WINE O’CLOCK: Raise a patriotic glass to Paschal Donohoe
IN France, Spain or Portugal it is easy to buy a perfectly decent bottle of wine for a fiver or less. In Ireland you can only do this if a supermarket has a struck a deal with the supplier or decided, for some reason of its own, to subsidise the cost.
That’s because Irish excise duty on wine is the highest in the EU. Since duty is a fixed charge, it hits cheaper wines disproportionately.
A report from Drink Ireland shows that 54% of the price of a €9 bottle of wine goes to the taxman.
For some mysterious reason, sparkling wines are hit harder. If you can find a €9 bottle of the fizzy stuff, you will no doubt be gratified to know that you are contributing €6.37 of the purchase price to the Exchequer. I hope you feel proud.
Unsurprisingly, it is the countries that produce little or no wine which tax it hardest.
Finish consumers pay €2.83 tax on a €9 bottle of wine, British consumers pay €2.43, Swedes pay €1.83, and Lithuanian consumers pay €1.24.
Fourteen EU member states charge no duty and they include Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Because supermarkets do deals, it is sometimes possible to find cheap wine in Ireland that won’t damage your health or give you an awful hangover.
I recently made a stew which involved cooking beef slowly in a lot of red wine. So I went to the supermarket looking for the cheapest red and, on a Tesco shelf, I spotted Marqués de León, a Spanish wine going for a fiver.
I poured most of it into the stew and sipped the remaining glass. I won’t pretend to have discovered one of the world’s great wines but it wasn’t bad at all – a light, smooth red, not unlike a Beaujolais. And I don’t mean not bad for a fiver. If I had paid €10 or €12 for this I would not complain.
Dunnes have an unusual little Riesling, Michel Schneider Hock, for just €6 and, if you search around their bottom shelves, you will sometimes find Spanish or Italian reds for around a fiver. Raise a glass of it to Paschal Donohoe. Most of that fiver is going to his Department of Finance.