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Life is too short to drink bad wine!

I came across this article on BBC website recently, called: “Drink a day ‘raises cancer risk”. The article was warning people that “A glass of wine each evening is enough to increase your risk of developing cancer”. This statement was supported by a research conducted by Cancer Research UK,  which showed that: “Consuming just one drink a day causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases – mostly breast cancer – among the UK women each year.”

The wine in the UK issue has been bothering me already for a while. It is expensive and on top of that the quality of the popular and affordable wine sold in the UK leaves much to be desired! I knew something was fishy about the wine and I started my investigation.

Before you do your next wine shopping:

  • you will know the actual cost of a bottle of wine (you can see who is actually making all the money),
  • you will be aware HOW the supermarkets manage to sell you cheap and bad wine and make you feel great about your purchase,
  • and you will know why you really shouldn’t buy a £5 wine!

First, lets have a look at a price of a bottle of wine.

Lets imagine a wine merchant buying a case of wine from USA for the price $50 per case of 12. According to the current exchange rate it costs him £2.71 per bottle. Could he retail it for £5? Probably. But look at the horrendous UK taxes and you will have to double the retail price!

OK, lets do some maths now.

Lets add 40p per bottle shipping cost = 3.11
UK excise duty for wine – one of the highest in the world – is 1.81 pence per bottle.
Plus 5 pence for the wine from outside the EU = 5.42.
Now lets add the VAT 1.08 = 6.50.
The average supermarket’s margin is 40%. 6.50 + 40% = 9.10

And what if the supermarket buys the wine from the reseller? Than his margin and his VAT will have to be included…

Let me guess what you are thinking! Mmmm This is exactly the kind of wine I usually buy! The only thing is Im lucky to find great offers in the supermarkets, like 3 bottle for 10 pounds or 50% discounts for the £10 bottle of wine.

Let me explain you how it works:

Firstly for these offers to qualify legally as a genuine half price deal, the wine has to have been on sale at one branch for at least two weeks at it’s “full” price. What they do is: they keep this wine for 2 weeks on a bottom row out of sight in some remote store at double price. So that in 2 weeks they can offer you a great half price deal.

If the supermarket price is £5 after all the taxes, shipping, labeling, bottling, shop margin… the real cost of this wine in some cases can be as little as 5p. Obviously this is not a good wine but cheap plonk full of chemicals.

Would you eat a 5p. meat?

Going back to the article reporting the Cancer UK research results. This article really made me upset. I was very tempted to pick up the phone, call Cancer Research UK and ask: a glass of WHAT wine causes that? Is it a glass of amazing Negroamaro carefully grown on the Italian vineyards? Even the smell of this wine fills you with happiness. Every time you sip it your body says THANK YOU! Or is it a glass of cheap stuff good enough for a school chemistry lesson?

Dont get me wrong, I am not a snob. I event don’t spit out wine at the wine tastings. No. I just want the wine to fill me with happiness, not to poison me.

Bad news: Because the UK excise duty on wine keeps going up (it is going to be increased 2% each year till 2015), the supermarkets keep mastering their skills to sell more wine.

Good news: its up to you where you shop for wine and how much you pay. You can always find wine societies on-line or go to the independent wine shops which often will offer you better quality wines and good advice. Pay a bit more.

Life is too short to drink bad wine, Ladies and Gentlemen!


Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen. I recently received some positive feedback on this article. I was told it was very useful and informative. I was pleased. However, I also received some fair criticism! “Where are the tips and advice?!” – one for curious Amazing readers said. “Not a £5…not a supermarket offer…then what??”.

Fair enough. From now on I am going to share with you some tips and … simply my own experience. I would also be happy to hear about yours – because we learn from each other.

I became interested in wine a few years ago. At some point I realised that drinking wine is a bit like reading books: you look forward, have great expectations, and then either they make you happy and satisfied or disappoint you. The most interesting books we may read many times, they become our friends 🙂

My first step to learn about the wine was a big fat book Grapes&Wines by Oz Clarke. It was a present from my friends. I really liked it, it was very informative. Still on my shelf and I reread it from time to time.

