Not the price of individual bottles, but the cost to you and me. There has to be a place for civilised wine-drinking somewhere between wine-in-a-bag and Jancis Robinson’s favourite claret. The sainted Jancis can do no wrong as far as I am concerned, she even prefers Riesling to Chardonnay, but I don’t have her wine budget. The question is, if you want to eat and drink well, as often as you like, what can you afford?
First, I said ‘well’ not expensively or elaborately; good can also be simple (just remember that simple isn’t the same thing as easy). But you are still looking at something approaching 365 days of wine and it’s a bottle between two unless you are being ridiculously abstemious.
So 365 times a very basic £4.99 is £1,821.35 a year. Add in the celebration days and dinner parties when you break out something better and you’re quickly over £2,000. Of course there are lots of people who think wine is expensive, but spend that amount in pubs, but they are unlikely to read this blog.
This is why I refuse to be snobbish about wine. If all you will allow to pass your lips is classed growths, then even one bottle a week will put you well into the £1,000 a year bracket (just over £19 per bottle). If you insist on wines from ‘interesting’ domains that no one will ever find in a supermarket, you are down to a two or three bottles a week or looking at well over £2,000 a year (3 bottles a week at just under £13). What are you going to do the rest of the week? Beans on toast?
The fact is that a decent daily meal merits a glass or two of wine, but unless you are loaded, you need to be careful in your wine buying. The step from £4.99 a day to £5.99, very worthwhile in quality terms, adds almost £400 a year. There are only two answers; to become very discriminating about lower priced wines or to ration your consumption to fewer glasses per day or fewer days per week.
I choose the former: everyday drinking without shame, even if that sometimes means having the name of a supermarket on the label. But I am awfully picky about what I will buy at this level. Apparently 70% of the wine bought in the UK is at less than £5 a bottle and 81% at less than £6. Even allowing for the fact that the survey was done before the last rise in duty and the slide in the pound against the euro, that is a lot of very cheap wine. There aren’t a dozen wines available in the UK at list prices below £6 that I would buy again. But crucially there are some and they are among my everyday wines. Finding them is as much of a test of wine judgement as purple-prosing your way through 2.5 hectare domains that have been in the same family for 500 years. I maintain a list of these bargains, and what they are good for in Favourites.