Well, no, not really

Yesterday, as the impact of leaving the single market and customs union on 1 January became ever more clear, the Financial Times reported that the cost of a £12 bottle of wine in UK shops could rise by up to £1.50 a bottle because of the extra bureaucracy and charges affecting imports.

The price of a bottle of wine from the remnant EU might rise by that. But Malbec has been paying those charges all along so that price shouldn’t change.

31 thoughts on “Well, no, not really”

  1. “could rise by £1.50”. It generally won’t. Most of the basic wines arrive in a big bag in a shipping container called a flexitank that holds 25,000 litres of wine. Does anyone think there’s £40K of bureaucracy on one shipping container?

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    It shouldn’t and probably won’t, which is why they always leave themselves a get out clause when fear mongering: “could rise by”

  3. This will hit EU wine producers hard. The UK is the world’s second largest importer of wine and so their key market. By value, most imported wine consumed in the UK is from the EU (mainly France and Italy), but by bottle most is from non-EU sources.

  4. Theo. So EU wine is the more expensive stuff; consumers of expensive stuff (may) have to spend a little more — tiny violin.

  5. Malbec? Why pick on malbec rather than, say, merlot or cabernet sauvignon which are also grown in profusion outside the EU. Theo is right about the threat to EU producers which would have been still greater, had Macron’s poisson posturing resulted in a no-deal Brexit.

    I wonder how much of the present disruption is due to negligence on the part of importers and exporters in the UK, how much is due to the malevolence of the EU and how much to simply coming to terms with the new order. If it’s the EU still trying to “teach the UK a lesson” then I hope we can tear up the agreement and revert to the no-deal Brexit that we should have gone for from 2016.

  6. Great. So we’ll just swap Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for the French plonk and we’re back where we started then. Shame the Froggies lose a big chunk of the Anglo wine market, but that’s just sour grapes, isn’t it? In addition it’s nice payback for all the bullfuckery going on at Calais / Dover.

    Maybe they’ll think twice about that sort of action next time? Then again the French have never been very good at that sort of considered reflection. Probably all the wine they drink…

  7. ” But Malbec has been paying those charges all along so that price shouldn’t change.”

    Except that retailers never miss a trick to use a specific price rise as an excuse to put prices up across the board, just as they did when VAT was introduced (and the euro on the Continent). Rather like the unions in the 70s I bet the retailers will ‘maintain differentials’ between wine types, and put the Malbec prices up to match the European wines.

  8. ” I bet the retailers will ‘maintain differentials’ between wine types, and put the Malbec prices up to match the European wines.”

    +1

    This seems the most likely outcome.

  9. djc

    “So EU wine is the more expensive stuff”

    Some is, by value. But most EU producers of wine exporting to the UK are focused on the under-£10-a-bottle supermarket sector.

  10. Rather like the unions in the 70s I bet the retailers will ‘maintain differentials’ between wine types, and put the Malbec prices up to match the European wines.

    Perhaps if we had the same retail structure as we did back then, sure a cozy cartel of wine merchants would probably do exactly that. However, the reality is that the retailers are in fierce competition with each other and especially against the new entrants of Aldi and Lidl.

    Do you imagine Aldi and Lidl would behave that way? Seriously?

  11. “Do you imagine Aldi and Lidl would behave that way? Seriously?”

    Probably not, but the fact that they are cheaper than Tesco et al has not stopped people shopping at the latter. Aldi and Lidl account for less than 15% of the retail market, so if all the other main retailers take the chance to lift wine prices generally 85% of people will be paying more.

  12. @Jim – sure. People shop at Waitrose because it’s Waitrose, it’s not like the high prices act as a deterrent. However, those for whom price (or even, god forbid – VALUE) matters will shop at Lidl and/or Aldi.

    As RAB used to say, “When shopping go to Aldi but pack everything into Waitrose bags”, because it’s not like you want your neighbours to know you shop at Aldi, not Waitrose 🙂

  13. I am quite proud of my Aldi bags! I find their products (and Lidls) are often better than the mainstream supermarket ones, and cheaper to boot. For example Aldi do a very nice farmhouse butter with sea salt that costs the same as Sainsburys own brand butter, and is 30p cheaper than Sainburys Taste the Difference version.

    I guess the thing is you need to have some ability to discern quality in and of itself. If all you do is go by ‘Higher price/brand names are better’ then Aldi would seem a bit low rent.

  14. Aldi and Lidl account for less than 15% of the retail market, so if all the other main retailers take the chance to lift wine prices generally 85% of people will be paying more.

    I strongly suspect an attempt to try that would result Adlidl running ads along the lines of comparing year their price with last year’s price and this year’s price of a competitor and inviting consumers to assess the value…

  15. But I’m being deluged with offers of cut-price wine (the decent stuff much of which would normally be sold in smart restaurants around the UK and Europe) and I’m pretty sure lots of other people must also get loads of such offers so any attempts to do a cartel-type price rise across the board will flop: you just need one supermarket to notice the on-line/telephone competition and realise how much market share it’s losing to break it.

  16. One thing I’ve noticed over the last year, because I have been switching between supermarket chains on the basis of the queuing systems and mask-enforcement, is that the wines available in Asda and Tesco are much better value than those in Sainsburys and infinitely better value than those in Waitrose. I don’t think the latter 2 have much chance of jacking up their prices even further

  17. I hate shopping in Aldi because it is a terrible customer experience, the choice is poor and the checkouts really annoy me. I always feel depressed in their stores. Trouble is my cat really likes their food.

