Jonathan Ray

Why isn’t George Osborne more supportive of the English wine industry?

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Yet again wine drinkers get it straight in the goolies from the Chancellor. Duty on wine will rise with inflation while that on beer, cider and spirits will remain as it is, having been cut last year.

We endure almost the highest duty levels in the EU (after yesterday’s announcement, duty has risen to £2.08 per 75cl bottle, up from £2.05) and when one tots up the fixed costs of a bottle of £4.99 wine – the glass, the capsule, the label, the import costs, the profit margin, the VAT, the new rate of duty and so on – the value of the actual wine inside will be no more than 45 pence and will quite likely be as little as 11 pence, depending on which figures you believe. The thing is, we’ll end up just drinking cheaper, crappier wine mass-produced in Australia or South Africa, with the fact that sterling has weakened against the Euro making imports from Europe more pricy.

English wine, specifically English sparkling wine made by the likes of Herbert Hall, Ambriel, Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Ridgeview, Coates & Seely, Camel Valley, to name just a few, just gets better and better, gaining plaudits, fans and awards wherever it’s tasted. Make no mistake: these wines are amongst the best fizzes in the world, including Champagne. It is disappointing, then, that rather than showing support for such enterprises, Mr Osborne whacks them with savage rates of duty at a level which astounds visiting overseas winemakers who can’t understand why our government isn’t more supportive of our own home grown industry and given decent tax breaks and incentives.

At this rate, by the decade’s end, Mr Osborne will have turned us away from wine and into a nation of scrumpy drinkers.