Where do you buy your wine? Chances are that for most people the answer is a supermarket. Well, I think that’s a mistake. Before I start I feel I should admit a little self interest. I’m not an unbiased observer. After all I run a wine shop. But that’s really not the point.
Cornwall is a small place. We have few big employers, jobs are hard to come by. Many of the people I know in Cornwall work for themselves in one way or another. The biggest reason I can give you is to support these people and your community. We are lucky in Cornwall that many towns do still have local butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and even wine shops run by local people.
You should be familiar with the argument by now. You spend money in these shops, they make money, their owners have money to spend in other businesses. All of this supports the local community. Look at the alternative; you spend money in a big supermarket, the profits disappear off to faceless shareholders and the locals get jobs stacking shelves in return.
Just visit Helston if you want to see how it works. Two huge supermarkets and a high street full of charity shops and places up for lease. Thank heaven for the two Olivers, furniture and butcher, both holding out for local business and a bit of quality among the gloom.
Those are the localist and economic arguments, all quite valid. But what about the wine? Well, I’m biased again I know, but I think small shops do it better. They get to know you and your tastes. Often you will deal with the owner or the person who buys the wine. Once they know what you like they will be able to recommend wines to suit. Did you ever try asking for advice in the supermarket? Will this go with my chicken casserole? People would think you were crazy.
Another big difference is scale. Supermarket wines literally sell by the truckload. So their producers make a lot of wine. Much may be good, reliable stuff, but to me the perfect bottle is something from a small, passionate, artisan producer, something more grown than made. Maybe not always technically perfect, but vibrant, interesting and with a story to tell. These are the wines you find in small specialist retailers, if only because they are available in quantities too small for the big boys to bother with.
Now I know there is a big argument about convenience, you can just pop a couple of bottles in the trolley along with all the rest. But, how much wine do you drink a month? Six bottles? Twelve? Come on. Maybe 18? You could roll this up into a monthly trip to the wine shop, buy a couple of cases at a time. While you are there you can talk to the staff, taste a bottle or two, they might even deliver. They might even give you a bit of discount on that quantity. It might be fun.
Perhaps you like a bargain? Thirty, forty, fifty percent off? It sounds tempting don’t you think? Well, call me cynical, but I just don’t believe those figures. Let me give you an example. I saw a bottle of Prosecco advertised in one supermarket before Christmas at half price, bringing it down to £9 a bottle. Well £9 is a pretty sharp price for a bottle of sparkling wine, but was it ever £18? It would be a decent Prosecco if it was.
Are you convinced? I hope so. If you are, I’ve listed some shops you could try. But it’s not just wine; don’t forget the butcher, the baker, all your local shops really.