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Independents back Oz Clarke's exposure of supermarket half-price wine deals

Published:  10 October, 2013

Wine critic Oz Clarke has been applauded today by many in the trade for putting the spotlight on half-price wine deals in the major supermarkets on this week's edition of the BBC TV consumer affairs programme Watchdog.

In a special film made for the programme, Clarke examined the promotional history of a number of  wine brands over the course of a year and found that many were on promotion for up to five months out of 12. He also publicly questioned the true cost of many of the wines that were being discounted down by half from £10 and above. Clarke doubted some of the wines were ever worth £10 in the first place and if they were then the long discounts would mean they were selling the wines at a loss.

He then went on to reveal to the BBC Watchdog audience the true cost of the amount of wine there in a £5, £7.50, £10 and £15 bottle of wine. He revealed that after accounting for duty, VAT, logistics, retailer margin and other costs a £5 bottle of wine only has 20p worth of wine in it. That increases to £1.66 for a £7.50 bottle of wine; £3 in a £10 bottle of wine; and £6.04 in a £15 bottle.

In the programme he found that Tesco's Dino Sangiovese Di Romagna, advertised at £9.99 bottle, was on sale at £4.99 for more than a third of 2012. Hardy's Crest Cabernet Shiraz Merlot was, according to BBC Watchdog, on sale in Tesco at a cut price for about five months out of the past 12 months.

At Sainsbury's an originally priced £11.99 Piccini Chianti Riserva "cost £5.99 for 43% of the time it has been on sale. Whilst for just under six months Sainsbury's offered a £10 bottle of Kumala Zenith red wine for just £5," said BBC Watchdog.

It added: "The discounts offered at Asda were smaller but went on for much longer. A Montagne Saint Emilion spent exactly half the year at £12 whereas the other half of the year it was on sale for £7. Whereas a £7.50 bottle of Jacob's Creek Moscato Rosé was available for just £5 for 60% of the year."

On its website, BBC Watchdog stated: "If a supermarket is selling a wine that is worth £10 for only £5 and for a period of time which could be 37% of the year or up to 50% or 60% of the year, it would seem that the supermarket is going to be making a loss. But they simply wouldn't do that.  Watchdog has discovered that the only way for the supermarkets to make a profit out of these wines is if the wines were never worth more than £5 in the first place."

Allan Cheesman, former head of wine at Sainsbury's, said on the programme: "What I would say as a member of the trade is that the industry is not doing our reputation any good. I think ethically it's something that I personally would like to see the back of."

The supermarkets defended their pricing strategy on the show.

Tesco said: "As the UK's largest seller of wine, we take our responsibility to our customers very seriously. Customers tell us they like the variety and value of our wine range, and our Dino Sangiovese wine is extremely popular, as are all of our half-price wine promotions."

Sainsbury's added: "Wine prices are highly dependent on factors that vary - from harvest yields to transport costs and duties, as well as movements in global demand and currencies. We work hard to mitigate these and keep prices down for customers including offering price reductions and promotions whenever possible."

Asda said: "We would never deliberately mislead customers on price. We simply aim to have the lowest prices for the longest. No other supermarket works harder to save their customers money than Asda and according to independent figures collected by BrandView released last week, Asda is consistently beating the prices of our major competitors."

Independent wine merchants seized on the programme to highlight the differences in offers and promotions available in their stores. Writing on today's, Ted Sandbach, managing director of Oxford Wine Company, said: "How wonderful to see Oz Clarke and Allan Cheesman be prepared to publicly destroy the myth of supermarket discounted wines on national television. The average wine buyer who saw the BBC Watchdog report will no doubt be stunned by some of the revelations which, of course, are well known to us in the trade."

Ruth Yates of Corks Out in the north west tweeted to ask her customers today: "What will you be drinking tonight? Hopefully not a supermarket deal if you saw @ozclarke on Watchdog last night."

Clark, though, did stress some of the best value wines on the market were the supermarket premium wine ranges like Tesco Finest and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, as here they can take less margin and concentrate more on the quality of the wine with their name on it.