The sale season for wines
SEPTEMBER MARKS the start of the silly season for supermarkets and wine. The next four months are the busiest of the wine-buying year, culminating in the frantic Christmas period.
Most of the big retailers will mount major wine events. In between, there will be a bewildering number of promotions running; sometimes it can be hard to find a week when there isn’t a special offer of some kind or other. The exceptions are the two German discounters, Lidl and Aldi, and Marks Spencer, which run fewer special offers and promotions, arguing their prices offer value throughout the year.
Superquinn was, I think, the first multiple to run a wine sale. Its autumn French wine sale was groundbreaking at the time, and hugely successful too. Nobody in the company can remember quite when it first began, although it may have been as long ago as the late 1970s. Nowadays Superquinn supplements this with a Spring French Wine Sale, as well as a New World Wine sale, and a few others in between.
A few weeks ago I received an invitation to the press-tasting of the Superquinn French Wine Fair (which runs from October 3rd-23rd) followed closely by a similar invitation from Dunnes Stores, which will nip in with its own French Wine Fair on September 5th-25th. I contacted the other major multiples to see what plans they had for the coming two months. Sadly, most were unwilling to reveal any details.
Regular readers will know that I rarely cover wine promotions in this column. This is partly because details are only released at the very last minute, usually too late for publication, but also because I am cynical about some of the prices. You will certainly find some bargains in the sales, but the savings are not always quite as big as suggested. As argued here before, any wine offered at half-price was obviously unnaturally expensive in the first place. The multiples may sell wine at below cost on occasion, content that we will buy other products at the same time, but generally they look to make a profit on their wine sales. As an example, the trade price for standard Chardonnay in the Languedoc currently starts at around €1.65 a bottle. Allowing €2.20 for shipping and excise duty, a retailer buying direct could sell that wine at €7, making a very healthy 32 per cent margin. Obviously better Chardonnay will command a far higher price, but a basic vin de pays halved in price from €14 to €7 may not be quite the bargain you imagined. In the same way, wines offered at a 30 per cent discount may have been artificially marked up to allow for a later price cut. In some cases, the discount is genuine, usually funded by the supplier, but if a wine is offered at a discount three or four times a year, why would anyone pay full price? A taste of the wine is one way to tell if a discount is real. Poor wine is always poor wine, no matter what the price. Having done several blind tastings of inexpensive wines recently, I can tell you that you really do notice a difference between wines at under €8, those under €10, and those over €10.