Tag Archives: sales

Wine bargain alert – it’s the January sales!

So long, then, happiness, and a jolly-as-I-can-muster hullo to the very bitterest, coldest, miserablest couple of months in the calendar. There’s nothing to look forward to now except the imminent VAT rise, and across the land the only sound to be heard is the post-festive pop of wallets being staplegunned to solid surfaces and the desperate scratch of pencil on household budget crisis planner. It’s a time of figurative belt-tightening, when most people have resolved to spend more time in the gym rather than the offie. Well more fool them, I say. Because the only good thing about January is that the dismal weather provides you with the perfect excuse for staying inside all day checking out many virtual sales from online wine retailers.

So here, to help you on your way to an even greater level of penury, is a link-heavy list of all the post-festive wine sales I can find, good and bad. I have to say I haven’t seen anything irresistible as yet, which is just as well given that I currently have so much wine at home I was recently forced to hide some in my one-year-old son’s wardrobe, but I’ll let the world know via Twitter the moment that I do (and I’d appreciate it if you let me know if you beat me to a particular bargain). I’ve edited this list a few times when new sales have come online, but I think the sales season is almost done.

January wine sales:

Armit – most of the wines are offered by the case, but some decent discounts and a few wines down below £3 a bottle.

Averys – I’m always put off because their website looks superficially like Laithwaites’, and because their association with The Telegraph raises my Guardian-employed hackles. Totally irrational.

Berry Bros – A few decent bargains here, with percentage discount handily displayed.

Corney & Barrow – Sadly none of their Achaval-Ferrer malbecs have found their way onto their bin-end list.

Great Western Wine – Includes some good-looking mixed cases

Jeroboams – This appears to be in-store only. Retro.

Justerini & Brooks – This sale is so cool it’s secret. Unless you’re on the mailing list you don’t even know it’s happening. Not a whisper of it on their website. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you received by email a pdf file listing the wines and the (often impressive) discounts applied to them. A genuine bin-end bonanza, many sell out within minutes. So it’s either old news for you that the sale started in the morning of Wednesday January 5, or you’re too late.

Laithwaites – I must say there’s something about the way they describe a wine that makes me giddy with indifference, if such a thing is possible. But some of them are cheap right now. I do like the way they allow you to use vouchers on En Primeur purchases, but that’s another story.

Lay & Wheeler – a bin-end clearance, though this seems to be more or less ongoing

Leon Stolarski Fine Wines – Not exactly a major retailer, but quite a good list of largely French obscurities

Naked Wines – I’ve said enough about them for a while, methinks.

Virgin Wines – last few days of this one

The Wine Society – you rarely find massive savings here, but they do tend to be pretty keenly priced in the first place. Plus they’re not applying the VAT increase until April. April!

Yapp Brothers – barely a dozen wines in it, and it ends on Monday January 10, but they’re calling it a sale so I’ll go with it

Selling out

While I’m on the subject of wine sales, it strikes me that they remain surprisingly contentious. The very idea makes some people – really rather a lot of people, it seems – shudder with horror, while all they make me is a) merry, and b) poorer.

Obviously, there are wine “bargains” that are still rip-offs, consisting of bottles that have been sold for a while at about double their value in order to later be flogged with a half-price sticker, and often produced by multi-national wine-spewing conglomerates of yuck. Then there’s the 25% off everything sale, which every supermarket seems to wheel out from time to time. While these give me nothing but the impression that their normal prices must be a bit too high, these are the normal prices I usually have to pay – which makes three-quarters of the normal price quite an attractive prospect.

While buying wine from supermarkets doesn’t really suit my research-everything-ridiculously tendencies, Waitrose’s biannual discounting frenzy is a very major exception. The ability to mix your own case of some genuinely decent stuff at genuinely decent prices from your very own sofa is too much for me to withstand; within 15 minutes of me hearing about their last offer, a couple of weeks ago, and knowing that my children would wake up from their lunchtime naps at any moment, I had ordered two cases.

