The UK has become a nation of wine drinkers, with millions of people stocking up on reds, whites and sparkling varieties every day. Whether you're looking for a couple of bottles for the weekend or a huge order for a big celebration, this buyer's guide will help you find the perfect bottles at the lowest possible price.
Alcoholic Beverages Made of Grapes
Wine and humans have a long, complex history. As far as we know, the first wines were made as long ago as 7,000BC, when Chinese people were enjoying variations of fermented fruit juice. The earliest vintners are lost to history, but we do know that by the time of the Greeks and Romans, winemakers had begun to perfect their art. The Greeks knew how to reduce wine's acidity to order, while Italy was covered in vineyards by the 2nd century AD.
In the Middle Ages, wine production continued, helped along by constant demand from the Catholic Church. Italians, Spaniard and Greeks all kept winemaking alive, and monastic experts started to experiment. For instance, Benedictine monks in the 17th century were pioneers in Champagne production.
Production grew steadily, until the 19th century saw a huge development in the history of wine. As the phylloxera blight destroyed much of France's wine industry, varieties were transplanted to South America, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and California, kick-starting the globalisation of wine that we are now so familiar with.
Nowadays, British wine lovers can enjoy varieties from Chile, the USA, France, Australia and even India. Wine in general has become the UK's most popular alcoholic drink (which has been helped by medical evidence that red wine has benefits for heart health). Some people believe that there are 30 million regular wine drinkers in the UK – so it's a huge market. That's great news for bargain hunters, with regular price drops on classic and new wines every week.
How is Wine Made?
At its most basic, wine is produced from the fermentation of grapes. Whether red or white wine is being made, grape varieties are harvested and then crushed to produce “must”. Now, the skins could be removed and the pulp juiced (if you are making white wine) or left on and fermented as they are (for red wine).
After that, the various grape must or skin mixtures are fermented for a few weeks, often with the addition of a little yeast to help things along. Then the skins are removed, along with any extra juice, and the wine is left to “age”. This could be in stainless steel vats or oak barrels (depending on the amount being processed and the kind of flavours winemakers are after). Aging periods vary, but between 1-2 years is normal for reds and 6 months can do for whites. After that, it's time to bottle.
Some Facts About White Bordeaux from the Wine Society
What Types of Wine Will You Find at UK Retailers?
Wine is a diverse product, with a huge array of grape varieties and tastes. However, broadly speaking the wines you'll find at UK supermarkets and clubs will fit into these main categories:
White wine – Varying from almost transparent to a kind of yellowy-straw colour, white wine is prized for its crispness and accessibility. White wine is “white” because it is made via the fermentation of the almost colourless pulp you find inside grapes, instead of using the skin as well (although red and white grapes can both be used to make white wine). Popular varieties include Chardonnary and Cabernet Sauvignon from France, Riesling from Germany and Frascati from Italy, although there are hundreds of sub-varieties, each with their distinctive flavour profile. White wines are generally ideal for summer events and pair up well with seafood, pork and desserts. It can be very dry or extremely sweet, depending on your taste, and tends to be slightly weaker than red wine in terms of alcohol by volume, though this isn't always the case.
Red wine – While white wine is often seen as a drink to refresh guests in warm weather (and is always served chilled if possible), red wine is a very different beast. Made solely from dark grape varieties, red wine takes its colour from a pigment called anthocyanin, which is found in the skin of the grape. It's the skin that provides much of red wine's flavour, and different grape varieties tend to produce wildly different tastes. That's why different varieties attract cult followings. People tend to fall in love with popular types like Malbec, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Shiraz and Merlot – and within these categories, there are thousands of global producers competing to attract drinkers. Reds tend to match up well with red meat, cheese and rich desserts, and it's a great drink for family roasts and Christmas dinners. But it's more a drink to savour on its own. It also ages well, a major difference with white wine – which is why real fans love to build up their red wine cellars and find out how each vintage matures. Sometimes, this can yield big rewards as relatively cheap bottles mature into expensive masterpieces years down the line.
Sparkling wine – Champagne is easily the most famous sparkling wine variety, although there are many others, including Cava, Prosecco, Espumante and Sekt. Always made from white wine, sparkling varieties are generally infused with carbon dioxide bubbles via a secondary fermentation process (in the case of Champagne). Cheaper varieties are simply made by carbonating white wines, which loses some of the richness and diversity of more complex production processes, but still results in a refreshing, fizzy drink. It used to be the case that Champagne from major labels like Dom Perignon was out of reach for most drinkers. However, that's not the case any more. You can find very affordable bottles of Champagne, making them a fine addition to any celebration.
