You get what you pay for

Big and mouth-filling.
Big and mouth-filling.
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This week’s column was going to be all about South African chenin blanc, my current favourite source of interesting white wine, but that will have to wait.

The other dayI was queuing to pay at a local petrol station, which shall remain nameless, and on a shelf packed with Italian wine was a sign reading – ‘Great Value, 2 for £7, premier estates’.

Restrained shiraz.

Restrained shiraz.

Well, firstly there are a number of things wrong with that sign. ‘Premier estates’ – I very much doubt it. And ‘great value’? I accept that value is in the eye of the beholder, but really?

Two bottles of wine for £7. That’s £3.50 a bottle, which does sound like a great deal. But let’s look at that again.

For example: if you take a £5 bottle of wine, the duty and the Vat going to the government is £2.83. The retail mark-up (based on 35 per cent profit) is about £1.30 which leaves about 87p to cover the cost of the bottle, label, transport and, of course, let’s not forget the wine itself.

So, from that you can see that in a £3.50 bottle of wine there is absolutely no margin at all for the producer. Scraping the bottom of the barrel in every sense springs to mind.

The moral of this story is of course to be very wary of wines under £5 – and I would go so far as to say under £6. They are either a loss leader from the retailer or very poor wine, or more than likely both.

Interestingly, if you move a little further up the price ladder, the duty stays the same (it’s a constant £2 per bottle regardless of the wine) as do the logistical costs.

So you can see that on a £10 bottle you get proportionally so much more wine for your money.

And there are no tasting notes on the petrol station wines. Why don’t they just stick to newspapers and fuel.

Rant over.

Now, here are a couple of winter warmers that don’t cost £3.50 a bottle.

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2013, California (Majestic £19.99 but £14.98 if part of a mixed six) is a big, mouth-filling wine with black fruits, oak, coffee and smokey notes. It does come in at 15 per cent alcohol so needs to be paired with hearty food on a cold Sunday afternoon.

The wine is sourced from old, dry-farmed vines many of which were planted more than 100 years ago, which I guess allows the title Ancient Vines on the label and put that way makes it pretty good value.

Yalumba Organic Shiraz 2014, South Australia (Waitrose £7.49 on offer from £9.99 until February 16) is a little more restrained than many Aussie shirazes, which is no bad thing occasionally. This is very perfumed with red fruits, violets, a little spice and just a hint of oak. It’s really all about the fruit.

I’ve suggested this wine on numerous occasions but when it’s on offer it’s great value and works nicely with a mid-week super of sausages and mash.