Joe Fattorini urges the Treasury to #cutbackwinetax
Twenty-five years ago I ran a restaurant in Glasgow, where I'd pour the odd glass of wine for a young politics lecturer called John Curtis. Today he's Professor Sir John Curtis, the UK's leading opinion pollster. If I ran that restaurant again, I'd ask him his view on wine. Not as a drinker. But as a pollster.
Politically wine is the UK's most important alcoholic drink. Because it's the UK's most popular alcoholic drink. There are 175ml and 33 million voters in every glass of wine. We're a diverse bunch. It's the most popular drink in every region of the UK. And in every age group in the UK. Although there is a skew. Wine is mostly bought and drunk by women. Women who have felt the sting of wine duty rates rising 40% in the last decade. They've looked on as beer drinkers - mostly men - have seen duty rates rise by just 16%. As Professor Curtis might put it, Worcester Woman has some questions...
Maybe politicians think wine is too foreign, or too posh, to look after. They'd be wrong. England's first winemaker was Gundulf of Rochester. He grew vines almost a thousand years ago. The wine helped him wind down after a hard day building The Tower of London and Rochester Cathedral. Just like you do today. Six hundred years later Sir Kenelm Digby invented the modern wine bottle. It restored his family's name a bit. His father had tried to blow up Parliament. (Wine drinkers are cross. But we're not that cross). But today, every wine bottle in the world is an example of UK innovation. Kenelm's friend Charles Merret was the first person to make sparkling wine. Another UK gift to the wine world.
And we keep innovating in wine. A bottle of Chilean wine on your supermarket shelf is usually bottle of UK-Chilean wine. Grown and fermented in Chile. Shipped to the UK using UK-developed technology. Bottled in the UK at the world's most environmentally sustainable bottling plant. And transported to your supermarket, or a German one, or a French one, or a Polish one, in better condition, and at lower environmental cost.
Around the time (Professor Sir) John Curtis came to my restaurant, there was a storyline in Eastenders where Grant and Tiffany Mitchell served Australian Chardonnay to Phil and Kathy. How do I remember this? Because it was so unusual it was reported in newspapers. Within a decade you were more likely to find a bottle of wine in a UK fridge than a packet of butter. Last year Yasmeen, Cathy, Brian, Imran and Sean had a wine tasting in Coronation Street. That didn't make it to the papers. Because today wine is part of everyday life for people in every corner of the UK. What did make the papers was when Coronation Street's script writers mistakenly suggested a large glass of red would cost just £3.00. Viewers knew that was a real piece of fiction.
Another duty rise will put the average price of a bottle of wine above £6.00. That's the point where 9.7 million UK wine lovers feel they just can't afford the UK's favourite drink. Like families with young children, who responsibly enjoy a glass to wind down after bedtime. And households on less than £30,000, who enjoy a glass as a treat (not a 'luxury') after a hard week at work. People of every background, getting together on a night out, just like the wine tasters of Corrie.
Write to your MP and tell them we must #cutbackwinetax. Write to Kemi Badenoch MP, the new Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, and tell her that lower wine duty means more UK jobs. Write to Rishi Sunak MP, the new Chancellor, and tell him that wine drinkers... wine voters... have had enough.