/ Food & Drink

Can we have a little whine about wine?

wine bottles

I’m passionate about wine, but lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about people feeling ripped off when ordering it. From not getting the bottle you asked for in a restaurant to the extortionate prices of wine clubs and wine for weddings, it seems there’s a lot to, er, whine about…

When you’re out for a nice meal you might spend some time perusing the wine list to select the perfect tipple to suit the occasion or complement your food.

Recently, a friend went to a restaurant and did just that, but when the wine came he noticed that the vintage was different to the one he’d ordered.

Now, if it’s a cheap-and-cheerful bottle you’ve ordered, the differences in years won’t be hugely dramatic, but if you’ve plumped for, say, a Bordeaux or Champagne, the differences of quality, taste and price between different vintages can be huge.

Even if you’re ordering the cheapest bottle of wine you would hope that, should your wine be unavailable, the waiter/waitress would let you know. If you aren’t eagle-eyed like my friend, you may not clock the switch and could end up buying an inferior bottle of wine to the one you ordered.

Wedding wine

As anyone who’s planned their nuptials will tell you, as soon as the word ‘wedding’ is mentioned, the price for everything seems to rocket – and that includes the wine.

Recently, a colleague was left feeling ripped off when ordering wine for her wedding. The venue where she is planning to host her big day wanted to charge her £25 for the bottle of wine she wanted. On searching online, she found that same bottle of wine available through a retailer for £5 – that means the venue has marked it up by 500%!

My colleague decided to purchase the wine herself and pay the outrageous £17 per bottle corkage fee charged by the venue, as this arrangement was still cheaper than ordering the wine through the venue.

Wine clubs

If you entertain a lot or drink a lot of wine (I’m not judging), then the idea of joining a wine club might be appealing.

A case with a selection of wine delivered straight to your door means never having to lug heavy bottles back home, along with the rest of your grocery shopping. And, generally, the quality of wine offered by a wine merchant will be far superior to similarly priced wine at the supermarket.

So when you spot what seems like an excellent deal on a monthly delivery of wine you may be tempted to sign up for it. But beware, because you could end up getting a different deal to the one you think you’ve signed up for.

Many wine clubs have an initial low cost, but after the first month, this shoots up. Or while you can easily sign up online for the deal, sometimes cancelling isn’t so easy. Because the details of the wine club are unclear, or in tiny writing tucked away somewhere out of sight, you may have missed the full terms and conditions of club you’re now locked into.

Have you ordered a bottle of wine at a restaurant or bar and discovered you got an entirely different vintage? Are you a member of a wine club? If so, what do you think of the service? Or have you ever experienced an extraordinary mark-up on wine by a venue simply because it’s being drunk at a wedding/party or similar?

Comments
Profile photo of alfa
Member

A few months ago I discovered a range of wines called Jacob’s Creek Sun Craft.

An illness a few years ago has left me unable to eat and drink anything acidic which meant I have really struggled to find a wine I could enjoy again.

A few months ago, I discovered the Sun Craft Smooth Red on Ocado. I only noticed it and tried it because it was on special offer at £5. Wonderful, I could enjoy a glass of wine again without having to water it down. I also introduced it to a neighbour with the same problem and ordered a box for her. 2 very happy customers. 🙂🍷🙂🍷

Then a few weeks ago, I went to order some more only to find it discontinued. ☹️😭☹️😭

I contacted Ocado and Jacob’s Creek and said I didn’t think they had given this wine a fair chance. It was not available in any other supermarket and I had never seen it advertised anywhere. Pernod-Ricard replied that they had tried really hard. Apparently it was available in Asda for a short time, but as I don’t have a local Asda, I don’t shop there.

This range of wine was lower alcohol and intended to get younger drinkers into wine, when they might have had a bigger market with older people and those who can’t drink acidic wine. Advertising might have made the difference between it staying or going.

It is still available on Amazon at £15 a bottle + delivery, but I am not paying a very overinflated priced for it when it was normally £6.50.

