What’s the difference between under bond and duty paid?
Wines which are stored under bond have duty and VAT suspended and can be stored without paying these until such time as they are withdrawn from storage and delivered. At the point of withdrawal from Bond, the prevailing UK Duty will be payable, as will the current level of VAT, which is charged on the original purchase price, not the current market value.
Should you decide to later sell on some of your bond stored wines, they can be traded, without you ever having had to pay the duty & VAT. A buyer also has the reassurance of provenance, as bonded warehouses are obliged to keep very strict records.
UK Duty per 9ltr (12bot) is currently charged as follows:
Still Wines (5-15% abv) £24.60
Sparkling Wines (8.5-15% abv) £31.50
Fortified Wines (15-22% abv) £32.79
What makes one wine better than another?
Wow, that really is the ultimate question! Well, the bottom line is that although much about wine appreciation is down to personal taste, it’s not entirely subjective. Some wines really are created more equal than others. This starts with the environment the vines are raised in and is influenced by the way in which they are nurtured. The winery then plays its part, with winemaker and technology working to produce the finished wine. That’s not the end of the story, of course; we now have to consider the benefits of cellar ageing. At any step along the way, a wine producer could choose the easy road: planting vines on cheaper less suitable land, over-cropping, lack of investment in the cellar… The best producers cut none of these corners and that’s what makes the difference in your glass.
Is it really worth paying more and will I taste the difference?
Most people can taste the difference between a cheap bottle and an expensive one. They won’t necessarily prefer the more expensive wine, though! Some of the world’s finest wines can be an acquired taste. There are great value wines at all sorts of prices and sometimes an uncomplicated, everyday sort of a wine is what fits the time and the place. On the other hand, there’s no substitute for the thought provoking, sensation-stimulating effects of a truly complex wine and that kind of complexity is what fine wine is all about. Sometimes just a few Pounds more can result in a quantum leap in pleasure.
Does all wine get better with age?
No, no, no… Not all wines are produced with the expectation that they will be tucked away in a cellar for years on end. Much of the wine that is produced internationally, every year is best enjoyed in its first flush of youth. The exceptions are those that have particular characteristics, which allow a wine to grow more subtle and complex with time. These will often come from vineyard sites with long proven track records. They tend to be complex reds with sufficient tannin and balance. Whites benefit from a balance between richness and acidity, some of the finest examples being the sweeter, lower alcohol German Rieslings.
How should I store my wine?
Well, that depends on how long you plan on keeping it before pulling the cork. It is important to keep wine in the right conditions but if you typically buy to drink in the near future, then a purpose built cellar is probably overkill. The coolest, darkest room in your house will be fine. If, however, we’re talking about wines that you hope will improve in bottle of the course of years, then it’s time to take a look at the options. Wine refrigeration units have become very popular but beware, they soon fill up! Some splash out on spiral cellars, which can be dug beneath the floors of existing structures. Whilst these certainly offer more storage for your growing collection and don't require power, they still have a limited capacity. If you have a spare room, then insulating it and adding a temperature / humidity unit is a great option.
Ultimately, there’s no real substitute for either an old-fashioned underground home cellar or professional storage. Storing in a specialist wine warehouse can offer the peace of mind of excellent climate, high security and replacement value insurance. What’s more, there’s the advantage of keeping your wines under bond (link to above).
Where’s the best value to be found?
Of course, that depends on what you like to drink but right now there’s particularly good drinking value to be found in Spain, Italy and the Rhone. You might also be surprised by some of the current prices well-known Bordeaux chateaux are trading for. The dust seems to finally be settling after a couple of years of drastic price corrections for the world’s dominant fine wine region.
What impartial advice is out there to help me choose?
That’s an easy one… there’s lots! Here are a few of our favourite sites:
Decanter.com – UK based wine magazine
Jancisrobinson.com – Eclectic notes and musings from UK Master of Wine
Erobertparker.com – The most influential critic in the world
Burghound.com – The go-to place for Burgundy notes
Vinousmedia.com – The one to watch for Italy & Champagne
Wine-Searcher.com – Compare pricing
Liv-ex.com – Essential tool for investors