    There is a Sainsburys around the corner. I am now ALWAYS disappointed when I go there, especially when trying to find basic goods. Sometimes it seems to be like East German supermarkets, so empty are the shelves. Now their prices have been creeping up, I have no reason to go there. If they make me queue again they can just shove their Taste the Difference. There is also a Waitrose nearby, but I feel like I am being ripped off and immediately lose £5 as soon as I cross the threshold.

  18. I’m being deluged with offers of cut-price wine (the decent stuff much of which would normally be sold in smart restaurants around the UK and Europe)

    Me too. Some of my friends splashed out on first growth claret for the first time last year, because pricing was favourable for that very reason.

    Retailers who refuse to put up the prices of ex-EU wine will immediately give themselves an advantage. It will take only one supermarket to join them to ruin it for the others.

    A few weeks ago the FT – still in the middle of a vast hissy fit about Brexit – ran a similar article and to illustrate the horrors of Brexit, used the example of someone trying to import a case of DRC (£2k a bottle burgundy).

    Perhaps the editor realised this was not much of a scare story and instructed the hacks to write something which might bother more than a handful of readers!

    Lambert has been moaning about wine and Brexit for some time, without at any point acknowledging that EU rules are to blame. There is also no interrogation of his claim that haulage rates will rise 30-50%.

  19. The average price of a bottle of wine in the UK in 2020 was £5.93, but at that price you are paying only c.40p for the wine.

    Waitrose is the best supermarket for wine, imho. Although the average price for a bottle of wine in Waitrose is £8.19, it does a lot of deals (with 25%-33% off) and an automatic 5% off six or more bottles with a My Waitrose card. As at Majestic, it doesn’t make sense to pay full price.

    I wouldn’t expect the big supermarkets to ramp up prices. Not only are they up against Aldi and Lidl, but also the numerous online retailers like Yapp, Laithwaites, Berry bros.& Rudd, the Wine Society, Virgin, etc. UK wine retailing is a very competitive marketplace.

  20. In the UK, I buy most of my wine from The Wine Society, which I would heartily recommend. But as Theo says, there’s plenty of good independents. Buying from them plus brand name wines from Majestic/supermarkets when they’re discounting is a good strategy. Sainsbury’s has occasional discounting frenzies during which you can get Bolly for £23 a bottle, for example.

  21. Due to dry Jan (which I normally don’t bother with due to holidays) I have been trying alcohol-free drinks.

    Last night we tried 2 alcohol free wines from supermarket fave Rawsons Retreat, one sparkler and one cabernet. Fizzy one was like dry grape juice (it’s fairly low carb, which suits me) so more or less acceptable. The red was undrinkable. Terrible stuff.

    Brewdog Nanny State is by far the best alcohol free beer I have tried and is also low calorie.

  22. “Brewdog Nanny State is by far the best alcohol free beer I have tried”

    Agreed. I also like Adnam’s Ghost Ship low alcohol.

    A low alcohol beer at lunch allows me to have a glass of wine at dinner.

    In hot weather a low alcohol beer at dinner allows me to have a G & T beforehand.

  23. Instead of paying £1.20 inc VAT for some French plonk, you’re now paying £1.00 plus VAT for French plonk. Which by the miracle of maths is £1.20. Yet more proof that Guardian journalists have to provide definitive proof of failing all and any exam before being allowed to work there.

  24. “Brewdog Nanny State is by far the best alcohol free beer I have tried and is also low calorie.”

    The Small Beer company is worth checking out for low alcohol beers. I buy online. Customer service is pretty good. I got a Christmas card from them, months after my last order, which was a nice touch.

  25. Bloke in North Dorset

    We shop at Lidl first and then Tesco/Sainsbury for what we can’t get. As others have said their cheap and good quality for most things. The only thing I won’t buy from them are small oranges, I have a couple at lunchtime every day, because I’ve had far to many go rotten within a couple of days.

    I’m also a Wine Society member, I like their wine without fuss as I get introduced to some good wines. I also use the Dorset Wine Co because I can ask them for some recommendations when I fancy something special and they don’t fail me. I asked for some German white and Aussie reds for Christmas and wasn’t disappointed. Tesco/Sainsbury for everyday plonk.

  26. “Waitrose is the best supermarket for wine, imho.”

    You are right to be humble. It is rip-off-ville, Arizona IMHO. Tastes are variable

  27. “I strongly suspect an attempt to try that would result Adlidl running ads along the lines of comparing year their price with last year’s price and this year’s price of a competitor and inviting consumers to assess the value…”

    They do that now, for baskets of goods from the major supermarkets, vs their own versions of the same thing. The savings are huge (and genuine IME) but still people prefer to shop at the bigger stores. There must be a massive amount of inertia to many customers food buying habits.

  28. Waitrose and Sainsbury deliver to us. We generally use Waitrose because they did a fine job for us in Lockdown 1.0 when Sainsbury abandoned us. Do Aldi deliver?

  29. I’m bringing 28t tankers of food ingredients in from France, sometimes a dozen a day. Costs £50 a load for the broker to the do the paperwork. I’m charging customers £280 to cover that and the minor hassle in our back office, but that will probably drop now we’ve confirmed that if you get your act together and fill the forms in properly, it’s a piece of piss to get stuff over the water. £1.50 a bottle is profiteering. But if they reckon they can get away with it then fair play to them and more fool the punters.

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