Reducing the tax on wine would be a corking idea, Rishi, says HELENA NICKLIN

The answer is more than half: 54 percent to be precise, which means that for an average-priced bottle of wine, which currently costs £5.93, £3.22 of that (including Duty plus VAT) goes straight to the taxman. If you compare this tax to what wine drinkers in France have to stomach, the contrast is startling. Their government only takes 3p a bottle. In Spain and Italy, it’s zero. The UK has the third highest wine duty rate in the EU. You’d have to go to Ireland and Finland to pay more.

Wine is now the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink, according to a recent YouGov poll, and is enjoyed by around 33 million people. This year, however, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has warned consumers that the average price of a bottle of wine is set to break the £6 mark for the first time. 

Tax rises on wine in the last decade (39 percent) have far outstripped those on beer (16 percent) and spirits (27 percent). 

In the past, politicians have repeatedly fallen into the trap of using the Budget to score points with the average “working man” and making a big play of cutting beer duty. But one unavoidable fact is that duty increases on wine hit women harder than they do men. 

A YouGov survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Wine Drinkers UK reveals that 39 percent of women list wine as their favourite alcoholic drink, with 7 percent choosing beer or lager. 

The last time still wine received a duty cut was in 1984, when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor. If you wind the clock back to then, when Only Fools and Horses was one of the most popular shows on TV, you might remember an episode called “Yuppy Love”. An example of how wine was viewed then and how seemingly some politicians appear to still view it. It featured the memorable scene when Del Boy (David Jason) tries to impress two women in a wine bar and falls through the bar hatch. Watch the clip back, you’ll see how dated the scene is. 

Wind the clock forward 30 years and guess what? Wine is no longer a drink for just the middle-class and wealthy. The latest Kantar data reveals that shoppers on lower incomes spend more on wine than beer. 

Despite its widespread popularity, wine has continued to be treated unfairly by the Government. In the last Budget, it was the only alcoholic drink to be singled out for a duty rise while the Chancellor froze spirits and beer. 

A duty cut for wine would not only benefit the consumer, but would also show support to the growing English and Welsh wine sector. 

Britain now boasts over 650 vineyards with more than 150 of them opening their doors to the public for tours and tastings, boosting the UK agricultural sector and providing high-quality rural jobs. 

Around two thirds of the UK’s wine industry’s production is sparkling wine, which attracts even more duty than still, at £2.86 per bottle. 

Thanks to the warmer weather and chalky soils found in the South of England our talented winemakers now make sparkling wine which rivals champagne, sometimes even outclassing it in blind taste tests. 

For proof of this, you only have to look at the UK winemakers’ impressively stocked trophy cabinet. 

The quality of our wine has been further endorsed by French champagne houses such as Taittinger and Pommery, who have invested in land in the South of England to make sparkling wine. 

Britain is the world’s second largest importer of wine by volume. Around 640 million bottles are imported in bulk every year. Much of this is bottled in the UK, in some of the biggest bottling plants found in Europe and then re-exported across the globe making wine the UK’s 5th largest food and drink export. 

The UK wine industry is worth £19billion in economic activity, including sales worth £8.9billion to shops and supermarkets and £4.2billion to pubs, bars and restaurants. Its thriving wine industry supports over 130,000 jobs. 

Wine Drinkers UK and the WSTA are calling on Rishi Sunak to stop favouring men over women, banish outdated views that wine is not for the working class and back British business – by cutting wine duty by 2 percent on March 11. 

If Del Boy found out how much duty he had paid for his glass of wine, I fear he would fall through the bar hatch again.

Helena Nicklin is a TV presenter and wine consultant

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