There are quite a few things in this world which are hated by wine lovers. Obviously, when a cork breaks and crumbles half way through being extracted (seriously, thank goodness for screw caps!) comes pretty high up the list, as do those god-awful old school sommeliers, who sneer down their nose at you if you dare select a wine of which they don’t approve. Also featuring prominently on everyone’s list of wine-related annoyances is surely a fairly universal one: getting ripped off at the bottle shop.
This is a bigger issue than most people think. Sure, great wine doesn’t come particularly cheap - after all, the best plots of land on which to grow high-quality vines are more expensive and sought after than ever before, and the best wines tend to come from smaller, estate-run wineries where people need to earn their living. On top of this, you have to consider the bottling costs, the import and export duties, and various alcohol production taxes which you can find in almost every country on the planet.
The thing is, I don’t think anyone has a problem with the vintners and winery staff making a decent wage. It’s far from the easiest job, and one which requires a hell of a lot of passion and dedication - believe us, it isn’t all lazy, sunny afternoons leisurely picking grapes, and selecting the fairest village maidens and making them stamp the fruit while you watch from the sidelines with a glass of last year’s vintage. The problem comes when it gets into the high street shops. This is where liberties start being taken, and where you’re most likely to pay over the odds.
How do wine shops rip you off?
OK - it isn’t cheap to run a wine store, either. There are often loads of overheads, and especially if you’re in the posher end of town, your rents and business rates can be huge. You have shop staff to pay, electricity bills to meet, cleaners to employ, tasting evenings to hold… the list really does go on and on. Unfortunately, these overheads will and do get passed onto the thirsty customers, who often have no idea they’re being overcharged for their wine which they could get at a better price online, or from a subscription service.
The simple fact is, high street shops, wine warehouses and the well known convenience chains will start their prices at 150% of the price they paid the supplier, and that figure can rise to a ridiculous amount. There’s an interesting issue here: often, the more overpriced a bottle of wine, the more it will sell in a shop. After all, wine is one of those products which people assume has a direct correlation between price and quality. By slapping a $75 price tag on a $30 bottle of wine, all you’re really doing is making the customer believe the wine is better than it is… and some poor sod is going to end up paying through the nose for it, convinced they’re getting a superior product.
This same principle often applies when you see wines discounted in high street shops. This usually happens for two reasons - the most common being that the shop is simply struggling to shift those units, most probably because people aren’t too keen on what’s in the bottle. The other reason? The discounted price is still most likely to be at least 150% of the original cost… it just looks like you’re getting a better deal, because the shop has plenty of creative freedom when it comes to how much they charge.
With all of these shenanigans going on, is it any wonder online wine stores and subscription services have rocketed? Online shops cut away the middleman and the overheads, often giving you unfettered access to real consumer reviews. Subscription services go one further, carefully selected well-priced and high-quality bottles, lovingly matched to your preferences. It would be a shame to see wine shops disappear, but unless they find a way to stop their customers from feeling ripped off, their days may well be numbered.
If you want to skip the trip to the bottle shop, the Wine Gallery has got you covered!
Start with our fun palate profile quiz here and we’ll recommend three bottles for your personal tastes – delivered to your front door!