My second step was to take a Wine and Spirit Education Trust course (google it. for some reason I cant insert the hyperlink). Correct me if I am wrong, but I think WSET is a number 1 educational body in the wine and spirits field. All the wine professionals study there. Its doors are open for the amateurs as well. There is a gazillion of various study options. If you have plenty of money and limited time, you go to school and take classes. When you have little money and plenty of time or just want to study at your own pace, you can take an on-line course. That was what I did.  It is basically the same as an “off-line” but you have to buy all the wine and try it by yourself. That was what I did (with the help of my friends 😉 .

Of course it is better to attend the classes where you can interact with the teachers and ask all your questions, but if you dont have this opportunity, I would suggest you take an online course and go to as many wine tastings as possible. And here we come to the third step – wine tasting!

Wine tasting is the most important thing in all this wine journey. Why? Ask yourself “Why do I want to learn about the wine?”. Two answer options are possible (and to implications accordingly):
1. If the answer is: “I want to develop a wine taste. I want to be able to recognise when the wine is faulty and when it is good and stop poisoning myself. I want to discover a new pleasure in life”. Then you should just simply start trying as many good wines as possible.
2. If the answer is: “I want to know as much as possible about wine, so that I could show off a bit in the company of my friends and to have a “gourmet reputation” – then carry on with the books!

And now please get ready for the main part of today’s post! I am gonna say smth really important for you aways have in mind!

If your answer to the question  “Why do I want to learn about the wine?” is the first option, the first thing you need to do is to start drinking good wine! This is really really important because you need to start setting up the benchmarks! If the book or the online course tells you to try Pinot Noir from New Zealand, dont go to Sainsbury’s to buy the cheapest half price Pinot Noir. If you do, you learn nothing and only get a headache instead! If you drink the cheapest poor quality wines you will never learn how this or that wine should actually taste!

You should learn what is GOOD first. Then you will be able to recognise when it is bad.

Of course there can be different situation is our life. Sometimes we have to drink the wine of not the best quality. But if you have your benchmark, you won’t do it too often, trust me. For example, now I am not gonna drink Blossom Hill or Gallo even if you pay me! (It wasnt always like that. Litres of Blossom Hill were consumed  by Marie and myself at Adelphi pub in Preston when we were students and at the Bedford later, before I realised B & G were the reasons of my memory loss and “extravagant” behaviour ;-).
Your today’s homework, my dear Amazing reader, is to Become Fussy about the Wine you Drink!
Some tips to start with:
1. Develop a new habit to buy wine in the independent wineshops instead of supermarkets.
2. Make friends with the shop assistant or the owner. Tell him honestly what you want and your budget. If you dont have £20 to spend for a bottle today, ask him what the best £10 option is on sale. Usually they value the customers and give honest recommendations.
3. Google wine tastings in your area. They usually cost around 20 pounds and you have a chance to try many different wines (often combined with cheese).
And the most important…Relax! Smile! Take it seriously but not too seriously – remember that you are on this trip to have fun and enjoy! 🙂 
Bon voyage and I will keep you posted!

4 thoughts on “Life is too short to drink bad wine!

  1. This is a great insight, very useful – pls can you recommend a good quality (not too expensive) red and one white? Thanks!

    • Thanks for your question, Ana! 🙂

      My today’s recommendations are:

      White: Verdeca (Puglia, Italy), Verdejo (Rueda, Spain)

      Red: Salice Salentino (Puglia/Salento, Italy). It is blend of Negroamaro with Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. If you get the right bottle it can be absolutely amazing!!!
      Malvasia Nera and Negroamaro blended with Merlot is my favourite ever but it is hard to find in the London shops.

      The price should be around 10 pounds. I think, 8 would be the very minimum.

      • Wow thanks for the quick response! I will have those in mind when I need to get a bottle next time – will try and find them at Oddbins…

  2. Enjoy!
    Next time we will speak about “where to buy the wine”.

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