A bunch of grape gripes was the name of an article in today's Irish times by Fiona Reddan. It set out to address a major gripe of all independent off-licences and wine shops - namely the so-called wine "promotions" now dominating the wine trade in Ireland.
Every week the newspapers are covered in ads and pullouts for all the major multiples advertising this weeks special offers. Top of the list is nearly always booze - beer, spirits and wine lead the advertising blitz every week. How that fits in with the trade's supposed self-regulation in relation to "sensible drinking" is a blog for another day, but the article today addresses what has always been my concern - are these promotions for real or do they artificially increase the price before then cutting it to half price - the price that truly reflects the quality of the wine on offer??
There are, no doubt, some genuine offers - Taittinger and Mount Pleasant are two that spring to mind. Who now would pay €50 for a bottle of Taittinger when it is on Tesco periodically at €25 - less than the wholesale cost from Taittinger's Irish agent? Who would pay €100 in a restaurant...? However, there are also a large amount of dubious-looking offers that make up the bulk of the sales. Someone told me last week that a Tesco manager said that 88% of his wine sales come from the 12-foot section which houses his promo wines. The rest of his wine section was just wallpaper.
However, in most cases, the wines on promotion are unknown wines, only seen on shelves while on promotion. Are we really to believe that Chateau Neverheardofit Bordeaux Superieur was ever worth €19.99 and thus is an unmissable bargain at €9.99? Or is the supermarket making their normal margin at €9.99 and are using the €19.99 as a sales trick?
These are the questions the article asked, but never really answered. They got Lar Veale of www.sourgrapes.ie fame and Maureen O'Hara who used to work for Findlaters back when it was a proper wine importer before getting sucked into first Grants and then the even worse Woodford Bourne and they gave their opinion on the wines which generally backed up our suspicions that these wines are generally not worth the supposed full price.
Somehow, however, we never really got to the crux of the matter - are the multiples conning their customers in many cases with their wine promos? Is it impossible to answer this question or are we not digging deep enough? I suspect the Irish Times would regard is a foolhardy to dig too deep into the darker recesses of major advertisers....
The article in today's paper certainly raised more questions than answers, but at least it asked the question - its a start!