Thursday, 6 March 2014

Is 'Half Price' as good as it sounds?

When strolling through Tesco to search for a bottle of wine to review I stumbled across this, Reserve des Tuguets, 2010 Madiran. Located almost out of sight right on the bottom row I saw a big yellow sticker saying 'HALF PRICE', £5.99 reduced from £11.99. Now, that is a pretty large mark down no matter what you're buying so what exactly are you paying for? Is it worth it? Should it really normally be that expensive? These are all questions that a savvy wine buyer should ask when it comes to big supermarket discounts.

Madiran in the south-west of France plays host to the Tannat grape. A rich and powerful, fruit-driven grape that creates wines full of flavour and body. This particular wine however is also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Hardly lightweights in the grape ring.

So I was expecting a full, punchy wine filled with ripe fruits, tannin and complexity. Something that would give reason to its high original price of £11.99.

It is actually something quite different and sums up just how disappointing buying wine from some supermarkets can be. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Tesco here - every supermarket out there does it, and it's incredibly annoying.

Let's start with the wine in question. There is hardly anything on the nose - the overwhelming aroma is that of alcohol and a dash of white pepper and a hint of red fruit. On the blurb it is described as a 'traditional wine', which for Southern France usually means it smells of a farm and isn't particularly well-made. 

On the palate it is surprisingly thin and despite picking up some fruit, and the complexities you would expect from a 2010 vintage, with 4 years to have developed in the bottle, are sadly lacking. What fruit is picked up is overly ripe and slightly stewed. The tannins are poorly integrated and linger unpleasantly in the mouth thanks to the very short finish and the rather upfront alcohol. 

All in all, a pretty disappointing wine and one that I would be bawling my eyes out over if I had paid £11.99 for it. 

So returning to my earlier questions. What are you paying for? Usually, and I believe in this case, you're buying a wine that has been purchased for a much lower price, marked up to sucker in those wanting a 'treat' then halved in price to allow a tasty-looking discount.

Next time you see wines advertised at a discount (especially on TV and newspaper ads) take a look at the small print - it normally says "this wine was priced at £11.99 from *insert date* until *insert date a few weeks later*", which makes the discounts completely legal and above board (and, frankly, it makes the customer the mug for not reading carefully), although the result is obviously very unsatisfying to the customer. These discounts attract those looking for a perceived 'bargain', but the supermarket is the only real winner. 

Is it worth it? No - independent merchants sell wine for less than this at a far higher quality, and use excellent relationships with growers to offer wines at a genuine discount.
Some supermarket deals really are genuine - they're not con-artists after all, just companies that like to make a profit - but unless you know the wine it's going to be a gamble. It's generally better to give supermarket wine discounts a wide berth, unless you know the wine or know your stuff enough to be able to spot a real deal.

The markups in supermarkets can be eye-watering - but it's thanks to duty and VAT that real discounts are so hard to offer. Usually for a £11.99 bottle you'd be expecting about 40% of that price to be the wine's value - 30% are costs such as bottles, labels, shipping etc and 30% to be Duty & VAT.

 Now you can compare that to a wine valued at the offer price of £5.99. Only 11% (approx) of that bottle price will be the wine's actual value, when you consider the duty, taxes and overheads. These taxes and costs makes it almost impossible for supermarkets to sell wines at half price - so it's understandable they might inflate the price so they can discount later - but surely we'd all rather have a more realistic idea of what we're paying for?

Simply, this wine is not worth £11.99. Even with the offer price you're struggling to find any real sign of quality and value for money. It may sound stupid, but it if you're thinking of buying a bottle, take a minute to check what prices it has previously been at to make sure you're getting the true price of the wine. 

Rant over.

Image taken from Rick's photosteam under the Creative Commons License. 


  1. I bought the same on offer and loved it, smooth velvety and easy drinking reminded me of a lalande de pomerol 2010. If the offer were still on I'd buy a load more as every day wine. £11.99 is over priced though.

    1. I just opened a bottle of this which I picked up over a year ago from a 'large supermarket'. Perhaps it has benefited from maturing, as to be honest, I can't see the bottle lasting longer than the next couple of hours - usually make a bottle last at least 2 if not 3 nights, for the sake of my liver!
      Definitely will purchase again if seen on offer and leave well alone for a year, maybe more

    2. Incredible that yet another *anonymous* comment has appeared suggesting this wine is fantastic. Funny how not one person is willing to put their name to this opinion. Unless of course... surely... it can't be that these are all fake comments! What a ludicrous idea...

  2. I agree with comment 1.
    This wine is very fruity and has a wonderful nose.
    It can be a little tannic, but I would think that decanting it an hour before would improve this considerably, or it could be laid down for a couple of years to soften the tannins.
    I think the reviewer must have been drinking a different bottle of wine!

  3. the label has a rosette - bronze award 2013 - was all the rest of the competition really bad, or is it better than has been suggested?
    I think it's a nice bottle of wine

  4. this is a steal at £5.99 at tesco's

  5. Fully agree with your comments regarding discounts in supemarkets - never buy a full priced bottle.

    Friends bought a bottle of this round for a diner party - now just opened it. Very disappointing, Thin, no fruits, poor aftertaste, unpleasant mouthfeel and this after decanting. Very poor and a shining example of the low standard of Tesco's wines, they have really gone downhill over the last couple of years.

  6. I have been drinking this wine for almost 4 months now, and have loved every bottle.I have 12 bottles already stored away for 2016 and 2017 all bought at 50% discount.