From bubbly to claret, when buying wine there’s no need to sacrifice quality to save your wallet
1. The booze cruise
Popping over the channel for cheap wine bargains fizzled out as the pound slumped against the euro. But during September and early October it’s “foire aux vins” time in France, when all the major hypermarket chains (such as E.Leclerc, Auchan and Carrefour) hold big wine festivals with excellent deals on offer on some very high-end wines, and plenty of very good value plonk, too. However, they tend to keep the deals under their belts until the last minute.
Different chains hold their foires at different times, but generally they run through September and into the start of October. Day returns on SeaFrance from Dover to Calais start at £35 for a car and two adults. But, warns master of wine Peter McCombie: “This works best if you know what you want to buy before you go,” as you may not be able to taste everything of interest.
2. Trawl the net
“You would be amazed at what you can find,” says McCombie. He recommends finding websites specialising in a certain region, such as the Australian Wine Centre. Mainstream stores also have good deals, and it is always worth comparing them. Oddbins is selling Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial NV for £26.99 a bottle, while at Majestic it costs £37.99, or £28.49 for two or more bottles. Majestic offers free delivery for a dozen or more, while at Oddbins delivery is free if you spend more than £100.
Try websites such as WinesDirect.co.uk, which has vouchers offering discounts as great as 60% on wine clubs. This means you can get a case of 12 bottles for less than £50 for new customers. Be careful which one you choose, though. With some clubs you are under no obligation to buy further cases, while others, such as Laithwaites Wine, ask you to sign up to buying one every two or three months and others, for example Virgin Wines, ask you to commit to paying £20 a month into a “wine bank.”
3. Get to know your local merchant
“We underestimate the relationship side of things,” says McCombie. “If you get to know your independent wine merchants, they will be able to advise you, they will get to know your likes and dislikes and tell you what they are going to be buying.” The best way to find out about good deals and get value for money is to make friends with them.