Campaign to cut UK wine tax launched

Find out more about Wine Drinkers UK, launched today.

We wine lovers in the UK have had enough. Wine is the UK's favourite alcoholic drink, but is also the most unfairly taxed. A pressure group has been formed to press for a stop to making wine a fiscal scapegoat. We are fed up with being taxed so highly, and particularly so much more highly than beer and spirits drinkers.

Wine Drinkers UK has been formed with the backing of several wine companies, and support from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and wine media, to give a voice to wine consumers and campaign to cut back wine tax. Did you know that the British pay 68% of all wine duties in the EU? Even taking into account the high tax levels in other northern European countries.  

On average 50p in every pound spent on wine in the UK to drink at home is tax, either VAT or the duty that seems to have risen stealthily but inexorably with every Budget announced by our blessed Chancellor of the Exchequer. (For many years there was a duty accelerator built in so that all the Chancellor had to say in his speech was that on wine duty there was ‘no change’. Sneaky.)

Graphic showing UK duty increases since 2010 by drink type

The numbers tell a clear story. Since 2010 wine has suffered considerably higher duty increases than beer, cider and spirits.  Successive governments have presumably been pressurised by the argument that spirits, particularly Scotch, represent an important export industry that deserves protection. Less accurately, they have almost certainly continued to think that beer is the working man’s drink and wine is only for toffs. So, the theory goes, it makes electoral sense to favour beer over wine.

But this is an outdated assumption. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a glass of wine being poured without any comment whatsoever on the popular downmarket soap Coronation Street. It was decades ago! A recent YouGov survey of over 2,000 UK consumers revealed that, among adults who drank alcohol in the past 12 months, wine was drunk by 81% of people, beating both beer (79%) and spirits (79%). That means that in the UK today there are more than 33 million wine drinkers, all of whom have been subject to tax rises of almost 40% on wine in the last 10 years. The last Chancellor to cut still wine duty was Nigel Lawson, 35 years ago, when wine was much less popular than it is today – and then only under duress. Having increased wine duty and cut beer duty at the 1983 Budget, he was required by the European Court of Justice to cut wine duty to re-establish tax treatment parity with beer.

The poll also shows that, when asked to select their favourite alcoholic drink, 28% of respondents chose wine, as opposed to 23% and 20% respectively who chose beer and spirits. Revealingly, almost half of those polled (48%) mistakenly assumed that beer would be the UK’s favourite alcoholic drink.

Wine Drinkers UK must also be thrilled by another finding: that, contrary to the long-held perception that wine is exclusively for the middle classes, wine is just as popular as beer among C2DE drinkers.

The campaign is being launched today, 12 August 2019. Wine Drinkers UK are calling this Wine Tax Freedom Day because it is 61% through the year, matching the 61% of a £5 bottle of wine (two-thirds of the wine retailed in the UK costs only £5, apparently) that is made up of tax – with consumers paying 83p on VAT and £2.23 on duty. So today is effectively the first day of the calendar year that wine drinkers no longer pay tax on a £5 bottle of wine.

Tangential to the campaign, but interesting, is what the survey also reveals about the UK’s favourite types of wines:

Ranking

Wine type

Proportion of UK alcohol drinkers who drink this sort of wine

1st

Crisp white

Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio

41%

2nd

Full bodied red

Malbec or Shiraz

38%

3rd

Prosecco

34%

4th

Champagne

24%

5th

Light-bodied red

Pinot Noir or Gamay

23%

6th

Blush rosé

White Zinfandel

22%

7th

Oaky white

Chardonnay

17%

=9th

English Sparkling Wine

and

Dry rosé

Southern French rosé or Pinot Grigio rosé

16%

Tweeters can support this campaign, which will presumably be aimed squarely at our new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajiv Javid, by tagging @WineDrinkersUK and using the hashtag #CutBackWineTax.   

But anyone can discover more detail at www.winedrinkersuk.co.uk, where as a UK citizen you can download a letter in support of the campaign to be sent to your Member of Parliament.

Go, wine lovers!

How much duty and VAT is payable on a £5 bottle of wine