Thursday , May 19 2022

Supporting the Chancellor, bottle by bottle

Andy Newman is mesmerised by a series of wine-related statistics

When you write about wine, your inbox and your social media feeds do tend to fill up with all sorts of information about the subject. The most welcome of these is always an invitation to try a new wine, because as I have said before, the road to wine knowledge is littered with empty bottles.

But just recently I seem to have attracted something of a stat attack, with a flurry of wine facts and figures. These paint a fascinating picture of wine drinking in the UK today – from paying way more than our fair share of duty to the fact that wines from New Zealand are outperforming everywhere else in the world in terms of increased popularity among British wine fans.

These statistics are enough to make your head spin. My advice is to sit down with a glass of wine, safe in the knowledge that by doing so you are fulfilling a useful social role: the tax wine drinkers pay each year on their favourite tipple is enough on its own to keep the entire NHS going for nearly three weeks

Some taxing statistics
According to the EU, 63.3 per cent of all wine duty collected across the 28 member states goes to the British Chancellor – a staggering €4.8 billion. Despite the fact that France, Italy and Germany each drink more of the stuff than we do, the combined tax take of those three countries is less than a sixth of the amount British wine drinkers are being clobbered. And that doesn’t even include the VAT.

After last month’s Budget, you will pay £2.23 duty on a bottle of still wine, and £2.86 on a bottle of sparkling. This is not dependent on the price, so the hard-pressed supermarket shopper buying everyday wine is effectively subsidising the plutocrat drinking Château Petrus.

Including VAT, the tax paid on the average bottle of wine accounts for 56 per cent of the price. This is very nearly as much tax as you pay on diesel (59 per cent) and petrol (62 per cent). This proportion varies hugely according to how much you are prepared to spend. 

If you plump for the £5 bargain bottle, 61 per cent of your hard-earned goes straight into Mr Hammond’s pockets; spend twice that much, and the slice taken by the tax man is just 39 per cent. Choose a bottle of 1982 Chateau Petrus (£5138.59 from Berry Bros & Rudd) and just 16.7 per cent of your cash will go the Chancellor

What are we drinking?
More than half of the wine we drink in the UK is white (53.3 per cent). Despite the huge growth in popularity of rosé, it accounts for less than one in 10 of the bottles we open (9.2 per cent). The remaining 37.5 per cent is, of course, made up of red wine.

The big winners in the latest statistics (for 2017) were Prosecco, and wines from New Zealand. The Italian fizz saw sales grow by 23.3 per cent (compared to a drop in sales of 11.7 per cent for Champagne). Meanwhile Kiwi wines were the only ones to see any growth at all in restaurants and bars, and did even better in shops, seeing sales growth of 11.1 per cent year-on-year.

Hitting the bottle
Despite our reputation for excess, the UK as a nation is in fact becoming slightly more sober, with around one in five adults not drinking at all. 

That said, over six in 10 adults say wine is their drink of choice, and we spend a staggering £10.9 billion each year on the stuff (generating over £6 billion for the public purse). This makes the UK the sixth biggest wine market in the world, behind the US, France, Italy, Germany and China.

We buy four in every five bottles in shops, with restaurants and bars making up the other 20 per cent.  This is if you measure it by volume, however: that 20 per cent by volume purchased when we are out is worth 39 per cent of the total spend, reflecting the higher cost of drinking out of the home.

When we are buying retail, our average spend is just £5.50 a bottle, although this is rising fairly quickly, both due to soaring wine duty and the dawning – and rather tardy – realisation that bottom-end supermarket wine discount deals seldom offer good value.

Three wines Andy has enjoyed this month

Aldi Exquisite Crémant de Jura
Aldi, £8.29
From the value supermarket’s ‘Exquisite’ range, this is as good a value sparkler as you will find this Christmas, outperforming pretty much every sub-£10 Prosecco. Made from 100 per cent Chardonnay, it is crisp and elegant, with a green apple nose and citrus notes on the palate. Stock up for those yuletide parties!

L’Extra par Langlois Brut Crémant de la Loire
Majestic, £9.99 as part of a mixed case of six bottles
Made by the owners of Bollinger from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc in the Loire, and using the Traditional Method, this is great value festive fizz, with pleasing pear and lime flavours, a good acidity and a long mousse.  

Champagne Devaux Oeil de Perdrix Rosé
Majestic, £24.99 as part of a mixed case of six bottles
‘Oeil de Perdrix’ translates as ‘partridge’s eye’, and is a clue to the colour of this pink Champagne – as close to the trendy hue of Rose Gold as you will find in a bottle. An interesting nose of cherry and pomegranate, it has a great balance on the palate, and the cherry notes carry through. A glass of this on Christmas morning would go down very well.

Recipe published in Feast Issue 32

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