8 Oct 2011

Half-price supermarket wines, double-price Sunday dinners and non-discount Laithwaites wine vouchers

I walked past a pub recently that had a big banner outside which read: "Two-for-one main courses all day Monday to Saturday!"

Imagine if that poster had actually read: "Double-price Sunday dinners every week!" I don't think it'd have had quite the same positive effect, but it would really be saying the same thing.

This week I received the latest mail-shot from Laithwaites Wines, who have some good value wines but who aren't scared to run a promotion or two. In the envelope was a brochure offering various mixed cases of wine, along with a couple of big, shiny vouchers. One was a voucher worth £50! And the other was a voucher worth £10.

Why would anyone opt to use the £10 voucher over the £50 one, you might wonder. Because they're not really vouchers as such: you can only use each one against certain cases of wines in the brochure. The £50 one, for example, could only be used against a selection of £89.99 cases that are actually part of 'Wine Plans' (Laithwaites then send you another case every three months at full price unless you opt out). The thing is though, you can order one of these cases for £39.99 direct from the Laithwaites website, without the voucher.

I don't mean to pick on just Laithwaites: as a nation we seem to have a bit of an obsession with voucher codes and discounts in general. Supermarkets are the experts when it comes to running discounts that aren't always quite as they seem. So-called half-price wines are nothing of the sort: the wines are priced artificially high for a few weeks to enable the dramatic discount. I've found that you usually get better value by choosing a supermarket wine that isn't reduced, than by buying a "half-price" one.

The problem is, all of this makes us more confused about the true value of stuff. Which might suit the companies in the short term (I don't know whether or not it does in the long term), but I'm not sure it's good for consumers.

There's definitely a place for promotions - I like to feel as though I'm getting a bargain as much as the next person. Shopping around can really pay off and you can pick up real bargains every now and then. When supermarkets run 25% off the whole of their wine range, for instance, it's certainly worth buying a case if you'd usually shop there anyway.

But are we becoming a bit too obsessed with the need to feel like we've bagged a discount whenever we buy something? Has the internet, which makes it so easy to compare prices, fuelled this obsession?

Shouldn't we just be happy to pay a fair price for stuff?

2 Oct 2011

Some tasty beer: Sunbeam Ales

These very impressive beers were brewed by Nigel Poustie, a man who lives near us here in Leeds. Having sampled these and several of my brother's ales, I'm fortunate to have tasted some top-notch homebrew lately.

The Honey & Lavender Beer poured with very little head and gave off really fresh and enticing orange and marmalade aromas; the flavour also showed a great fragrance, tasting a touch sweet at first but with a more bitter, crisp finish. Your preconception of a honey and lavender beer might be that it'll be a bit rich, too sweet perhaps or a touch cloying - not the case here at all. Great balance.

Wheat beer isn't always my first choice as a general rule, but this was also brilliant. White pepper and perhaps grapefruit in the aroma, and there's a hint of hoppy grapefruit flavour in the mouth along with a definite spice, reminiscent of chilli or paprika, and a very clean finish. Delicious.

The Special Ale was also very good, again the clean flavours were impressive. As more of a traditional nutty brown ale, the Session Bitter was bound to stand out less than the others - but the exciting thing in this selection is the real flair in creating delicious, clean and balanced flavours in the more experimental brews.