Never good news when tax rises on wine. However, the UK government has decided to overhaul the alcohol duty system quite radically. The current duty rate on wine up to 15% alcohol is £2.67 including VAT (yes, there is VAT on duty). From the 1st August the new duty rate per wine bottle inc VAT will be £3.21 for wines between 11.5% and 14.5% alcohol. A fairtly heafty increase. Maybe a good time to write to your MP? Also! Buy your Christmas Port and Sherry NOW! They will be going up about £1.50 AT LEAST as they are 15%-20% alcohol.
What we can expect to see is a proliferation of lower alcohol wines (under 11%) to try and negate the impact of the duty hike, particularly on supermarket shelves . There are a few ways that this is being achieved, here are some (but not a comprehensive list):
1) Add water to dilute the wine. Obviously dilutes the flavour too. Brings a new meaning to “it tastes a bit watery to me”!
2) Pick your grapes earlier. This means less ripe = less sugar = less alcohol = more acidity. Expect sharper and leaner flavours and wine with alkali added to counter the acidity. Might taste a little “fake”.
3) De-alcoholise the wine. Done by pressure differentials across a semi-permeable membrane. Theoretically preserves the majority of the “wine” flavour whilst reducing the alcohol. Has to be done by someone who knows what the are doing. Can work reasonably well for day-to-day quaffing wine.
4) Add grape juice. Yes, just don’t ferment some of your grapes (keep the juice away from yeasts). Bottle the wine sterile and hey presto, you have a cheaper lower alcohol, sweeter product. Great if you don’t like dry wine!