Indies on the hunt for wines below £15

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Consumer budgets will remain under pressure in 2023 – but independents say they are confident of meeting the needs of price-conscious customers.

Many suppliers and retailers are planning to champion sub-£15 wines from their range in the coming year to ensure that consumers continue to shop in the specialist wine trade, despite rampant inflation, higher mortgage costs and soaring utility bills.

At Noble Grape in Cowbridge, south Wales, 168 wines have price tags lower than £15, according to owner Richard Ballantyne. That compares to 224 between £15 and £30, and 188 above £30.

Ballantyne does not believe it’s becoming harder to find good wines below £15. “We’ve seen a little bit of a creep upwards on price with some wines at the lower end, but nothing really to worry me,” he says.

“Almost anywhere can produce good wines at this price, but I’d say mostly Italy. Two of my best-selling reds under that price are from the southern half of Italy. New Zealand not so much. South Africa occupies a mostly higher price point with me, and France doesn’t really have much interesting stuff below £15 unless you go away from classic regions. Spain, yes, but with much less variety – at Noble Grape, at least.”

Like many indies, Ballantyne reports that customer numbers and basket value are marginally down, but his average selling price per bottle has risen to £16.01.

Jim Dawson of The Jolly Vintner Too in Bournemouth also says that consumers are reducing their basket spend rather than the amount they spend on individual bottles.

“I do have a strong sub-£15 range and I focused on this in December,” he says. “I’m not sure I will expand it in 2023 – it depends on whether I find anything in the January and February tastings.

“Spain, Argentina, Italy, southern France and Portugal all offer great wines under £15.

“Suppliers, especially Boutinot, do wonderfully well sourcing quality wines under £15.”

At Portland Wine Cellars in Southport, owner David Smith says that customers are reducing their spend, with footfall also down by about 15%.

“I have managed to find about 40 good wines that sell for less than £15,” he says. “The main areas are Chile, Argentina, Portugal and Spain.”

But Smith feels not all suppliers are being supportive. “Some of them are, but I feel many could do more to help the independents to get good deals on good wines. I am afraid the big boys get better deals.”

Nick Underwood of Underwood Wine Warehouse in Stratford-upon-Avon believes there are decent sub-£15 wines on the market “if one bothers to look”. But he adds: “Too many importers create and push expensive boutique brands so they can take more money off the independents.”

Jason Millar of Theatre of Wine in London says: “Everyone is under the same pressures, so whether we import directly or buy in the UK, sub-£15 wines are becoming tougher to source and the value is less for customers.

“But some suppliers do better than others, definitely, with larger suppliers offering a wider range of these wines overall due to economies of scale. Specialists focusing on areas that are keenly priced, such as South Africa and Portugal, obviously have an advantage.

“Sub-£15 has always been a focus in our range, as there are many serious wine lovers who don’t want to spend more than £15 regularly. If as a retailer you’re only there for the £30 wines, they will simply buy their more everyday stock online or at the supermarket.

“We always seek to expand this part of the range, but it is getting more difficult with cost increases globally.”

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