There's one thing I'd be willing to bet on, if I had any money left: with Christmas done and gone, you're feeling as broke as I am. Even for those who are not encumbered (I mean blessed) with young-ish children, the money just seems to flow freely. It's not just the presents, or the festive food and drink; it's the cumulative effect of buying dozens of little things that seem like nothing at the time. But then you check your bank balance and discover that those shopping-trip cups of tea or cappuccino, the extra bag of baubles for the tree, the CD you indulgently bought for yourself, have left your current account as empty as George W Bush's bedside bookshelf.
Naturally, at desperate times like this one's thoughts turn to saving money. Since desperate times call for desperate measures, I'd even go so far as to drop my opposition to scouting supermarkets for their special offers. A depressingly huge proportion of the wine we drink is sold this way, often by people who employ no other criteria than the presence of a BOGOF (buy one get one free) or £2 OFF!! sticker. They're missing out on most of the really good stuff, as it's usually only big producers who can afford to subsidise the supermarkets' hunger for price-cutting. If regular readers have noticed that this column doesn't often feature news about the offers, it's because the wines are generally not very exciting.
But sometimes the wines are perfectly OK. And since this is one time when cost has to take the slightly upper hand over quality, I have a really good New Year's suggestion for you: start it by dropping in on www.quaffersoffers.co.uk. This is a month-old website with a simple, eminently practical-minded purpose: to put all the offers from supermarkets (and a couple of the national chains) on a single site. The search options are outstanding. You can enter a single criterion or a combination of criteria: as general as all the Bordeaux blends on offer everywhere; as specific as all the Bordeaux blends sold by Morrisons between £4 and £5.99. The site is especially useful for people who (against my advice) buy all their wine from a single supermarket and want to search just for that company's deals.
Quaffersoffers is the creation of Melanie Jones, a wine-trade veteran who is working towards her Master of Wine. The idea came to her because "I received most of the information on offers anyway and often forwarded it to friends. In the gap between applying to get on the MW course and starting a business, I either had to get on with it quickly or wait two or three years." She and her husband sent the children away for a weekend and, with the help of a few friends plus "a four-computer network on my dining-room table", they got the website nearly up and running in a single day.
The quaffersoffer story shows how a small-scale Web idea can be put into practice with a minimum of time and money. The site is updated every six weeks or so, as the offers change over, but that is all the work involved. As a graphics-free zone it is both speedy to load and easy to use. The only problem, which affects Melanie Jones rather than you, is financial. "The making money side of it is a bit woolly to me," she admits. I hope she sheds the wool, because this is a genuinely useful service. Log on so she can tell potential advertisers how many hits she's getting.
A final note. I am writing this the day after Safeway accepted a £3bn takeover bid from Morrisons. Morrisons is a fine company, and very good at what it does, but Safeway has a far superior wine list. I'd hate to see it go. And so should you, even if you don't shop there. *
Riverview Kekfrankos Merlot 2002 £2.99 from £3.99, Somerfield Kekfrankos makes for juicy, no-brain, likeable wines in skilled hands. And look at that price.
Mas de Guiot Cabernet Syrah 2001, Vin de Pays du Gard £5.99 from £6.49 if you buy two Majestic A 60/40 blend, big and generous with hefty tannins. Top-notch stuff.
35 South Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 £3.29 from £4.79, Sainsbury's Workhorse type of Cabernet from a big Chilean producer. Quality: solid rather than exciting. Value: outstanding.Reuse content