Christmas booze shortages feared

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Santa lit up a lake of fizz at the start of this month

British households could face long queues to pick up their festive wine and booze before Christmas, alcohol experts have warned.

Norman Wells, editor of The Wine Spectator, said there is no shortage of wine around, but there is “huge demand”.

Production is down and the quality is poor, he said.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the situation is manageable, although it advises of greater security for gifts when avoiding delivery to excess demand.

Wine at prices, it says, are at a premium but in some cases significantly below historical prices.

“The best wines, wine experts say, are the ones to come in at affordable prices but so far that’s not happening,” he told The Guardian.

“We think the pressure on local shops will be enormous but for the last few years there’s been a shortage of some categories of wine and if the trend continues this will still happen this year.

“For example, English sparkling wine is very very affordable and seems to be selling every week, and people can see it for what it is – sparkling wine made from large, spritzy mixtures of grapes and yeast. The English people have done an amazing job of growing these grapes.”

The government recently introduced the new Retail Distribution Code. However, the system does not cover alcohol – and sales continue in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Winchester-based Balance Wines, one of the UK’s oldest producers, is on the verge of collapse, after Tesco and Asda halted sales and were unable to pay suppliers.

But the industry is still in good shape compared with a decade ago, when the recession led to the shuttering of almost 15,000 pubs and the loss of around 300,000 jobs in the industry.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption More than 20,000 full-time and 2,500 part-time jobs have been lost since 2005

“Across the industry there’s an expectation there will be some price cuts by Christmas but we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Mr Wells added.

A Wine and Spirit Trade Association spokesperson said over-the-counter sales were actually down by one per cent year-on-year, which could reflect a more-secure supply of delivery wine and spirits.

“We do not anticipate any shortages and are advising the industry not to worry about buying before Christmas,” it said.

In 2007, there were about one million litres of wine and 1.7 million litres of spirits in UK homes. Now there are about 635,000 litres of wine and over 1 million litres of spirits, the association said.

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