SuperValu slaloms through the caveats

SOME cracking wines showed up at a wine tasting held by SuperValu last week, and provide the basis for today’s wine column in the Irish Examiner. It was their first media tasting in, I think, eight years. And although I was surprised to discover they showed only 33 of their 143 ‘Specially Selected’ range, picking six highlights proved too much for me, so I squeezed in several further bottles I’d recommend.

For this reason there was only room to barely mention two things which deserve a better airing.

1. Price is everything

The tasting coincides with SuperValu’s World of Wine promotion which starts tomorrow with reductions of up to 50%. As ever, shoppers should remember the ancient caveat about sales: the reduction is immaterial, and what matters is the quality you perceive in the wine, and the price you’re paying at the till.

Many wines in many stores will be ‘reduced’ at any one time. However you must realise that often the ‘reduced’ price is in fact the destination price, intended all along. A retailer can quite legally put a few bottles up on its shelves priced at say €15 (when any objective tasting would rank it at, for instance, €10) for a month or so and then ta-dah! reduce the price to €11.

There’s nothing new in this. There’s been what you could call a permasale in all sorts of wine retailers for years – not just the big supermarkets.

Here are two previous posts about price promotions, citing two unexpected sources: One big retailer pointing out that wine sales distort consumers’ perception of value, and another retailer, perhaps unintentionally, referring to the glut of wine on world markets behind the see-saw prices.

What are we looking for? Price/quality, that’s what. When I suggest readers check out a wine sale, the bottles I recommend fall into two categories – those I’d happily pay ‘full’ price for, which are even more attractive now they’re reduced; and bottles which I believe are  only ok value or even overpriced at the ‘normal’ tariff, but which offer good value in the sale. In SuperValu’s sale, not only are there quite a few that I think are well worth buying at their full price, there are even a handful that I think are underpriced: I’d happily pay more than their full price.

The rule remains – focus only on what you’re getting for what you’re spending. I’d go further. We’re seriously missing the point if we focus only on the likes of Tesco, SuperValu, Dunnes etc. Sure, those supermarkets and big chains deserve our scepticism – but every other wine business is, after all, a business, and each will use whatever way it can to welcome our lovely lolly too.

For instance, some salespeople can talk up their wines and indeed their entire shop. As Gary Vaynerchuk, the mentor to a generation of social media wine marketers said, “don’t sell wine, tell a story” – meaning one can sell more wine at higher prices by talking up the “passionate winemaker in the small, family-owned vineyard” narrative that pushes our aspirational buttons… Even though there are other wines which are just as good made by winemakers who are equally passionate in other similarly family-owned vineyards at lower prices in other stores…

It’s what’s in the glass that matters, and the price you paid for it.

No wine seller has a monopoly on puffing itself up, just as none has a monopoly on providing good value. Shop wisely and you will find super wines at great value in every store. If the smart shopper’s caveats and scepticism are a sort-of retail slalom course, the highlights I picked from SuperValu’s  selection whizzed through those obstacles this week. I’d recommend them for your shopping list when the sale starts.

2 Excellent beer and wine events this week

Being the time of year, there just wasn’t room in the column for more details about some of the beer and wine events coming up.  The All-Ireland Beerfest, a great evening with Yalumba, Lohan’s Wine Fair… I’d recommend you check them out in my guide over here. Enjoy!

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