Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Can you taste the difference?

Would you buy this wine? It costs £7.99

This price is WELL above the average of around £4 per bottle in this country. If you are willing to spend double that amount there are only 2 main reasons:
  1. You are a "wine connoisseur" and know what you are buying and regularly spend this much
  2. You are buying for a special occasion; a party, a gift, a really special treat
I found it on the shelves of a local shop. Barossa Shiraz is world famous. Whether you know about the red earth, the climate, the issues of water shortages or anything else at all about the region, you have probably heard of "Barossa Shiraz".

Now, you wouldn't expect it to be cheap - generally speaking, if you've heard of the region (Chablis, Rioja, Bordeaux, ...) the wine isn't cheap, but it is Australia after all, not ... FRANCE, that place where all good wines are really expensive. Anyway, do the French even make Shiraz?

2006? Should be good. Not too old. Time to check out some more clues.

What about this one, at the bottom?

St. Hallett? Many will not have heard about this producer, but there is actually a name on here that can be checked out. If you know anything about Barossa then the name of St. Hallett should ring bells. Old Block? Faith Shiraz? If you search for the name you'll find this is a top producer with a great track record.

£7.99 for one of the best known names in the region? Cool!

If I bring this home to my husband or wife, or bring it to that dinner party on Saturday, they'll be really impressed.

But wait! What's that? At the top?


You want me to spend twice the national average on a bottle of wine, and when I bring it to the dinner party, despite it being a well liked grape, despite the well known region and the world-class producer, it says "Sainsbury's" on the front label?

Erm ...
  • You could say that if I say I wouldn't buy it I'm being snobbish.
  • You could on the other hand, argue that if I'm spending this much money, a guarantee from a trusted brand like Sainsbury's would encourage me to try it.
  • On the other hand, with all the choices available, do I want this name on there?
  • Or, are they using their buying power to get a great deal?
There is no easy answer, but these wines run all the way up to £12.99 for an Amarone and more and I am told that they are not easy to convince customers to buy (this is from the shop floor).

I know what I think, but what do you think? Premium wines (good ones at that), at reasonable prices, but constrained by the fact that it carries a non-premium label.

Would you buy it?


Alex said...

Yes, I'd buy it - after all, the proof is in the tasting.

Having spent time reading the labels of own brands, I've been amazed by the wineries behind them. Marks and Spencers is particularly interesting in that respect.

GollyGumDrops said...

Yes I would, and as I have a day off, I may pick one up later. (Sainsbury's sent me a £5 off a £30 shop coupon yesterday - they didn't specify I had to buy food!)I've found the Sainsbury's Classics to be generally very good. You're right about the snob thing, people are snooty about own brand wines, but they're almost always better than big brands and you can often find a gem.

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Alex and Golly. Unfortunately for the "survey", we three all fall into the 'connoisseur' category (whether we like it or not).

We'd be prepared to risk the embarrassment and shock of bringing this to a dinner party because we know something about it (regionality, producer, etc.) and we know/hope it is a gem (it was actually pretty good, but it was late, so need to have another try this evening).

I wonder if those who only buy at this price point for gifts and events would feel the same way?

Douglas Blyde said...

Yes, and their Taste The Difference range of sherries by Lustau...

But I wouldn't buy their own label luxury chocolates or Champagne.

However you look at the latter, it would appear a cheap choice by the recipient...

Robert McIntosh said...

interesting - why would it be OK in wine, but not chocolate or champagne?

Wulf said...

Personally, probably not. However that is because I'm limiting myself to European wines at the moment (still far too much choice for me to become an expert at the rate I am sampling them of course)...

I'm less bothered about the brand although, from a marketing point of view, they might do better if they set up an in-house label.

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Lar said...

Hi Robert,

I've done a similar exercise with M&S wines here in Ireland.

There's tremendous savings to be hand by examining the small print on the M&S labels.

I'm all for it and if seen as a "wine person", then producing an M&S or a Sainsbury wine shows you know wine well enough to see past the marketing.

Alastair Bathgate said...

Stop being snobbish and get it purchased!

On a wider theme, I agree that if you know a bit about wine you are not put off by the label and it can indeed show good judgement to pick a "brand" wine. We used to call this inverse snobbery - the equivalent of proudly carrying your Chateau Latour around in a Netto bag.
But I wonder if non-winos would be impressed at all, or even understand the difference?
If you know little about wine, why would you care if Sainsbury is on the label or not?

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that these giants of retail bring us such choice...
Own labling, own branding, and worse, copying and replacing trusted labels with own label on the shelves.. get's right no my grate.

bring us the choice, bring us the brands.. just don't tamper with them.