Thursday 17 April 2014

Win a Year's Supply of Wine!* (*If you don't drink very much…)

The best competition prize ever offered was surely when Woolworth’s said you could win your weight in Pick n’Mix. Fabulous! Your own weight in confectionery! Of course, it would never be allowed nowadays. The health lobby would be down on you like a ton of Twix.

I am not one for competitions. I have never, for example, won anything on the lottery, although there are those who say I would give myself more of a chance if I actually bought a ticket. But even I have been tempted recently by competitions proclaiming that I could win a year’s supply of wine. It sounded like my ideal prize. However…

The obvious thing to ask is, a year’s supply for whom? Gerard Depardieu? (When the French actor had emergency multiple open-heart surgery, doctors warned him to cut out his four to five bottles of red wine and three packets of Gitanes a day. Of course, he responded. He stopped smoking.)

To avoid supplying such prodigious consumers, promoters state, in their terms and conditions, how they define “a year’s supply of wine”. And depressing reading it makes.

For example, “A year’s supply” of Virgin Wines has been widely offered as a prize, by a train company, a travel agent and, in an unusual drink/driving combination, the AA. “One lucky winner,” they said, “will receive five cases throughout the year – each containing 12 specially selected bottles. That’s one case every three months – plus an extra case for Christmas.”

All three competitions defined 60 bottles as your “year’s supply”. Five bottles a month. Or four if that “extra case” is for your Christmas party. Is one bottle a week a reasonable supply for anyone who enjoys wine?

Tesco were a little more generous in their version of the competition. Their year's supply in a 2011 competition was 12 cases, more than twice as much. But “12 cases as selected by the Promoter in its sole discretion”. A worrying proviso to anyone who has seen some of the stuff the Promoter selects, in its sole discretion, to put upon its shelves.

Indeed, Tesco ran a similar competition to win a year’s supply of Hardy’s wine. (It would be too easy to suggest the second prize was two years' supply of it…) The terms and conditions define the prize as 12 cases of Hardy’s wine, plus one bottle signed by William Hardy, upon which they place a total retail value of “c.£656”.

Now I don’t know how they put a retail value on a bottle of Hardy’s wine signed by Mr Hardy – or, for that matter, one signed by Mr Laurel. But 145 bottles into £656 comes out at a fraction over £4.50 a bottle. And getting through nearly 3 bottles a week of £4.50 wine from Tesco sounds to me more like a penance than a prize.

A generous promoter might define “a year's supply” by expenditure rather than quantity. Last autumn Majestic, for example, offered £100 in wine vouchers every month for the next year. Now that’s a proper year's supply, whether you choose 16 £5.99 bottles a month or, with the opportunity to choose quality over quantity, a handful of higher-priced wines.

But that same amount was offered more than ten years previously, by Horse & Hound magazine, that stalwart of the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ and, I see, drinkin’ set. Their prize was “one year’s supply of wine to the value of £1,200.” The same £100-worth of wine a month; but back in 2001, when prices were considerably lower. 

“Quarterly dispatches of £300-worth of wine will be delivered to the winner’s nominated address,” they explained – but added the intriguing constraint that “No more than 72 bottles of wine to be sent in any one quarter.” That would still be an impressive 288 bottles, or 24 cases a year. Now that’s what I call a supply.

But why the constraint? Surely the Hunt weren’t going to drink wine that cost less than £4.16 a bottle? Did the transport costs of so many bottles to the Shires threaten to eclipse the cost of the wine? Or… was the health lobby beginning to rear its head?

For when Oddbins offered this prize in December, they took a very cautious position. “Oddbins is a responsible retailer,” they declared, “therefore ‘a year’s wine supply’ is based on government guidelines.” I work that out to a maximum 120 bottles or 10 cases a year. Unless, of course, you’re a woman – when a promoter would presumably be justified in saying that, following government guidelines, you should drink and therefore win rather less. 

But the thing is, most people do not drink their wine on their own. Obviously a year’s supply of, say, haircuts is limited to an individual winner; but you wouldn’t offer someone a year’s supply of electricity, and then try to divide its consumption between members of a household. My wine is shared with family and friends – why should my year’s supply be defined by my personal consumption?

The meanest year’s supply I have seen was offered by a serviced apartment company based in Reading. In the New Year, they ran “a Prize Draw to win a year’s supply of wine”. And they declared that “The winning prize shall be 12 bottles of wine.” 12 bottles? One bottle a month? Call that a year’s supply?

I don’t think I will be entering. Nor, I suspect, will Gerard Depardieu.


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