The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has called on the government to scrap duty hikes and “avoid prohibitive price rises, which will further fuel inflation”.

With a month to go until new duty measures come into force, the WSTA said there is still time to scrap duty hikes.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “We are careering towards an extremely tough period for wine and spirit businesses with tax hikes and other costs, including a prolonged cost of living crisis for their consumers, persistently high inflation – especially for food and drink – and rocketing prices for glass, leaving little room for many businesses to turn a profit. Inevitably some won’t be able to stay afloat, with SMEs most at risk.

“Amongst all this pressure the government has chosen to impose more inflationary misery on consumers on 1 August, with the biggest single alcohol duty increase in almost 50 years. But it’s not too late to scrap these crippling duty hikes.”

Beale said that the new duty regime discriminates against premium spirits and wine more than other products. 

“Wine from hotter countries – like new trade deal partner Australia – will be penalised most of all, because the grapes grown in hotter climates naturally produce higher alcohol wines,” he explained. “And, at the same time, you cannot reduce alcohol in wine like you can for some other products. Making wine isn’t an industrial process; reducing wine’s alcoholic content is limited, changes the product and is costly to carry out. Nor can the alcohol in full strength spirits be reduced for products such as gin, vodka and whisky where a minimum strength is prescribed by law.” 

Beale added that the Sunak-Hunt changes to wine duty will reduce consumer choice and push up prices.

“For spirits you can expect at least a £1 increase on a bottle of gin or vodka and a leap of £1 per bottle of wine when duty is increased by 20% (+VAT).

“Wine and spirit businesses are looking to find ways to keep their products affordable, but there is no quick fix, and there are too many tax and costs increases and too few options – especially for wine and full strength premium spirits where reducing ABV simply isn’t realistic.”