Budget 2013 'should have done more' to help consumers buy wine

Continued above-inflation increases in alcohol duty are making it harder for consumers to buy wine - and may be illegal, according to an industry trade body.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association explains that there is "legal precedent" suggesting that no one category of alcoholic beverage can be singled out for a reduction in duty, at the expense of the others.

However, that is just what the 2013 Budget has done, putting in place an average 1p per pint cut in beer prices, but with a 10p rise on a typical bottle of wine, and 53p on a bottle of spirits.

In the five years since the alcohol duty escalator was introduced, a bottle of wine has gone up by 67p due to duty alone, a 50% increase in taxation.

The WSTA points out that this is at a time when the economy as a whole has stayed broadly flat, making it even harder to buy wine in real terms.

"The chancellor's decision ignores the growing value of the English wine industry and the UK spirits industry, which accounts for 18% of all jobs in the EU spirits industry," says WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.

Of course, wine merchants continue to take efforts to make it possible to buy wine at affordable prices and, although changes in duty are expected to be passed on to consumers in retail prices, buying wine online remains a good option to find good labels at relatively low prices.