Much is being made today of the fact that sales of wine at over £10 a bottle at Tesco, Britain's leading supermarket group, have risen by 74% over the last year. The Daily Mail adds two and two and gets five, claiming this shows that the British are becoming a nation of connoisseurs. And - ooo - they are even offering wines (Penfolds Grange) at £100 a bottle.
It is hardly surprising that Tesco is registering this sort of increase when, as reported in Tesco moves into fine wine in-store exactly 13 months ago, they have only recently introduced, and aggressively merchandised, a range of much more expensive wines than ever before. In fact so many more 'fine' wines are now offered by Tesco than were available from them before the range was introduced, I'm surprised that sales of wine over £10 have not risen by more than 74%.
As for the selling of Grange by Tesco, this is well-worn ground here. Purple pager Roger Jones long ago told us how he bought stocks of Grange for his restaurant The Harrow via the supermarket, and of course Tesco pays for its handsome allocation of thie Australian icon by buying vast quantities of very much more basic Australian wine from the brand's owner Foster's.
I hope they will persist with this fine wine range. I was also surprised that Tesco did not show more new fine wines at their press tasting in March. They have scheduled an additional showing of wines to us hacks for early July (usually they organise one spring and one autumn tasting) so perhaps there are more goodies in the pipeline. At the March tasting Tesco reported that the average price of bottles sold in their Fine Wine range was 'nearly £15' - certainly not sky high.
My current favourites from the Tesco Fine Wine range include Chapoutier 2004 Gigondas (£14.99) and Stockmans Station Pinot Noir 2003 Central Otago (£12.99), each available apparently in alost 250 stores, although you may have to search the shelves carefully to find them.
And as for last week's widespread story in the UK that Alcohol Concern was pressing the government to make serving alcohol in the home to children under 15 an offence, don't get me started.