The Secrets Behind Your Favourite Corner Shop Wines

Posted: Feb 22, 2022

Jacob’s Creek. Gallo. Yellow Tail. Fat Bastard. Echo Falls. Barefoot. Concha Y Tora, a winery once described by footballer Wayne Rooney as “a legend”.

The chances are that you will have seen these wines thousands of times in your life, glancing at them, sometimes investigating them, often purchasing them, on visits to corner shops. Frequently they are your most reliable wines. Sometimes, they are your most regrettable.

The pandemic has seen off-trade wine sales (retail conducted outsides of premises like bars and restaurants) skyrocket. In 2020, Britons purchased more than one billion bottles of wine, a 13 percent increase on 2019. Corner shop wine sales are bigger than ever. In 2021, Accolade Wines, maker of what is possibly one of your dad’s favourite wines, the Shiraz Jam Shed, sold four million litres of this Australian supermarket smash hit in the UK alone.

Corner shop wines are often misunderstood and the recipient of both praise and abuse. For the doubters, memories of spending £5 on the cheapest bottle in the shop as an undergraduate still sting, a notable offender being Lambrini (not actually a wine, but a sparkling pear cider from Liverpool).

So where do these £10-and-under corner shop stalwarts come from? How did they come to dominate the shelves of your local newsagent – and are they best tossed aside like an uncorked, gone-off bottle of Malbec once you can afford something more expensive?

For Andrew Catchpole, editor of drinks trade publication Harpers Wine & Spirit, wines like those made by Jacob’s Creek or Gallo are “incredibly important because they’re the first point of contact for many wine drinkers”, playing a pivotal role in how they begin drinkers’ journey in wine. According to research by Wine Intelligence, a division of the IWSR Group focused on wine consumer research and insights, 46 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the UK buy their wine in corner shops, in contrast to just 20 percent of those aged over 45.

The key to why these corner shops brands remain so popular and ever-present is the consistency in how they are made. Winemaking nations like France, Germany and especially the UK are susceptible to varied climate conditions. Wines with a year on their label (known as vintage wines) will range in taste each year. In France’s renowned left bank of Bordeaux, for example, publication Wine Spectator ranks 2015 as one of the best years for left bank wines, ranking them 97 out of 100, while 2007 saw the vintage scored 86/100 (regardless, bottles often go for tens of thousands of pounds.)

It’s the consistency of weather conditions in countries like Chile, Australia and New Zealand puts them at the front lines of corner shop wine production, with many producers there creating reliable tipples that often cost under a tenner. Wine educator Jimmy Smith explains that these wineries will be “aiming to make something that is nearly always the same”. He notes that for consumers this consistency can have a huge appeal due to the “brand reassurance” of having a wine that is guaranteed to taste the same year-in, year-out.

By Josh Dell
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