Saturday 24 February 2018

Independent thinking

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Happy days for the wine consumer. In the world of wine, the economics of the downturn mean that we are buying more but paying less for it.

In case you hadn't noticed, wine prices have come tumbling down in the past year or so. That's a result of a combination of things: the battle for market share among wine merchants and the fact that staying in is the new going out.

Never one to miss a bargain, the consumer is out there snapping up the bottles. According to figures from market researchers AC Nielsen, we spent 1.4pc, or €4.6m, less on wine in the year to April, although we bought 4.1pc more. Better value for money is how that is described.

And what have we been imbibing to console ourselves in these difficult times? Australia was the strongest performer, followed by Chile and France. We also drank more South African, Spanish, Italian and New Zealand wines than the previous year.

Supermarkets, with their big buying power, have enjoyed most of that growth in wine sales, and they now account for about 60pc of bottles sold.

That is all very well, but it is worth remembering that one of the great bonuses of being a wine drinker in Ireland is the choice we enjoy, much of it due to the independent off-licences.

In France or Italy, chances are you won't be able to buy a bottle from outside the particular region, never mind from another country. It is the same elsewhere, such as Australia.

It is probably because of the lack of a wine tradition in Ireland that we threw out the céad míle fáilte to all comers.

Independent off-licences have done a huge service in providing that variety, backing it up with great personal knowledge about the individual wines that helps tailor your choice, whether it's for the Sunday roast or a girls' night.

But as the multiples slug it out in the price wars, and enjoy a sales buoyancy as a result, the independents are taking a hammering.

The independents have only 6pc of the market, but it is an important slice and one that every self-respecting wine drinker would want to survive. Each has its own bargain offerings, although they're not loudly advertised in the same way as supermarkets can promote them.

It's worth checking out all the same for your Bank Holiday weekend pleasure.

Irish Independent

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