Published on October 20th, 2013 | by Tom Wake4
How to avoid supermarket wine scams (PLUS 7 top buyer tips and tricks)
Everyone loves a discount and it’s no different with wine. According to the Telegraph a staggering 90% of all wine sold in the UK is on ‘special offer’. The question is are we really getting a ‘bargain’ or is this just a supermarket scam? Here’s how to make sure you get the best possible bang for your buck every time
They all do it, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda… most Internet retailers.
They slap a big red, HALF PRICE offer badge on wines to lure you in. You think “WOW that’s a bargain – I’m getting a fancy £10 bottle of wine for just £5.”
You buy a bottle, wonder way it tastes like cider vinegar with notes of unwashed feet and then wake up the next day with a red wine migraine and a fluffy tongue.
The problem is the supermarkets aren’t being strictly honest with you…
If a bottle of wine spends the majority of it’s shelf life on a half price offer from (e.g. from £10 to £5) then the likelihood is that the true price actually is £5 and that the sale price is just a marketing scam to attract bargain hunters.
Watchdog did a report on this and spoke to the former head of wine at Sainbury’s, Alan Cheeseman.
Here’s what he had to say:
“…the phenomenon of buying a particular product, which is sold in certain locations for a certain length of time… retailed at a price of £12 and then it’s decided that having bought the stock (may not have sold very much at that price) it’s then put into a bigger distribution – more shops around the country and the price is halved – £12 becomes £6…
The trouble with that is it’s not worth £12 in the first place. It’s a £6 wine. You could even argue it’s not worth £6.”
It’s hard not to give in to the bargain hunting instinct but try to ignore supermarket promotions on wine – 9 times out of 10 you are not getting a good deal.
And there’s another BIG problem: tax.
Would you spend £3 on a bottle of wine if you knew it was worth 10 – 20p?
You might not be aware just how much we’re taxed on wine in the UK (and how little of your money goes on the wine itself).
I’ll break it down:
* UK duty on a bottle of wine is £2
* PLUS there’s 20% VAT on top of that!
If you buy a £3 bottle of wine a tiny proportion of that is actually spent on the ‘wine’. When you take off the £2 duty and 60p for VAT you’re actually just left with a bottle of wine worth 40p.
It’s EVEN less when you factor in storage and promotional costs and that £3 bottle could actually be worth as little as 10 – 20p
Not exactly reassuring…
But don’t worry, there are several things you can do to get the best deals from supermarket wines.
7 tricks to ensure you get top quality wine for your money
1. Try to find an extra £1 – £2 down the side of the sofa (it might sound silly, but the difference is immense)
Even spending an extra £2 – £3 on a bottle of wine can make a HUGE difference to the quality.
In our example you can see that a £3 bottle contains less than 40p of actual wine.
Look what happens when the numbers go up:
A £5 bottle contains £2 worth of wine.
A £7 bottle contains £3.60 worth of wine.
A £10 bottle contains £6 worth of wine.
In theory the actual money spent on a £5 bottle should be more than 4 times that of a £3 bottle (a £10 bottle is a whopping 15 times).
2. Look at foreign exchange rates and which currencies are currently weakest against the pound
When a wine producing country’s exchange rate weakens (against the country they’re exporting to) you can get better quality wine for the same money because it’s cheaper for the supermarkets to buy.
So for example if the pound is particularly strong against say the South African rand then go for a South African wine because you’ll get much more bang for your buck.
3. Not all sales are bad! Look for sales on regions (rather than individual bottles)
Sometimes supermarkets will have offers on wines from a particular region or part of the world. For example they might have a 20% off deal on wines from Australia and New Zealand.
You can often pick up a bargain here because they’re not just trying to flog you the same old bottles – they’re trying to promote an area and will sometimes loss lead to get your attention.
4. Try supermarket ‘own brand’ wine
Supermarket’s often produce excellent quality wines from some top regions, so don’t just skim over these.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that supermarkets have much less of a profit margin on independent wines.
The other advantage of going own brand is that you won’t be paying for the additional promotional or marketing costs – more money goes on the wine.
There are some great quality wines to be found here, especially if you can stump up for the ‘finest’ or ‘taste the difference’ ranges.
5. Quickly Google the wine on your phone before you buy
If you’ve got a smart phone you can do this while you’re in the shop. Quickly Google the name of the wine and the year and ‘review’.
e.g. “2010 Balado Zarate review”
Then take a look at:
a) What other people have to say about the wine (you may be surprised!)
b) How much it currently sells for online. This should give you a good idea of whether you’re really getting a good deal or not!
If you don’t have access to the Internet on the go you could take a picture of the label on your phone or note down the name and year of the wine on a scrap of paper and check it when you get home. Then you’ll be fully armed with the information you need next time you go to the supermarket.
6. Try some less well-known or ‘fashionable’ wine regions
France produces some of the best wines in the world. They also produce some of the worst mass-market tongue bashing plonk at the lower end of the scale.
Why? Because they can get away with it.
It’s precisely because France is world famous for producing quality wine that they can produce some real rubbish and still flog it. A fancy “oooh la la” name and posh looking label on a bottle of can lure the savviest shopper.
There are some INCREDIBLE lesser known wine producing countries that often don’t get a look in because they aren’t taken seriously by the casual shopper. Experts say we’re missing a trick…
Try Eastern European wine because you can often get a fantastic quality vintage at a fraction of the price of its French or Australian counterpart.
Oz Clarke recommends checking out Romanian Pinot Grigios.
7. Consider joining a wine society
Another way to get better quality wine for your money is to buy in bulk. Rather than puking your way across the channel, breaking your back filling your car with wine and then driving home, you might want to look into joining a wine society.
These clubs will buy in bulk bringing you even greater savings. The downside is that there’s often a joining fee and you do have to be prepared to buy several bottles at a time.
However if you regularly enjoy a bottle of wine this can result in great savings in the long term.
That’s it! If you enjoyed this article or if you’ve got any wine buying suggestions please leave a comment below.