Why I buy my wine in Calais…

Let me start this post by clarifying something… I am not a wine connoisseur… but I do love it, especially the bubbly variety! My priority when buying wine, is that I enjoy what I’m drinking, and that I can buy something I like at a price that’s worth it to me. That’s just common sense as far as I am concerned.

Katie Veuve Clicquot

I’ve been very lucky in my life to have had the opportunity to try some delicious (and sometimes expensive) wines. But over the last few years I have wondered if quality always increases in line with price, and how much should I expect to spend on a decent bottle of wine?

Do you know how much you are actually spending on your wine and how much you are spending on other associated costs such packaging, shipping and tax?


Why I buy my wine from Calais, France, it is much better value than the UK

Have a look at this breakdown from Bibendum as it might surprise you what exactly you’re paying for (figures are accurate for 2018).

If you buy a bottle of supermarket wine for £5 for example, the value of the wine in the bottle is only 37p! When I saw this I was utterly shocked and could quickly see that this was exceptionally poor value for money. By spending very little more, I could multiply the quality of the wine very quickly and saw that there seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ around the £10 mark that delivers the best balance between quality and price. Basically, the quality of the wine inside a £10 bottle is just under £3, so I would effectively be paying twice as much for wine that is around seven times the quality. Beyond that you start to get diminishing returns for your money.

Katie buying wine in Majestic Wine Calais in France because it is much cheaper than buying it in the UK

Bear in mind that this breakdown relates to wine sold in the UK which is subject to UK excise duty and tax – the major components in the split above. Imagine if you could remove these two horrible things, what would your £5 or £10 bottles cost then?  Well, they would cost around £2 and £6 respectively! Quite the saving!

So, for the last few years I have been travelling to Calais in France to buy my wine in bulk. If you live in the South East and buy wine regularly, it’s a trip that could save you hundreds of pounds a year.  There is a time limit on this however in the spectre of Brexit.

People have been doing these ‘booze cruises’ for years, and it is not a new thing at all, but it is a great way of making huge savings and getting more wine for your money. There are many different places you can go in France, but two very convenient wine merchants are the Calais Wine Superstore and Majestic Wine Calais. They are right next to each other on a common site just 10 minutes from the Eurotunnel. Both stores are open seven days a week and all the staff speak English, they are very approachable and friendly so make the experience that much more pleasurable.

Katie buying wine in Majestic Wine Calais in France because it is much cheaper than buying it in the UK

You can pay in Pounds Sterling or by cash or cheque. You can also pay by card in Euros. Both also have many of their wines open for testing, so try to make sure you’re not the one driving for this particular trip – I always try and find a chauffeur on trips to France when ever I am wine tasting! They also allow you to pre-order wine which usually comes with the additional benefits of either free crossings via Eurotunnel or ferry, or in the form of money off for bulk buying.  If you’re really buying a lot (maybe for a party or a wedding) you can also try calling them first to negotiate even bigger discounts.


So all that’s left is to work out what to buy! Here are some of my current favourites:

Katie buying wine in Majestic Wine Calais in France because it is much cheaper than buying it in the UK

  • RED – Porta 6 – 2015/2016 Lisboa – This wonderful red comes from vineyards in the Alenquer and Cadaval regions of Portugal, in the mountains to the north of Lisbon – it is absolutely gorgeous! (Please excuse the over enthusiastic photograph of me trying to showcase this wine, this is what happens when you don’t have to drive!) In Majestic, UK Porta 6 can be bought for £8.99 per bottle (which is still good value for this wine) but in Majestic, Calais sell it for £3.44 per bottle. That’s a £4.55 saving on a bottle. If you want to go one step further (we do) and buy the magnum (a double-bottle), the Calais Wine Superstore sells this for £5.98,  making each bottle the equivalent of £2.99 or a £5 saving per bottle on the UK price! How can you go wrong?
  • WHITE – Mâcon-Villages ‘Les Roches Blanches’ 2017 Louis Jadot – a wonderful white sourced from the superior quality vineyards from around the village of Loché, southwest of Mâcon in southern Burgundy. £6.99 in France, £10.99 in the UK.
  • ROSE – Definition Provence Rosé 2017 – Majestic’s own ‘definition’ of what a Provence rosé should be.  This one is a fantastic example of a French wine at £6.99 which would again be £10.99 in the UK.
  • SPARKLING – Bouvet Ladubay Saumur NV France at £6.49 (saving of around £4 compared to our UK prices). The second oldest sparkling wine producer from Saumur in the Loire, Bouvet Ladubay is made by the ‘methode traditionnelle’ or traditional method (i.e. the exact same way of making champagne, and not with the sweeter results of the Prosecco production method), but from Chenin Blanc grapes, it is absolutely delicious and the equal of many champagnes at a fraction of the price!

Officially there are no limits on how much wine, beer and spirits you can bring back to the UK, providing it is for your own use and this includes for weddings and parties. Customs and Excise publish guidelines of what can be considered reasonable. If you buy more than 120 bottles of wine and 250 cans of beer Customs and Excise may ask you to verify the intended usage. We often buy more than this and so far have never been asked to account for our purchases. I would add that you should check your vehicle’s maximum load capacity (both in size and weight) so you don’t overload it.

It is not yet entirely clear if Brexit will restrict our current ability to bring wine (and other goods) back from the continent free of additional taxes and duty, but it is almost certain that they are likely to change for the worse when it happens. So if you do have an event your planning or just want to take advantage of the current status quo before the inevitable impact of Brexit, I’d recommend you make the most of this while you can.

Drop me a message via the comments section if you have any questions on anything I’ve mentioned here, or even just to share your experiences. I’d love to know how you found the process and maybe we can share some tips on getting the best wine for our bucks!


Katie xxx

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