Your average UK wine drinker knows what to expect from your averagely-priced wine in a UK supermarket or multiple (and the average price is still under a fiver). They expect unexceptionable, reasonably well-made, “easy-drinking”, and – above all – consistent “Wednesday night” bottles. In a word, it’s about familiarity and, unfortunately, we know what that can breed.
When the same wine drinkers spend north of a tenner, they’re probably hoping for something to make their dinner party guests sit up and take notice. I’m not the only sozzled hack who is concerned that people no longer have any idea of what to expect from wines in between those price levels. The £6-10 range can – with careful selection – be a real sweet spot for value as the proportion of the price that actually represents the wine in the bottle, as opposed to taxes and fixed charges like bottling and shipping, rises exponentially with each extra pound spent. The problem is that the big winemakers and the big wine sellers have muddied the waters with so much systematic discounting.
Presumably, very few people are sufficiently taken with a particular wine that has been discounted from, say, £8.99 to £4.49 to subsequently pay the full price when there’s another, similar-seeming bottle from another of the big brands parked next to it which is now apparently on sale at half-price. There are so many that there must seem to be no reason ever to pay more than a fiver or so.
The poor bewildered punter, standing friendless and frequently clueless in the typical four-, five-or six-hundred bottle wine aisle could very easily be forgiven for asking themselves whether any wine can actually be worth seven or eight or nine quid or are they risking – in buying one – falling into the elephant trap that is the zombie, “un-discounted” wine? The answer, of course, is that there are many but so advanced is the erosion of confidence in that price-bracket that only careful selection or – better yet – buying from independent merchants can offer relief.
So there are two basic rules of thumb: the first is that the the better the wine is the smaller any discount is likely to be and the second is that any wine discounted by 50% (or more! – there are a few out there right now …) is probably only ever worth the discounted price in the first place.