The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) most recent Family Spending report revealed the average household spend on wine and fizz each week is £4. That is more than half (51%) of all the money we spend on at-home drinking – beers, spirits (both £1.70) and cider (40p) lag behind.
In fact, wine isn’t just our most expensive alcohol expenditure, it’s one of our biggest outlays each time we shop, which is why there’s so much space devoted to it at the supermarket.
Shelf upon shelf, aisle after aisle, there are few, if any, other supermarket sections that have as much variety. The choice can be a little daunting, especially if you don’t know your pinot grigio from your pinot gris.
With the average price of a bottle of wine at just £5.39, according to wine website Bibendum, we’re drawn to the cheaper bottles. And when so many bottles are discounted, why shouldn’t we be? But there’s more to the shelf price than you might think, so Moneywise has investigated the real price of a bottle of wine.
Not so special offers
Logic dictates that a £9 bottle of wine reduced to £6 will be a nicer wine than one always selling at £6, but the sheer number of discounts suggests the wine may never have been worth £9 in the fi rst place.
It doesn’t take more than a few trips to the supermarket to notice big brands are often on discount. At the time of writing, the popular Campo Viejo Tempranillo was selling at between £6 and £6.50 at all the major supermarkets. Only Ocado was selling at the ‘full price’ of £8.
Click on the table to expand.
And the frequent discounting doesn’t seem to be restricted to just a handful of wines. We randomly chose six bottles of wine on offer on 19 April 2017, one for each of the main supermarkets. We then used the website MySupermarket to analyse the price history.
We found four of the wines had been on offer for more than half of the past year, and the other two were not too far behind. This goes against rules that say retailers can’t sell a product on offer for a longer period than it’s at full price. Our data is only for online prices, yet that still goes against the rules. We sent our findings to the Competitions & Markets Authority and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute but neither of them said that they would take action.
The longest on offer was a Sorso Pinot Grigio at Morrisons. With a discount available for 36 weeks, that’s less than one third of the year at full price. Anyone who does plump for a bottle at £7 would be spending 27% more than the average price and 43% more than the lowest selling price of just £4.
The other results were similar, with the longer the discount available, the lower the average price. At £5.99 after a 50% discount, the Bioletti’s Block Viognier from Ocado seems like a bargain. But against the average selling price thanks to 30 weeks on offer, the discount would only be £2.69 from the average price.
A Hardy’s Crest Chardonnay has flipped between full price and offer every two or three weeks for the past year at Tesco with six months in total at £7 and six months at either £5 or £5.25.
These results are just for six different wines, but there are many others that follow similar patterns. Of course there will be wines, such as the one we analysed from Sainsbury’s where the discount is much lower, but for the most frequently discounted it suggests the average price or perhaps even the most commonly available price are more realistic indicators of the true value.
Click the table to exand and see the full results.
What you pay for when you buy a bottle of supermarket wine
Even without special offers distorting the price you think a wine is worth, you’d naturally think a £10 bottle of wine will be twice as good as a £5 wine, or a £20 bottle four times as good. But the way a bottle of wine is taxed means it’s a different story.
Although VAT does increase as the price goes up, the excise duty is fi xed at £2.16 a bottle no matter whether you’re buying cheap plonk from the bargain bin or the fi nest of wines from a luxury cellar. That’s almost half a £5 bottle before any other costs.
Packaging and logistics vary little between price points with wine retailer Bibendum estimating that these come in at 56p per bottle. You’ve also then got to factor in the mark-up by the manufacturer and retailer.
This leaves very little money to be spent on the actual wine, especially at the cheaper end of the market. A £5 bottle will contain just 37p of wine according to Bibendum’s calculations. At £10, you’re paying £2.76 for the wine.
So for double the price, you could be getting seven and a half times better wine. Of course, ‘better wine’ does come down to a range of factors, with taste fi rst and foremost, and much of that is down to you as an individual.
How to find better value wine
Whatever the price of your bottle, there are a few tricks to identify better value wine in the supermarket.
- Search for the price history
Just as we did in our investigation, you can visit mySupermarket.co.uk or use the mySupermarket app to look at the price history of wine. This will help you avoid paying the ‘full price’ for a bottle that’s frequently on offer. If you would be paying significantly more than the average price, it’s probably better to pick a different bottle.
- See what other people think
Another app is Vivino. Here, you snap the bottle’s label using your phone’s camera and you’ll be able to see what amateur wine lovers thought when they had a try.
- Choose cheaper regions
Wine expert and chef Rob Wade recommends buying wine from regions where you can get more for your money.
He says: “£8 to £10 will get you little or nothing from famous regions such as Burgundy, Napa or Champagne, but it would get something fantastic from Southern Italy, Southern France, Chile or Argentina. You’ll also find fantastic bargains from all over Portugal, which is still an under-explored region, practically on our doorstep.”
- Go specialist for something special
Supermarkets have to work to a large scale, meaning smaller vineyards won’t feature. So if you want to spend a bit more than usual for something nicer than the pricier bottles at supermarkets, visit a specialist wine shop – these can be found on the high street. Alternatively, use an online retailer such as RobersonWine.com or TheWineSociety.com, which are recommended by wine magazine Decanter.
- Don’t spend more than you need
If you’re just after something to quickly slosh back mid-week with your dinner, then a cheaper bottle will do the job just fi ne. You can also try the discount supermarkets – Aldi and Lidl have a good reputation for selling top quality wines at far lower prices.
Can you really tell the difference between cheap and expensive supermarket wines?
Andy Webb and wine expert Rob Wade undertook a taste test of four bottles of wine to see if the price difference was justified (see video below) . Each was a Pinot Noir red wine bought from Sainsbury’s, with a full price of between £5.50 and £13.
- McGuigan Classic Pinot Noir £5.50
- Bouchard Aîné & Fils Pinot Noir £7.50
- Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference New Zealand Pinot Noir £9
- Hautes Côtes de Nuits Pinot Noir £13
Our favourite wine was the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Pinot Noir. Coming in at £9, Rob felt this was a bargain, particularly since it came from New Zealand.
Watch Andy Webb and Rob Wade taste testing the wines
Bottom of the list was actually the most expensive – the £13 Hautes Côtes de Nuits. At more than twice the price of the average people spend, this was a big disappointment. Rob explained this was probably because you were paying for the Burgundy origin, where even lesser vineyards charge more.
The two cheaper wines were both decent options for their price. The £5.50 McGuigan was a particular surprise. However, to pay just £3.50 more to get the far nicer Sainsbury’s bottle seems like money well spent.
You can read more from Andy at www.becleverwithyourcash.com.