One has to wonder whether Dr L, like Dr Dre, is a self-diagnosed doctor lacking any formally recognized qualifications.
Why else would he – like an early twentieth-century quack prescribing cigarettes to cure a cough – mass-market a bargain-bin Riesling via one of the world’s most domineering supermarket giants?
What ills does this cure?
Well, at the price of £2.85, I guess it’ll cure you of the need to serve extra-strength cider with your curry on a Friday night – if you’re poor, as many of us are or have been or will be at some point in our lives. Of course, our poverty (if we’re spending our work or leisure time reading Whitewine.co.uk) is all relative when compared with the citizens of the Philippines, Sierra Leone or Wolverhampton. But times are genuinely hard – that’s not just a media-and-politics-led browbeating campaign to convince us to sign up to fewer credit cards. Groceries in particular have skyrocketed in recent times, which is why it’s such a pleasant (if slightly suspicious) sight to see a single-varietal bottle of white wine on a supermarket shelf at a price that even the most strapped for cash might be able to afford.
And it ain’t going to be there at that price for much longer. (Actually it’s out of stock now, and may have been on offer in the first place. But this still stands.) Even with the low-alcohol nature of these bright and breezy German shelf-fillers (about 8% usually), the proposed 45p per unit rate on alcohol is symptomatic of a legislative body that has no idea what it’s like to be poor enough that one buys booze this cheap.
When I first moved to London I lived for my Friday night bottle of Strongbow and packet of rich tea biscuits – sad as that sounds. And I know many other people with similar stories. Resorting to cheap booze does not mean you’re an alcoholic; it means you’re poor. Alcoholics – like any other addicts – will steal and rob and fight and do pretty much anything to lay their hands on their drug of choice. Raising the cost won’t stop them depending. Sure they might end up poor; but if they start out rich in the first place then this – as with so many of the current government’s policies, or any government’s polices – won’t touch them. They can keep stocking up on crates of crusted port until they’re riddled with gout.
Raising the minimum price of a bottle of wine to £4.22 may end up pushing up the prices of the rest of the bottles on the market too no doubt – almost certainly up to the £15 quality threshold. People won’t want to charge the same price for their entry-level quality wines as others charge for their floor-scraping skins-and-sticks wines. Good wine may get further away from being an accessible product for everyday people; wine elitism, on the decline since the ’80s, will be back with a vengeance.
This bottle of largely simplistic, but fruity and aromatic, Dr L Riesling isn’t something I’d really truly miss if it disappeared from the shelves forever. But at 8.5% alcohol, and approximately 6.5 units per bottle, this bottle would cost – under the proposed minimum unit price of 45p… *does maths* …a grand total of… oh. £2.93. Okay so maybe this wasn’t the best example. But port! How about port! A 75cl bottle of special reserve port at 20% alcohol will have to cost at least… £6.75. Wow! What a bargain!
On second thoughts I’m all for this proposed 45p rate, as long as it doubles up as a maximum unit cost as well as a minimum, and extends to all alcohol outlets.
Think about it: no more £100 bottles of champagne bankrupting you at the bar on your friend’s birthday night out; no more wallet-walloping cocktails at the work Christmas do; no more … well, you get the picture.
So I guess this won’t affect wine too much. But that doesn’t make it right!
Meanwhile, other (better) Rieslings are available, but not for under £3 they’re not, and there’s enough bang here to render your couple of bucks well-spent. Let’s hope it’s back on the shelves soon.