Yesterday, The Drinks Business reported on the Brits’ wine buying habits, saying: “A Brit’s “perfect bottle” is red, Australian, from a big name brand, has a screw cap, costs on average £5.83 and is bought from a local supermarket, according to a recent survey by Cobevco.”
Call me sentimental, but I still love the idea of walking into a small wine shop with a wine-loving owner, who can actually help you find a pairing to your Carbonara, has probably been to the vineyard or met the winemaker and who will, if you are lucky, pour you a tasting of his latest discovery. According to the Cobevco report however, only 6% of wine buyers in Britain still visit these off-licence shops.
But all sentiment and romance aside, one can understand the trend. In today’s hurried life, few of us have the luxury of time to browse an intimate wine shop and chat to the shopkeeper. We run into supermarkets on our way home after work to get something for supper and then grab a bottle of wine. If we can get two for the price of one, that is even better!
While it is quite easy to understand the convenience factor, I worry about everything else we sacrifice. Although we know that supermarkets, especially the promotion-based British retail, negotiate good deals for their customers – only a certain quality can be sold at an average of £5.83. I am worried that the convenience factor is not only influencing when and where we buy, but also what we buy. Is wine sold in supermarkets really becoming a commodity? Are hasty shoppers just running past the wine aisle, looking for something familiar and on promotion?
Supermarkets are of course only offering consumers what they need, but by getting what they need, wine buyers might be losing out on what I think they really require – the opportunity to consider a few wine options, to think what will work with dinner tonight, to study the style of the wine, perhaps to muse about the holiday in Spain or Alsace or South Africa and remember that special bottle… Is that not part of what makes wine special? Yes, sometimes it is all about relaxing with a glass after a tough day at the office, but even then it can be more– if we only allow ourselves the time.
So, how about shopping for your wine online? While online shopping has been a big thing for a while, it is only fairly recently that it really caught on in South Africa. But now, even here we can easily browse through online catalogues, order, pay and have it delivered in a day or two. Suddenly we have access to a selection wider than what you can find in most stores and we can buy our wine in the quiet and peaceful surroundings of our home. Most online wine shops have links to the winery’s website, offer tasting notes, suggestions on food partners and maturation and serving temperature. Convenience shopping has come a long way and perhaps now, it can bring us back to being adventurous and romantic and sentimental in our wine choices. Perhaps we are willing to spend a bit more and again have dinner conversations about the origin and the taste of the wine, rather than the bargain price.
We all love convenience but it has caused us to sacrifice quality and enjoyment. Perhaps not anymore?