W(h)ine over.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I would challenge the statement in the Intro that “generally, the quality of wine offered by a wine merchant will be far superior to similarly priced wine at the supermarket”. We have belonged to two or three wine clubs over the years and have not always been impressed by the wines offered, especially not in the mixed cases where some are good, some are mediocre, and some are quite unappealing. Wine club prices are not strictly comparable with supermarket prices as they are rarely a like-for-like comparison. Personally I prefer the freedom to browse the better quality wines in the supermarkets, see if there are any good offers, and choose what – and how many of what – we like. Not being locked in to a monthly supply means it is possible to take advantage of some excellent discounts from time to time on really good wine. Being lovers of good Riesling we have enjoyed many pleasant outdoor lunches this summer and hope the fine weather lasts; Sainsbury’s was the supplier of both the excellent wine and the tasty fish and cold meats.

We got a bit happy on a gorgeous Chilean Merlot in a pub the other evening at £4 for a 175 cl glass [four to a bottle]. If only we had known in advance how nice it would be we could have bought a couple of bottles for £24. It was a beautiful accompaniment to the pan-seared salmon fillet etc. I am going to try to source the wine for home consumption and it will be interesting to see how much it costs retail.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

John, the Wine Society list 7 Chilean Merlots ranging in price from £5.75 to £12.50. A mixed case might give you some sources of happiness (if you belong, that is).

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

That’s good to know, so thanks Malcolm. We have quite a lot of New Zealand Merlot in stock at the moment but I am determined to source some of the Chilean Merlot we had in the pub the other evening. I have the details and will look for it on-line. We are not currently members of a wine club but don’t rule it out in the future. We did have some very pleasant wine from an Italian wine merchant on a regular basis but the contact dried up for some reason.

Member
Lessismore says:
12 August 2017

We have been disappointed in a well known chain restaurant when we wanted a glass of wine each at lunch-time. This was a wine that we sometimes drink there in the evening. We reckon it was watered down. The food was disappointing too. We had rather hoped that having the opportunity occasionally now to take advantage of the special early and cheaper menu we would be able to enjoy it. No such luck.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I’m disappointed at the price charged for entry-level wines, whether by the glass or bottle. 3 or 4 times the shop price. But then restaurants are expensive places to run, and drinks – soft, alcoholic, coffee – are a way o bolstering profits, particularly when they pressure you into having drinks at the table that are used up by the time food arrives. Eating out is an expensive hobby, which is fine if the food is special, but so often it is fairly mediocre.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

Good point about the economics of restaurants MR. Perhaps we could have an overview of these as it is so easy to go into rant mode when there is a lack of understanding. [Trump? : )]

I imagine weddings are not actually an easy event from the catering point off view. To have at beck and call numerous trained servitor, to realise that no one is going home early, and not being able to stagger service as per a normal restaurant all must conspire to drive up costs.

A large amount of handholding and organisational intricacies to be dealt with, it may all fall through, and it may not be overly peaceable.

My wife has often arranged training events away for her choir which involves perhaps up to 60 people. She does organise a complex package of bedrooms, meals, and public rooms and this would be over two nights and two days and negotiates reduced rates. But from the hotels point of view they are a generally sober bunch and do not require much in the way of special treatment. And unlike weddings perhaps they are more solid in planning. She has already shortlisted all the good hotels required in two different cities – depending which one hosts the finals in 2019.

To revert to wine. Some years ago we discovered a very nice Chilean Merlot at a good restaurant and tracked down the importer and bought several cases of the wine and some others from the same vineyard/winery. I suspect we currently have I do not drink wine other than to taste it for educational purposes – which rather goes against the NHS advice : (

We are not particularly drinkers but what with occasional purchases and friends bearing gifts I suspect we have around 20 bottles in the house.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

“Compliment or complement? | OxfordWords blog
blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/04/compliment-or-complement/
Apr 13, 2011 – A lot of people get compliment and complement confused. … The recipe was delicious and the wine complemented the food beautifully.”

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

That grated with me too, Patrick, but I made allowances for the influence of alcohol.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

: ) A trifle back-handed John!

