First Published Costa News Group, Jan 2013



Our recent sojourn in the UK was great! We love to see family and old friends and of course we are always trying the wines that are commonly available in the land of our birth!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I believe the UK is the best country in the world to buy wine! The variety of styles and the exhaustive choice really are second to none. All the wine producing countries of the world sell their wares in the UK, plus of course, the English and Welsh also make wine themselves! It’s an Aladin’s Cave of a country!

There’s also the advantage of the UK being the country which boasts the greatest number of Masters of Wine (many of whom act as consultants for the wine buying retail outlets of Britain) as well as the large number of wine articles and Radio and TV programmes that are available. This again leads me to an oft repeated comment of mine that the British public are probably the best informed wine consumers in the world!

A fact that is far too slowly becoming recognised by Spanish wine retailers and restaurateurs whose very gradually slackening head-in-the-sand attitude has been a source of considerable frustration for this particular commentator over the sixteen years I’ve been banging my head against their brick walls of incredulous denial!

Fortunately, forward thinking bodegas (whose numbers have swelled dramatically over the last ten years) and at last some Spanish wine retailers (witness my final paragraph here, for example) have acknowledged that the British Euro (Euros spent in Spain by British residents and second home owners) makes a significant and positive contribution to their balance sheets, and are now actively targeting (in the nicest possible way!) UK ex-Pats with their promotional campaigns etc.

From this point of view things are improving in Spain, though there’s still a lot to catch up on when comparing this aspect of the wine trade to that in the UK. However where Spain fares far better than the UK is, judging by my latest visit, in the quality, the sheer pleasure of the taste and aromas of so many of the wines on sale for the prices being charged!

You will surely have noticed when last in Britain that the major supermarkets have a very broad selection of different wines, but when one considers their quality, the choice dramatically narrows. The more so when considering the price point and the large number of discounted wines.

When in UK supermarkets we are assailed by offers of wines, normally (we are led to believe!) in the, say, 6 – 8 pounds price bracket. These are offered at the ‘bargain’ price of about  5 – 7 pounds, corresponding to a discount of approximately 20% off their ‘normal’ price. The wines fly off the shelves and it seems almost everyone drinks them.

But are they happy with them? Well, given that price has to be king for most of us in these hard economic times, I’m sure that most people in the UK are either quite happy, or convince themselves to be so! However, considering that a wine that is discounted(!) to five pounds actually means that people are paying approximately 6·15€, we can taste the fact that they are really being ripped off!

For just over six Euros I can think of very many Spanish wines readily available here that will knock the socks off wines currently being sold in the UK in this price bracket! In Spain we lucky to be able to enjoy far richer, fruit driven and aromatic wines for that sort of figure, and if you trade up a couple of Euros, the difference is even more pronounced when compared, for example with the ‘special offer’ wines if they were sold at their ‘normal’ price!

Consider also that the duty on wine in the UK is approximately 1·5 pounds. Add that to the cost of transport from the country of origin (it’s a helluva way from Chile!); the cost of the bottle, cork/synthetic closure/screwcap, labels and foil, subtract this figure from the purchase price and see how much you are left with!

This paltry sum is of course the real value of the wine – no wonder so many of these ‘bargain’ wines are thin, insipid and wholly undistinguished.

But not all of them! I enjoyed several of the various different New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs I tasted; one of the Pinot Grigios, from South Africa, I think; and an excellent, remarkably inexpensive generic white Burgundy.

I was mostly disappointed with the reds. Last year I was bemoaning the glut of over-rich (to the point of being ‘sickly’!), powerful Chilean reds – how I missed them this year! There were very few, with Argentina and South Africa having much more shelf space this year, though the Maipo Chilean Merlot was good.

One Côtes du Rhône (chosen because of the IWSC medal sticker on the bottle – a sure mark of quality) was very good and I did very much enjoy one or two excellent Champagnes.

Over all though I’m so grateful to Señor Daniel Castaño of Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla, who sent a case to our address in England – I guess he’s been to the UK recently and was worried that I wouldn’t be enjoying the wine available there!

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