First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 30th January, 2016
I often meet wine Irish Times readers who holiday in France and complain bitterly about the price of wine here. These are, I would imagine, mostly moderate drinkers whose budget is limited. I may be naive, but I continue to believe that most readers of this column enjoy wine in a healthy way. The price disparity between the two countries will grow further if the Government introduces minimum pricing, making the cheapest bottle of wine about €8.
It is relatively easy to compare prices around the globe through the internet. Most of us are aware that duties on wine in Ireland are among the highest in Europe. We pay excise duty of €3.19 on every bottle of wine, plus 23 per cent VAT on top of that. At the suggestion of several Irish Times readers, I looked at how much we pay for four wines compared to other countries. These are a sample; I looked at many more.
Excise duties tend to distort pricing by more than simply the duty, as importers and retailers incorporate the excise in the cost of their wine before they add their profit margin. It is not simply a matter of adding €3.19 on to the retail price. The difference between what we pay and what people pay in other countries varied according to each wine. However, Ireland is comfortably the most expensive country in which to buy almost all of the wines I looked at, including countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Canada, all known for having very high duties and, in the case of the latter two, run by state monopolies. The sole exception was the Tahbilk Viognier currently on special offer from Wines Direct.
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven
Reviewed here several times, this very decent easy-drinking red wine costs 3½ times more here (<€6.99) than in Germany (€1.99). The UK equivalent is €5.24 and Danes pay €5.35 a bottle. Guigal Côtes du Rhône
This is one of the most successful brands from the Rhône Valley. Red, white and rosé are all sound wines, well-made and widely available at about €16. By far the cheapest place to buy this was in Normandie Wines, a wine warehouse in Cherbourg known to many who go on the “booze cruise”, where it was available for €9.40, or €7.83 if you buy a case. In second place was the Netherlands at €10.25.This compares favourably with €15.07 in Waitrose and €11.80 in Majestic, both in the UK. Canadian journalists I meet on trips regularly complain about the swingeing taxes they must pay, but the state monopoly in Ontario (LCBO, one of the largest buyers of wine in the world) is still cheaper than Ireland at €12.61, as is the Swedish monopoly Systembolaget at €11.66. Even Australia is cheaper, at €12.
Tahbilk is a historic winery based in Victoria in Australia. Its Shiraz is legendary and its Marsanne is one of Australia’s best white wines. Irish importer Wines Direct has this at a very keen €14.65 (down from €17) which compares favourably with the UK, where I found it at €18.34 and €17, with Amazon the nearest at €15.84. However, Dan Murphy’s in Australia is by far the cheapest, at €7.77.
Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay
This has been one of the best-value sparkling wines on the market. I suspect the exchange rate has not done it any favours and, of course, the excise duty on most sparkling wines is double that of still wine. The tax take on this wine is a staggering €9.84 (€6.38 excise plus €3.46 VAT) making the full price €18.45. The closest country to us was Canada at €14.95 (although British Columbia Liquor Stores was €12.49) followed by the UK at €13.12, then Sweden at €9.52. The place to party is Australia, where Dan Murphy’s sells it for €5.02, or €4.77 as part of a six-bottle purchase.
Very nicely crafted wine with rich peach and nectarine fruits brightened up perfectly by a twist of citrus.
Stockists: Wines Direct, winesdirect.ie
Full-bodied rounded swarthy earthy dark fruits. A welcome winter warmer on a cold night. Organic.
Delicious textured tangerines and nectarines to pair with grilled scallops.
Stockists: Sheridans; 64wine; Green Man; Donnybrook Fair.