Then there is the genuine wine sale, like the one I found at Les Caves de Pyrene last weekend, where a retailer is trying to get rid of some old stock that’s clogging up their warehouse. The job that sales always used to do, before they became regular festivals of comsumption. Quite a lot of the wine I bought had something clearly wrong with it – it was a few years old but not intended for keeping, or the label was damaged, or it was from Morocco. I’m happy to have bought something for less than the going rate, they’re happy to have got rid of the stuff in the first place, everyone’s happy.

Except those who consider wine to rightfully be above this sort of thing, the shallow pursuit of a bargain. That the obsession with discounting makes life difficult for retailers and impossible for producers. That it stops people from buying any wine that isn’t reduced. That even wine that isn’t discounted is nevertheless cheapened.

I like my sales. They suit me well. But I can see where they’re coming from, to be honest.

(incidentally, last night I cracked open the first of this year’s Les Caves bottles, an Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Espumante 2006 – fizzy, red vinho verde. Brilliantly vivid, a lot of fun. The latest vintage (2008) is £17.99 online (a fair bit more than it’s worth, I think), but at exactly half that in the sale, a bargain!)

Driving force

The main thing I remember about last year’s summer sale at Les Caves de Pyrene, the Guildford-based wine importer (other than the quality of wine I ended up with, which was extremely impressive) is the disastrous traffic Gilad and I encountered on our way home. The main thing I’ll remember about this year’s – the quality of wine being as yet unproven – is the disastrous traffic I encountered on the way there. It was hideous. The North Circular was a car park, the final mile on the approach to the Chiswick Roundabout taking me about an hour. When the cars already on the M25 appeared similarly stationary I asked my satnav to find another route; its selection was astonishingly circuitous, and included not one but two roads that were closed for roadworks.

When I finally did arrive, I was surprised that the small shop wasn’t a bit more crowded – particularly since the sale had been compressed from two days to one. “You should have been here when we opened,” one member of staff said when I made that observation out loud. The early birds clearly caught the vinous worm – there seemed slightly less choice there today, compared to last year, and none of the big successes of a year ago were in evidence. But I wasn’t going all that way for nothing, and quickly compiled three cases all the same.

Most of the people who were there when I arrived at about midday were clustered around the tasting table, so I scurried around the rest of the room selecting bottles more or less at random. I did try a few, when a place at the top table appeared, but given last year’s experience I was happy enough to trust their selective abilities. For the record, as I’ll certainly want this list to refer to in the future and will almost certainly lose my one hard copy within 24 hours, this is what I ended up with. You will notice one bottle that stands out, mainly for being three times more expensive than anything else – a 1989 Mas de Daumas Gassac, a famous wine from the Languedoc that requires a great deal of ageing. This should be ready, and though at £45 it is comfortably the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever bought it is a) only £15 more than the latest vintage; and b) exactly half the lowest price I can find for it on wine-searcher.com. The label was almost totally ruined, (partly) explaining the price. Anyway, here’s that list, all prices per bottle:

Les Cretes torrette 2003 (their fumin was the biggest hit of last year’s haul) x 2 (£5)

Di Barro fumin 2004 x 2 (£10)

Salentein Primus pinot noir 2004 x2 (£10)

Zouina Epicuria Syrah 2005 x4 (£11)

Palari Rosso del Sporano 2005 x2 (£12)

Vaubois pinot noir 2005 x2 (£4)

Afros Espumante Vinhao Vinho Verde tinto 2006 x2 (£8.50)

Mirausse Le Grand Penchant Azerolle 2006 x1 (£6)

Tollo Madregale Rosso 2007 x1 (£3)

Dom Foulards VDT Soif du Mal Rouge 2007 x2 (£8)

Dom Foulards VDT Soif du Mal Rouge 2008 x2 (£8.50)

Dom Foulards VDT Vilains rouge 2007 x2 (£8)

Hatzidakis Santorini Cuvee 17 2007 x4 (£6; slightly damaged labels)

Terras Gauda O Rosal 2008 x1 (£10)

Daumas Gassac rouge 1989 x1 (£45.50; horrifically damaged labels)

Fazio Brusio Blanco Sicilia IGT 2007 x2 (£4.50)

Fondreche Rouge Cuvee Fayard 2007 x2 (£6)

Schuster Twin Vineyards pinot noir 2008 x2 (£8)