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How much wine is really in a bottle

June 11, 2020 Tags:
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There are plenty of charts available showing how much wine is actually in a bottle based on its retail prices, showing us that in a £5.00 bottle there is actually only £0.36 of wine or £2.76 in a £10 bottle and telling us to think twice before buying a £5.00 bottle. Charts that take into account the different price components with the emphasis on excise duty and VAT – they account for the majority of their cost on lower priced wines – but to fairly determine the amount of wine inside a bottle, I believe we need to consider where the wine comes from.

Wine is now made all over the world, from China to Argentina, from Canada to New Zealand and whilst the duty and the VAT apply equally and independently on each and every single bottle of wine legally entering the UK market, a major, underestimated, factor when determining the amount of wine that it is found in a bottle, are the labour costs.

Different countries have different labour costs and there are large differences between countries. I have picked some of the biggest wine producing countries in the world to illustrate the differences and labour costs go from 1USD for Argentina to 11.13USD Chile, 20.12USD Australia and 35.62USD for Italy (the hourly labour costs have been taken from the “International Labour Organization” website, the latest data available refers to 2011 and while the actual cost would have certainly gone up, I expect the trend to be very similar). These significant differences tell us that at the lower end of the price range, to get more wine in our bottle, it is probably better to choose an Argentinean Malbech or a Chilean Sauvignon instead of an Italian Gavi or an Australian Chardonnay.

Cheaper wines, excluding the odd, very unpleasant Pinot Grigio or Prosecco at just about the duty and the VAT, tend to come from countries with lower labour cost and less workers rights - this post is not about shaming those countries.

Whether we agree with how much Argentinean or Chilean workers are paid or their rights, next time you are in charge of buying the wine and have a limited budget, together with duty and VAT, don’t forget to take into account where the wine is made, it will ensure a better drinking experience.
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