Among the most talked about of today’s budget measures was an increase of a euro on the price of a bottle of wine. This raised alarm among some of the heartier partiers of my aquaintance.
The great and the good of Ireland’s public Twittersphere were also greatly discommoded.
There was some pessimism.
But others sought to reassure.
Alas, Oireachtas Retort, I have some bad news. Irish Bucky isn’t quite fortified enough. The brown rocket fuel produced for the good health and lively blood of UK consumers has 15% alcohol content by volume. The product our Benedictine friends make for connoisseurs in the Republic produces marginally less thrust at just 14.8% ABV. The “Lurgan Champagne” of legend comes in a green bottle and the Irish version comes in brown — but I’m sure I’ve seen the green one on Southern shelves before.
Ireland and the UK have similar excise duty regimes on alcohol. Both set 15% as the boundary between fortified and normal wines, and apply duty based on the total volume of product. Irish Buckie just doesn’t have the escape velocity to get out of the targeted tax band. Duty is charged at a flat rate by the total product volume, without taking alcohol content into account. This means that Buckfast Tonic wine will still be among the cheapest wine-based tipples by alcohol unit.
(As an aside, this has an interesting effect on the cost breakdown of cheap wines for the retailer, with as much as 60% of the price of a €5.99 bottle being tax. This means a hike in the duty on wine is most likely to be passed on to the consumer in the price of cheap plonk. Karu fans beware!)
But let’s get one thing straight: the government are not intentionally trying to stop cheap fun. The duty hike is simply to bring booze pricing back into line with the situation back in 2009 when the Republic was all in a tizzy about cross-border shopping. The Budget for 2010 aimed to take the power out of the Northern supermarkets’ alcoholic loss leaders. Now that the VAT differential is gone and Irish thrift-seekers are no longer clogging the A1 to buy cheap ham and cornflakes, it’s business as usual.
You probably won’t make it to the offie for closing time at ten before they jack up the duties tonight. So, you’ll have to settle for a hot chocolate while you watch this groundbreaking documentary from BBC Scotland. I suggest you Irish it up if you think you can afford the extra ten cent the shot of whiskey will cost you. Drink responsibly, or at the very least, don’t blame me afterwards.