From today’s Independent – Traveller’s Guide To: Wine journeys in Aquitaine…
“Among the courses on offer in the region, French Wine Adventures offers two-hour introductory sessions every Tuesday afternoon at 2pm during the season for €15. They are run by Caroline Feely, who, with her husband Sean, makes wine at the Château Haut Garrigue in Saussignac. The sessions begin with a tour of the château’s organic vineyard before moving inside for a more formal explanation of the appellation system, followed by a tasting. Feely also runs classes specialising in the grand cru classe wines, and a food and wine matching class takes place every Thursday afternoon at 3pm during the season; the cost is €25.”
A: For a wine selling at say £4.99 in the supermarket, £2.45 of the cost is gobbled up buy Customs and Excise and the Vatman. At £3.99 the tax accounts for nearly 58% of the shelf price!
Q: That’s just at the cheaper end – what about more expensive ‘Fine Wines’?
A: Duty is a fixed tax, at present about £1.70 per bottle. The more you up-spend, the lower the proportion of alcohol duty. But, for a bottle priced at £15.99, you’re still paying over £4 in duty and VAT – over a quarter of the bottle price.
Q: So, if I spend £4.99 I’m only getting £2.55-worth of wine?
A: No, not even as much as that! Transportation, storage, and intermediaries’ margins take a slice out of the retail price, typically marking-up the winemaker’s cost price by at least 20%. For a £4.99 bottle this amounts to about 50p, so your £4.99 claret in really only worth £2!
Q: I’m spending five quid and only getting two quid’s worth! Can’t I dodge the taxman and the middlemen by buying mail-order?
A: Well, you can call a friendly winemaker overseas and ask them to send you a couple of cases through the post. Typically the duty is rarely collected on small quantities of wine sent to a private, domestic address but the transportation costs will add £4 or £5 to the per bottle price. And unless you know the wine and the vintage well, you might be disappointed with what you receive – plus breakages and corked bottles are difficult to replace.
Q: OK, you’ve got me… I’m not rich but life’s too short to drink bad wine – what’s the solution?
A: Go to France! They built a tunnel remember! The vineyards of the Loire, Champagne and Northern Burgundy are all well within reach for a weekend trip so you can buy your delicious dessert wines, festive fizz, favourite Chablis and rare red Burgundies at the cellar door. And taste them before you part with your hard-earned cash!
Q: Sounds good, but the French have duty and VAT n’est ce pas (see I’m already in the mood…)?
A: Yes, there is a tax on French wine but it’s only a few centimes per bottle (indicated, for French sales, by the little ‘Marianne’ stamp on the top of the cork capsule). VAT (or TVA) in France is currently at 19.6% but this is payable on only the cellar door price and the much, much smaller wine tax. So, your £4.99 wine from Tesco should cost about £2.40, all taxes paid, if you buy it at source.
There’s something for everyone to taste in the chalet-style tasting room next-door to Château de Fontenay at Bléré on the river Cher: reds and rosés from cabernet, cot (the south’s malbec) and grolleau, sweet white chenins, bone dry sauvignons, sparkling chardonnays… The dry rosé – Les Garennes 2008 – won a gold medal at Macon last year and it’s available at the end of this month.
After a wine tasting there’s lots to do along the valley of the Cher. In Bléré there’s an award-winning cheese maker (one of the best in France), and there are many small farms nearby where you can buy meat, eggs and vegetables ‘at the gate’. For more energetic pursuits, you can take part in harvest days, go hiking or a take a pleasant bike ride along the towpath to the beautiful renaissance château of Chenonceaux; as you reach your destination, the view from the river is spell-binding.
A perfect example of the dry Touraine style – an intense pink robe with orange tints revealing aromas of red fruits, plum blossom and broom. Propped-up by a full, fruity mouthful of pleasure, this medal winner is the consummate accompaniment to summertime barbecues.
To book a room – or a gite – at Fontenay, click here for details…
Chateau de la Tuilerie is the family wine estate of Chantal Comte, a progressive and charismatic winemaker with a passion for art and culture. This month Chantal’s daughter Diane is hosting a tasting of Tuilerie’s wines on the 25th of March in London’s Cavendish Square. You can sample the delightful Costières de Nîmes reds, whites and rosés at the Maison de la région Languedoc Roussillon:
Thusday 25th of March from 2pm to 7pm, 6 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PD
Château de la Tuilerie ‘Grenache Blanc, Viognier’ 2008 Costières de Nîmes
Northerly Mistral winds and sea breezes from the coastal plain cool the vines and create the fresh, lively character of this grenache/viognier blend. Aromas of white blossom, peach and pear-drops leap out of the glass.
For details of staying at Tuilerie’s sumptuous Bastide de Fabrègues click here.
Ouest France, 12 March 2010 – full article here.
My very good friends Chrystelle and Jean-Marc Lirand, owners of Chateau Roche-Pressac near Saint Emilion, explain the new ‘Côtes de Bordeaux’ labelling. Here’s the video from the French TV station TF1…
Roche-Pressac is a must for lovers of rich, mineral ‘côtes’ wines; Chrystelle is the head of the Order of the Brotherhood of Castillon Wines, and a great cook too. www.laroche-pressac.com
The côtes vines at Chateau Roche-Pressac