, it’s a move that’s been derided equally by the wine trade and anti-alcohol campaigners still smarting from the government’s shelving of plans to set a minimum unit price for alcohol and to ban multi-buy offers (the latter is in force in Scotland).

Price calculatorPrice calculator

Gavin Quinney, who owns the excellent Château Bauduc in Bordeaux and sells a lot of his wine to the UK, has prepared some eye-opening graphics showing what you get for your money with a bottle of wine in the UK. So, on a bottle of wine costing just over £5, for instance, after duty, VAT, transport and retailer costs and margin, the value of the wine in the bottle is £0.83.

Double the price of the wine, and after the same deductions, the value of the wine in the bottle is £3.33. Put another way, pay around a fiver and 16% of what you get is wine; pay a tenner and wine is 31% of what’s in the bottle. A no-brainer, in other words. Check out to see the graphics.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2012 Tesco Finest* Frappato, Sicily

Sicily’s local frappato grape produces a sweet-scented, youthful cherry-juicy red with lively damsony bite and rustic tannins, making it the perfect partner for pizza of the Neapolitan kind. 7.99, reduced to £5.99, or, £4.79, buying four or more Finest*, Tesco.

Dinner Party

2011 Bowen Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

A berry-scented, elegantly expressed Aussie red polished with a delicate brush of vanilla oak and a touch of herb behind savoury mulberry and cherry fruitiness, crafted by the Bowen family in moreishly drinkable vein. £99 / 6 bottles,, 08007561141.

Splash Out

2005 Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja

This is an accomplished, near-10-year old showing touches of smoky blackberry in its powerful bouquet and a deliciously concentrated, faintly leathery maturity of succulent texture and flavour that lingers. £18.71 – 24.95, The Drink Shop, Cambridge Wines, Amps Fine Wines, Harrods.


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