As you browse the supermarket aisles in search of a bottle for dinner tonight, spare a thought for those at the sharp end of wine buying. That Jacobs Creek or Echo Falls has as likely as not been selected by the wine team in the Berkshire, Bradford or Bracknell tasting room based on a simple equation: the bottom line. Few supermarket buyers at this price point jet across the world looking for hidden wine gems.
A survey this month by Harpers Wine & Spirit gave a comprehensive rundown on what the suppliers think of their major retail customers. Tesco comes out as worst retailer to work with, closely followed by Majestic, then Sainsbury's. Tesco is also the most demanding when it comes to asking for additional fees or payments. Hats off to Marks & Spencer for being the fairest to work with, according to 200 wine suppliers.
Richard Siddle, the editor of Harpers, says: "It is time our major grocery retailers put in place changes to treat their suppliers fairly. If they don't, then it won't just be their customers that vote with their feet and turn to the discounters, specialists and independent retailers that are now doing so well, but their fed-up suppliers".
The relationship between supermarket and its supplier takes place totally behind the scenes. And because our choice of wine is more likely to be based on perceived value, rather than quality, this means most suppliers have their hands tied and perhaps don't fulfill their potential.
As Gavin Quinney, the British owner of Château Bauduc tweeted: 'If you make wine, hard to imagine you get into bed with UK supermarkets for the fun of it'.
Decent new internet mail-order companies with ranges based on quality, such as 31 DOVER, are having an impact, though. Its 2010 Mas d'Amile Vieux Carignan, Vin de France, £8.99, is a typically robust, brambly red, made from the trusty southern French grape and has an attractive plummy fruit weight and vivid damson acidity. The 2004 Señor de Olartia Rioja Reserva, on the other hand, £10.29, is a sprightly tempranillo-based 10-year-old rich in vanilla and toasty oak with attractively savoury mulberry-fruit flavours.The 2012 Chablis Bric et Broques Damian et Roman Brocard, displays smoky aromas with peach fruit and a dry bite.
There are good deals to be had, too, at 31 DOVER. The Lucie Cheurlin Champagne, normally £30, on offer at £15.99, is an appetisingly dry style, with bright fresh fruit and aromatics and creamy texture, light on its feet with a fine, rich mousse and delicately balanced finish.
It seems it pays to shop around – but instead of your local wine merchant, a good place to start is online. For delivery details, see 31dover.com/delivery.Reuse content