Wednesday, 20 August 2008

What to drink in a recession

Zero growth in the economy, rising inflation and fears about our economic security: times are tough for the hedonistic wine consumer who likes to enjoy the good things in life, without having to count the cost.

There are some particularly worrying signs of further price rises to come for wine. The strength of the Euro is making European wines relatively more expensive in the UK now than they were a year ago; prices of glass bottles have sky-rocketed; rising fuel prices have made wine more costly to transport. All these elements add up to a picture of rising wine prices in the immediate future. In the longer term Australia’s hot climate grape-growing areas dependent on irrigation from the Murray River are destined to disappear – and to take with them a river of low-cost wine currently flowing into the UK.

But there are some things you can do to continue to enjoy wines, without paying ever more for them. Here are my Top Tips for wine buying in a recession.

Shop around for special offers
There are still plenty of good value wines around, but it’s best to be prepared before you head out to the supermarket and end up hurriedly stuffing a couple of bottles off the gondola-end offer in the trolley. Have a look at before you go and use its search facility to find out where the best deals are. Many of the big brand names in wine are constantly on offer – somewhere – and it’s frustrating to pay more than you need to. Quaffers Offers saves you the legwork of comparing prices.

Drink less but better
I know I’ve said it before, but I’m prepared to bang on about it again. Ultimately, if you don’t want to sacrifice quality, but have a limited budget, then restricting the quantity is really the only sane way to go. I don’t want to sound like a temperance fiend on a soapbox, but we do seem to believe that an unrestricted supply of cheap booze is a right. Surely it’s better to treat wine as just that – a treat, rather than a commodity sold only on price.

Buy in bulk
As long as you are not one of those people who have to eat every piece of chocolate or every biscuit in the house, then you should not need to worry that having some extra bottles of wine knocking around will result in your own personal 24-hour drinking licence. Most suppliers will give you a discount on a case of 12 bottles (and sometimes 6), so it really does save you money to buy more – as long as you don’t drink more as a result!

Buy online
Instead of bunging a few random bottles in the trolley along with the rest of the supermarket shopping, think about ordering wine online. Most High Street merchants and all the supermarkets are there, along with a host of mail order or online-only places. Without a physical shop front to tempt shoppers in – and without the overheads either – many of mail order places can give great value for money as well as individual customer service. You may not find as many of the famous names as you would on the High Street – but if you are prepared to be adventurous and try something new you might find yourself with a better wine at a cheaper price. Try Googling “buy wine online” and see what you find.

If you are nervous about cowboy merchants that you’ve never heard of, then try The Wine Society ( This venerable institution has been going since 1874 and is run as a co-operative, so any profits are re-invested in the company or used to fund special offers for the members – you have to buy a share in the society to become a member and buy wines.

The days of Champagne lunches in the City may have disappeared (until the next boom), but wine-drinkers with some savvy can still find plenty to please their palates.

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