Rose – Recent years have seen a renaissance for Rose, a pink-coloured wine which balances the qualities of whites and reds. Rose is made by adding a small amount of grape skin to the fermentation process for a short period, before the skins are removed and the winemaking process continues. This means that they don't qualify as reds, but have a more complex flavour profile than most whites. The skins add a fruitiness to the finished product that neither reds or whites usually possesses, which may be why rose has become such a popular celebratory tipple.
Dessert wine – Less popular now than perhaps it used to be, dessert wine is stronger than conventional wine and is taken in small amounts at the end of a meal, often with cheese as an accompaniment. Famous examples include Port, Madeira, Marsala and Tokai – and there's plenty of variation between them. Dessert wines span a huge spectrum, from fizzy and sweet to rich, red and thick. They can be the ideal nightcap or way to round off a home-cooked feast, but be sure to find a variety you love.
Fruit wine – As people become switched on to local produce and regional cuisine, the UK's many indigenous fruit wines are coming back into fashion. Almost all of the country's fruits can be turned into delicious alcoholic drinks, from plums and pears to elderflowers, damsons and even parsnips. If you want to try something different or you want a distinctive mixer for cocktails, these fruity delights are a great drink to try.
How to Tell a High-Quality Wine
We've had a quick look at the world's main wine varieties, but what makes a wine truly special? After all, we aren't looking for wine deals for inferior products. At HotUKDeals, we want wine lovers to find the best wine at the best prices. So how can you tell a superior wine from the also-rans?
Naturally, the criteria vary depending on what kind of wine you're looking for, but there are some guidelines to bear in mind:
Balance is key – Good wines are almost always beautifully balanced. By that we mean that they offer a harmonious blend of acidity (from their tannins) and sweetness (from the sugar left over from the fermentation process). There shouldn't be any sudden jolts or lingering aftertastes.
Long is good – Although aftertastes are bad, “length” is good. What do we mean by length in the wine world? Well, it's all about how long the various flavours take to resolve themselves. A good wine appears in stages, from the first aroma and initial taste, to complex changes. It shouldn't last more than a few seconds, but there needs to be something more than an initial burst of flavour followed by a hollow flatness.
The morning after is just fine – Good wines are also pure wines. They aren't filled with impurities and sediments from the manufacturing process. Because they lack these impurities, they also tend to result in less serious hangovers. If you feel knocked for six the morning after sharing a new bottle, it's a sign that the wine isn't of the highest standard.
If you smell mould, it could be corked – Corking is the worst fate that can befall a bottle of wine, and it happens when bacteria feed on fragments of cork that have fallen into the bottle, creating a substance called trichloranisole, which destroys the wine's special taste. If you sniff the wine and it smells dank or mouldy, there's a fair chance it's corked. In that case, if you've already bought it, try to reseal it and take it back. The seller should always offer a replacement.
Don't steer clear of screw tops – In the past, people have been downbeat about screw tops, preferring traditional corks to seal their wines. However, these days, there are plenty of great screw top wines, so don't write them off. And they are much easier to open and reseal – a huge advantage for people who want their bottle to last a couple of days.
Different Ways to Buy Wine in the UK
When it comes to buying wine, UK consumers have a wide range of options. Most of the time, we tend to head down to the local supermarket to pick up a bottle or two, and that's often a convenient option that doesn't cost the earth. But there are other wine retailers around and a variety of ways to make your wine purchases.
Here's a quick guide to some of the UK's biggest wine sellers and how to get the best deals when you purchase with them.
Tesco – The UK's biggest supermarket is also the world's biggest wine retailer, and you'll struggle to find a bigger selection of global wines anywhere. You may also be surprised by the quality on offer, as well as by the multibuy deals that Tesco can deliver. Because they buy so much wine, there's always scope to slash prices, if only for a short time – so keep track of the latest offers at the HotUKDeals Tesco wine listings.
Majestic – Majestic is the UK's number one specialist wine retailer. Founded in 1980, the company runs outlets all over the UK. The firm specialises in selling wine in cases of six (their “mix six” deal lets you bundle a few different types together). If you order online or in-store, you can have cases delivered at a per bottle price that's well below the cost of individual purchases.
The Wine Society – The world's oldest wine club, the Wine Society originated in 1874 and is still operated as a member-owned cooperative business. From the start, the Society has sought to introduce its members to the best foreign (and now domestic) wines, forging links with producers and offering the lowest possible prices. Nowadays, if you sign up you'll be joining 120,000 members and a choice of over 1,000 hand-picked wines. All you need to do is purchase a lifetime share you can start ordering online.
Virgin– Although they may be better known for running airlines, trains, broadband services and gyms, Virgin also run a popular wine club of their own. Started in 2000, it was actually purchased from Richard Branson by Direct Wines in 2005, and is loosely connected to the broader Virgin organisation. Their site is a great place to request pre-mixed cases or assemble your own. By joining the WineBank club, you'll get free delivery for every order, as well as access to the WineInterest scheme, which earns credit while you shop, saving money in the future.
