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In search of value and quality


With the recession biting into everybody’s budgets this year has been one for looking at genuine value. We have noticed this in the wine industry as well and each company has had to look at its range and ensure that they are offering true value to their clients.

Barrels & Bottles has gone through this process from top to bottom this year and we have completely revamped the range of wines, packaging and even what we are offering via our cookery school, so what are the parameters by which our products are judged?

In wine first of all there has to be flavour. We have been brainwashed into buying via price only and forgetting quality. Quality is the key to enjoying good wine, ripeness of fruit, balance of acidity and tannin, length of the finish(how long you can taste it after you have drunk it) depth of aroma, the legs in the glass (the more it sticks to the glass it shows the weight of the wine or the amount of natural sugars the wine contains) are all aspects of quality but how much do we depend on these factors when choosing wines rather than using price as a guide?

Good wines should show length. You should be able to open a bottle of wine and drink a glass, go back the next night and drink another and repeat this for up to 6 nights. Without a wine saver machine the wine should still stay fresh and although it will change over that time with oxidation, the wine should still be ripe and full as the last glass is poured a week after opening.

If the wine says on the back of the label, drink within 6 months of purchase, please leave it on the shelf. If it wont last longer than that unopened I am sure it wont be balanced after 2 or 3 days open. Don’t forget that you pay £1.62 plus vat in duty on a bottle of wine so if you choose out of the 3 for a tenner basket you will only be spending less than £1 on the wine including the retailers profit. Upgrade by a £1 a bottle and you increase the spend on the actual wine to over £2 per bottle. If you can get to £5 to £6 per bottle the proportion spent on the wine is rewarded with extra fruit quality, extra flavour, extra depth and extra shelf life.

As we move towards the Christmas period in the wine trade we are all feeling a little more positive. We have taken a good hard look at ourselves and tried to make value the top of the agenda again. Christmas is a time when we spend more on alcohol and gifts so make sure you are getting value and quality from your local merchant whoever it might be. Keeping the money within the area is one sure fire way of ensuring 2010 wont be quite as barren as 2009.

I use this principle with all my shopping and try to keep supermarkets for what they were designed for, tins and staple foods. My local butcher gets my shopping money for meats, as does my Fishmonger, Sheffield born and bred. Likewise my fruit and vegetables come from a local greengrocer and wherever possible we try to use local firms. That helps all of us keep value in mind when we price up our products and we can but hope that small to medium sized firms such as ourselves will still be giving value to our customers for years to come.

by Andrew Coghlan

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