Champagne offers may not be a great deal

Shops are misleading customers by artificially inflating the price of champagne so they can sell it at "half price" in the run-up to Christmas, it has been claimed. Supermarkets are advertising bottles of bubbly for £14 this month amid talk of a champagne "price war".

Mark Hughes, a former wine buyer, said he rumbled the practice after studying the price of bottles last month. Then, Tesco's René Florancy was £30, Sainsbury's Etienne Dumont was £27.99, Asda's Pierre Darcys was £23.98 and Waitrose's Bredon was £20.99.

Mr Hughes, owner of The Real Wine Company, said he had suspected that the non-famous champagnes, which were retailing at the same price as better-known brands such as Moët & Chandon, would end up on promotion. "If they were to sell at £14 and say 'This is champagne, but it's cheap champagne', that would be an honest way of selling it, but if you say 'Here's a £30 bottle and we are going to do much better than that at Christmas', that's misleading, in my view."

Sarah-Jane Evans, a Master of Wine, said half-price offers were of dubious value. "It happens with table wine," she said. "Typically, you find a wine on sale for £10.99 for a few months and then it goes on sale for £3.99 for two months. It was probably only worth £4.99 in the first place."

Stores insisted the deals were good value. Legally, they must sell an item for the higher price for at least 28 days. Tesco, which dropped its René Florancy to £14.25 on Monday, said: "We run promotions on products at different times in the year." Sainsbury's, which halved the price of its bubbly after 56 days, said: "Etienne Dumont is a fantastic quality champagne and at £27.99 had a huge customer following."

Asda said it had sold Pierre Darcys at the higher price for the last six months. Waitrose, which has cut Bredon by a third to £14, denied the price had been artificially inflated. "We don't do that," a spokeswoman said.

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