Key Accessories All Wine Fans Should Consider
Wine drinking isn't just about buying cases of the year's finest creations. There's a whole galaxy of accessories and kit that wine drinkers may need to store their collection and enjoy it at its best. Here are just a few accessories to be found at the HotUKDeals listings:
Racks – As your wine collection grows, you'll find that stacking bottles in the cupboard isn't the ideal option. Instead, ensure that every single bottle has a stable place to mature and is easily available to open when the occasion demands by purchasing a wine rack with enough capacity to fit your collection. You'll find shelved racks with individual holes for each bottle, classic cantilever style racks that can be folded flat when not in use, racks that mount onto walls, as well as mini tabletop racks for dinner parties.
Glasses – Every wine fan needs a selection of wine glasses for they and their guests to use. Retailers like IKEA are famous for offering affordable, reliable glasses and you can buy in bulk to save cash. Plastic glasses are perfect for big parties where you don't want to deal with smashed glass, while there are specialist glasses too, such as port glasses, dessert wine glasses and extra large glasses – so why not choose a comprehensive glassware collection?
Bucket Coolers – If you are serving Champagne or a classy white wine on a warm summer's day, it's vital to ensure that the wine stays nice and cool. The best way to do that is by placing it in a wine cooler, which features compartments for ice and is just the right shape to hold a standard bottle.
Aerators – When you see people tasting wine, they tend to swirl it in the glass before swigging. Why? Because swirling adds air to the liquid, helping to bring out the taste. But there's a better way than swirling. If you really want to accentuate the flavour of your prized reds, get hold of an aerator. Held in the hand, these easy to use devices can be placed on the table and used whenever you open a new red.
Fridges and electric coolers – Whites, roses and sparkling wines really need to be kept at a constant temperature, but standard fridges are usually either too cool or too warm. Instead, you can buy specialist fridges and coolers with racks that are shaped for wine bottles and settings that are tailored to different varieties.
Decanters – Serve your favourite wines in style with a glass or crystal decanter. These containers serve an important purpose, allowing sediment to settle on the bottom, and removing it from red wine.
4 Quick Money Saving Tips For Wine Lovers
Whenever you buy wine in the UK, saving money should be easy, particularly if you keep these tips in mind:
Use voucher codes – Whether you shop with Tesco or the Wine Society, HotUKDeals carries a huge variety of voucher code deals for red, white and sparkling wines, so don't forget to use them.
Think about joining a wine club – Wine clubs always offer cut-price wine deals – that's the reason for their existence! Well, that and finding exceptional wines that people might miss. If you intend to buy wine regularly, becoming a member is the route to better and cheaper wine.
Buy in bulk – When you find a wine that you love (and especially one that's on offer) don't hesitate to snap up a few cases. Buying in bulk often saves money when ordering online, and those deals won't last forever. You'll kick yourself when you see the same wines on sale if you miss out on a bulk purchase.
Don't forget about bin ends – Many wine sellers also offer what are called “bin ends”. These sections feature wines that are being phases out and sold off as sellers update their range. It doesn't mean they are bad wines, just that new vintages are becoming available. They can be a great place to find killer wine deals.
How to Stock Up Your Wine Collection at the Best Price
As you can see, there are many ways to find a great wine offer in the UK, and even the biggest wine snobs may well be costing themselves cash by failing to take advantage of all the money saving methods at their disposal.
At HotUKDeals, you'll find all of these money saving tips brought together in one place. We list all of the UK's best wine deals, whether they are from supermarkets like Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, or Lidl, or from wine clubs like the Wine Society or Virgin. If there are cases available for a pittance, you'll hear about it at HotUKDeals first.
Our listings are also a great place to check up on sales from UK retailers. These sales come and go. For instance, there may be big reductions for a few days before Valentine's Day, or Champagne deals during Christmas time before New Year's Eve. Sales can appear at any time, so whatever the occasion, check the HotUKDeals listings for the latest supermarket wine offers.
Wine used to be a luxury item that only a select few could afford. Nowadays, anyone can save money on fantastic reds and whites. It doesn't matter if you are buying for a wedding reception or a cosy night in with your partner, HotUKDeals will have bargain wines for everyone's taste, every day of the year.
Wine Discounts at HotUKDeals
It doesn't matter whether you want to celebrate special events, toast the sunset or stash a few bottles for the future, finding cheap bottles of wine has never been easier. Whenever you need a bottle or two, you'll find the finest reds, whites and sparkling varieties at the HotUKDeals wine listings.