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Complimentary, my dear Patrick.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Or the affluence of incohol. 🤢

Profile photo of Ian
Member

😂😂😂

Profile photo of Manette Kaisershot
Member

Hey Patrick,

Great spot.
You would get along well with our wonderful team of sub editors.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

I had no idea Which? had sub-editors.

In relation to the BBC I have always thought a reward paid to readers for bad errors highlighted to be paid from the reporters or sub-editors pay would do wonders for literacy. If that is one’s job then errors should very rarely occur.

Subscribers of course not being professional writers can be forgiven a lot. I make an exception for DL’s estrangement from paragraphs. : )

Profile photo of Melanie Train
Member

Good spot, Patrick. 😳 That’s fixed now.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

The Intro to this Conversation does rather denigrate the whole wine club sector. No names are given but the impression is left that consumers cannot trust the wine clubs to deliver the wines they have ordered, that pricing is not transparent, and that there are surprising price-hikes after the introductory period. I was never shortchanged on a delivery from a wine club when I was a member, and that included well-known and less well-known suppliers. And I was never unaware of the pricing and what happens after an introductory offer. In that respect they are similar to book clubs. Consumers in these areas are usually cognisant of the deal in my opinion. I think the generalised allegations against wine clubs should be substantiated if we are to take them seriously. There might be a word cap on the Intro but there is infinite space in the Comments.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I have found one particular wine society straightforward, good quality, a wide selection and good value.

Profile photo of Manette Kaisershot
Member

Hi John,

We were just trying to get a feel from our members if they felt they had been ripped off or miss-sold on wine club offers. Having worked in the wine industry I often heard complaints when people were trying to cancel subscriptions.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

Always awkward I think for Which? to get sticky about pricing and clarity given the difficulty or impossibility of finding out Which?’s own pricing for it’s products.

And also in trouble for its practices with ICO having to have a word. Makes one a tad tetchy that it does not practice what it preaches.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I used to enjoy wine but have lost much of my sense of taste, which seems to be a common problem for some of us with asthma. This is much more obvious when I start to eat, so if I’m eating with friends I prefer to drink some wine before starting to eat.

I used to greatly enjoy a glass of single malt whisky but am now drinking what I had collected over many years and rather regretting not having enjoyed it when I had a better sense of taste.

Profile photo of PatrickTaylor
Member

[Sorry, Patrick. Your comment has been removed for being off-topic. Please ensure your comments are on-topic as outlined in our community guidelines. For off-topic discussions head over to The Lobby. Thanks, mods]

Profile photo of MartinScherer
Member

There is no mention here of English and Welsh wine. Why not? English wine, is now a premier world brand creating a buzz around the world.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/wine/lets-get-fizzical-why-english-wine-is-sparkling/

Especially in the USA where Americans call it Brit Fizz. https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/01/americans-coin-new-name-for-english-sparkling/

With British wine, you can visit the vineyard and meet the people who make the wine you drink. http://www.englishwineproducers.co.uk/vineyards/vineyard-search/

The best wine, with the most unique flavours and aromas, comes for the region between where you cannot grow grapes because it’s too cold, and where it’s easy to grow grapes. With global warming, that’s increasingly southern England and Wales. Hence the French are beginning to buy land in England.

The method of making sparkling wine – Methode Champenoius, secondary fermentation, was an English invention, not French.

Vineyards are the fast growing UK agricultural sector, provide greater countryside employment, is the fastest growing export, and encourages more tourism than any other. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/may/21/english-wines-vineyard-stays-uk

Any more reasons why – drink English wine and be merry?

Profile photo of Manette Kaisershot
Member

Hi Martin,

Agreed, English wine is great. A certain well known English sparkling beat French champagne in a prestigious taste test. Much to the chagrin of an entire nation!

Member
Paul Davies says:
17 August 2017

Our local Indian restaurant allows you to bring your own wine.This means that we can choose wine we like at a very good price.They don’t even charge for corkage.This means that we go to the restaurant more often and do not feel ripped off.
Paying £20 for a bottle of wine that is not as good as a £6 bottle from Lidl is a total rip off.
Again our local pub offers a decent bottle of Hard’s Stamp wine for £8.45.
Guess what it is full!