Make the most of your budget with Victoria Moore's money-saving tips. Learn how to buy cheap wine and see the best red and white wines for around £5.
All products were chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more and read about how we write BBC Good Food reviews. This page was updated in February 2020.
How much is too much to spend on a bottle of wine? For one in three people, the answer is even a penny more than £5, according to the consumer research group Kantar.
Responses to this news mostly fall into two camps. There’s the HORROR from the wine lover end and there’s the VINDICATED from all those who feel they might be treated like a pariah if they dare to admit that this is all they pay. And me? I wasn’t all that surprised.
Among those £5 drinkers will be those who can’t afford to spend more, those who could afford to spend more but who aren’t calibrated to be sensitive to taste (these same people might wince if they came round to my flat and heard me playing music out of a tiny, cheap speaker), and a third set who think they can’t afford to spend more but actually choose not to.
I’m talking about people like the photographer I once worked with on a wine shoot. We did a lot of tasting on that day. The photographer sighed and said he’d love to buy the £10 bottle of plush Argentinian malbec I had just showed him but – budgets, you know? Money was tight at home. I nodded. Across the afternoon he ordered and paid for two cappuccinos at £2.60 a piece – which I had particularly noticed because takeaway coffee is something I think I can’t afford.
Forgoing a takeaway coffee would be enough to upgrade the bottle of wine he planned to share with his wife at the weekend. It wasn’t the choice that surprised me (after all, why not choose a coffee or two over better wine?), but the fact that he didn’t seem to realise he’d made that choice. If you want to know how much better wine can be at £7.50 or £10 than at £5, you only need look at the numbers.
Duty on still wine in the UK is charged at a flat rate of £2.23 a bottle. VAT is 83p. Count £1.08 for the total margin (an importer and a retailer will need a cut), 36p for packaging and 20p for logistics and you have about 30p left for the wine itself (figures courtesy of Bibendum Wine). At £7.50 a bottle, the calculation leaves you £1.42 for the wine and at £10 a bottle you get £2.70-worth of wine. So it’s clear to see that upping your spend isn’t a fool’s game.
That said, you might be seriously budgeting this month so I’ve found two of the best wines I can for a fiver (or thereabouts). The red is a soft blend of tempranillo, bobal, cabernet sauvignon and garnacha called Toro Loco Reserva 2015 Spain (buy from Aldi – £5.49).
The white is the beautifully aromatic Gers 2018 France (buy in-store from M&S – £5) which is floral with a white grapefruit and green apple tang.
Also, my top tip for another way to budget: buy and drink a half bottle of wine and save the bottle. When you open a new bottle, immediately pour half the liquid into the half-bottle, cork it and save it for another time. It can keep up to a week like this.
Drink less, drink better.
This month I'm drinking
Les Hauts de Saint Martin Saint Chinian 2018 France (buy in-store from Co-op – £7.75)
This gorgeous blend of syrah, grenache, carignan and mourvèdre from southern France tastes of mulberries and chestnuts and is one of the best value high-street reds I know.
Great value wine pairings
Read more articles by Victoria Moore
Top sustainable wines for 2020
How wine has changed in 30 years
Why you should be drinking verdejo this summer
The best wine racks for you collection, reviewed
Why you should be drinking French malbec
How to choose wine
Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).
This page was last updated in February 2020. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at email@example.com. For information on alcohol guidelines, read our guide to drinking responsibly.