18 OCTOBER 1963, Page 30

Pocket and Palate

By LESLIE ADRIAN WHEN hardware wholesalers start selling wine I scent a trend. Grocer's sherry is all very well (or ill), but iron- monger's claret does not even sound medicinal. Not long ago I mentioned the Dron organisation in this column in favourable terms, but failed to emphasise that they supply the wines by the dozen, assorted, at cut prices My memory was jogged by the arrival in the post the other day of a wine list from London Household Service, who also supply in dozens at well under the retail price. As there are a number of specialists in, shall we say, inexpen- sive wine, a little straight comparison cannot but do gobd to the cause and the pocket of the wine- fancier. As for his palate, a comment or two later. Meanwhile, here is a table of comparative prices from the winter, 1963, lists of the chief wine societies (unless the year is otherwise indi- cated), as well as the two bulk-purchase organi- sations mentioned. I have also included the Professional and Businessmen's Wine Vaults, although there is no membership condition and, indeed, no obvious occupational qualification that I have discovered., Wine Club

or Whole- '

(1962) 14/6 8/- 9/6 -- - Directors 13/6 7/9 11/- 8/- 6/9.36/- 37/6 Private Wine

Buyers (per bottle) 12/6 6/6 7/6 5/11 — — — LHS 14/3 7/9 8/9 8/- 6/6 34/I 35/10 P and B WV 11/1 Average retail price 14/3 7/- 9/9 8/- 6/6 41/6 35/9 (39/9 for branded gins)

The 'average retail prices' quoted here are taken from the new edition of Peter Dominic's Wine Mine (Is.), which is one of the most com- prehensive lists and gives prices, e.g., for gin, that undercut the standard price for a proprietary brand, thus making a more realistic comparison with the offerings of these societies and whole- salers. Not a word is said here about quality, please note.

One of the interesting facts about this table is that there is clearly no price advantage in buying Spanish reds in bulk, and in the Yugo- slav Riesling column the only startling offer is from the Private Wine Buyers' Society (109/110. Jermyn Street, WI), but all their wines quoted here have to be bought either by the cask (six dozen bottles, and do the bottling yourself) or by the demijohn of six or a dozen bottles. They hold tastings for their members at least twice a. year. The next one is on Wednesday, October 22. Bottling is good fUn, if you share the burden of collecting and sterilising the bottles, filling, corking and labelling, with a few friends. But sometimes amateur bottling spoils the wine and you find yourselves stuck with a couple of dozen bottles of undrinkable Macon.

In this list. where I have quoted in each case the cheapest red Bordeaux and the cheapest t.eatliolv.s available. as well as the most standard- .0TA 'a' 0 bo r,

>-,g4 9/- 7/9 8/6 7/9 Iv

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6/6 35/- 38/-

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6/6 7/7 —

seeming sherry (usually described as fino or medium dry amontillado in the lists 1 have con- sulted), the Private Wine Buyers seem to have won on the Beaujolais, although the Professional and Businessmen's Wine Vaults (39-43 Monu- ment Street, EC3) have it ready bottled at only a penny more and no subscription (21s. a year) to pay.

P and BVW win on price again _with their claret, but for the serious wine drinker perhaps the Wine Society (The International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society, 8-10 Bulstrode Street, WI), into which a member has to buy with a £5 share (returnable) and a sponsor, offers a higher quality. I said perhaps; shopping for cheap wine disbars one from quality considerations to a large extent. The Directors' Wine Club (31 Berkeley Street, W1) claret is a bargain worth considering. This club has a shorter list than the others, but there is a certain guarantee of quality in that Cyril Ray chairs the selection committee. You do not have to be a director to join. The subscription is 21s. a year.

I would think that the wise wine-buyer, pre- paring for a vinous winter and with one eye on Christmas, would send for all these lists and make his own comparisons. But it is tedious, as I can confirm. Incidentally, people living in the Midlands may find the Wine Lovers Society (21 Park' Hill, Moseley, Birmingham, 13) convenient to deal with. It was lonely at the National Book League's 'Sensible Shopping' exhibition at Congress House. For nearly an hour I was the only person prowling round the Consumers' Association's five displays, the NBL's small and ill-selected book- stand and the insignificant panel provided by the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. It was not an in- spiring rallying call for the housewives of the world, but it is a jolly good advertisement for back numbers of Which? When this little ex- hibition goes on tout in the provinces (about which we Londoners prate as if we were Chatham House pundits discussing Inner Mongolia) it will bring with it salutary reminders that soap powder cleans clothes better than synthetic deter- gents, even if it doesn't add whiteness or &right- ness, and that most school blazers are made from inferior cloth and dyed with unreliable d yes.

But the bewildered visitor may wonder why the NBL thinks that he wants to teach himself market research, safely English printed textiles from 1720 to 1836 or delve into Russian folk art. I was more annoyed that among the books displayed was the late Frank Friday's defence of xesale price maintenance (deceptively entitled Shops and Prices), while Professor Yamey's elo- quent attack on r.p.m. was nowhere to he seen.

If this is in best that can be done to spread interest in the consumer movement, it will not move very far or very fast.