Wednesday 25 April 2012

A bottle of wine for 1p

Just take a look at the supermarket wine offer in the picture.

That’s right; two bottles for £12. 

One bottle costs £11.99. 

A second bottle costs just 1p.

Now obviously the whole thing is predicated on selling wine at £6 a bottle. This is just a different way of promoting two bottles for half the ostensible price. Only an idiot would not buy a second bottle. Alright.

But nevertheless, it enables me to say that I have bought a bottle of wine for 1p. 

This is the sort of thing which brings simple joy to some men’s hearts. Well, CJ’s heart. Indeed, even my own good wife, upon hearing that I had bought a bottle of wine for 1p, asked if I could get some more, without even tasting it. That is, worryingly, a very CJ approach. But not mine.

No. I, typically, have tied myself in knots, wondering whether this second, 1p bottle of wine was really worth £6, or £11.99, or 1p, or some other mythical sum. 

Shamefully, my first thought was whether I could return a 1p bottle for a refund of £11.99. I wasted considerable time trying to work out a way to finesse this. What if you buy two bottles, and take the second one back? Ah, but your receipt would show you’d bought two. So, what if you buy three bottles, with the third on a separate receipt? You take back one of the first two, with the second receipt… No, this was like one of those matchstick puzzles, where you remove three matchsticks to make five, and the answer’s always in Roman numerals. 

(“Ah, mercator Sainsbury. I bought III bottles of wine, of which II cost XI pounds and XCIX pence…”)

Now, I have tried and failed to get my head around some of the big numbers quoted in some of today’s fantasy economics. They bear little relation to the economics which I once studied, and which seemed largely predicated on the costs of guns and butter. Take the global debt, for example, which, at the time of writing, is a 14-digit number  more akin to calculations in astral physics. Or a short-term payday loan, which quotes an annual interest rate of 1737% But now here I am, being troubled by a sum at the opposite end of the financial spectrum.

You might be surprised by what you can actually buy for a penny. There are all sorts of things on eBay starting at a penny. On Amazon you can buy secondhand books such as the Harry Potter paperbacks for just 1p. Okay, the postage will cost you another £2.80, which probably means it would be cheaper to find a copy in a charity shop, but it’s still a move on from the days in which you were limited in your childhood spending choices to penny chews. (Which, I am appalled to find, are now over 4p each.) 

The problem is that a penny is now such a derisory sum. Would you even stoop to pick up a penny? Be honest now; on a wet pavement, with its potential history of canine evacution, and what the London Underground coyly refer to as “human spillage”?

There is, of course, a traditional notion that, if you look after the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves. Well, not in my experience they don’t; you just end up with several pennies.

(You have to be a bit realistic with these old aphorisms. Again, in my experience, see a pin and pick it up, and all the day you’ll have…a pin.)

(Oh, and a pricked finger. And possibly tetanus.)

And if a penny is such a worthless thing, that must surely influence our view of a wine with that derisory price tag.

There has been serious research into the way in which the price of wine alters our expectations and perceptions of taste. People use what is described as a “price-quality heuristic” to balance expectations of what they will get for their money. (Whether the “price-quality heuristic” applies to Harry Potter books for 1p is not today’s subject.) So surely, it behoves me to consider any wine according to its price, or prices?

So according La Patrie Cahors 2010 the respect an £11.99 wine deserves: it had that typically inky colour redolent of Cahors. It had a strong, sharply blackcurranty bouquet, and was smooth in the mouth with just a bit of tannin grip around its edges. But it’s not a stayer – it lacks the strong character of a good paysan wine, and becomes flat and a little lifeless in the glass. Frankly, there are much better examples of Cahors available for around £9. 

But the 1p bottle had the ominously dark colour of soy sauce blended with pomegranate juice. It had a medicinal bouquet, like blackcurrant cough lozenges, and slid down like paraffin, leaving just a bitter aftertaste clacking at the sides of my mouth. Flabby, dull and uninteresting.

At neither price can this Cahors really be recommended. But if you want to forget the fiscal worries of fantasy economics, any 1p wine has to be a better and more rapid form of mind-numbing escapism than a similarly-priced Harry Potter paperback. 



  1. Sainsbury's are currently giving 25% off any six bottles so your second bottle could be 0.75p. Tasting better or worse now?

    1. Sadly, that is only offered on the original, £11.99 price.

      Which, of course, introduces yet another pricepoint at which it could be considered - £12-25%, or £9.

      Which they could, presumably, have promoted as "Original Value + 50%!'




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