GRAPEVINE: Liz Sagues resolves to drink more wisely

It s that time of year again... And if you ve already failed to keep your 2008 resolutions, how about some vinous ones instead? After all, they re a lot more pleasurable than most good intentions, so perhaps they ll last. Top of the list is to beware barg

It's that time of year again... And if you've already failed to keep your 2008 resolutions, how about some vinous ones instead? After all, they're a lot more pleasurable than most good intentions, so perhaps they'll last.

Top of the list is to beware bargains - which applies just as much to the tempting bin-end sales which specialist merchants will be offering over the next few weeks as to year-round gondola-end offers in the supermarkets.

Remember that - like any sale goods - there's a reason why wines are discounted. It might be that one vintage is about to be replaced by the next one and the older stock needs to go. That's a particularly useful opportunity for buying wine which benefits from some age - but be careful if the wine is one which needs to be drunk young and fresh.

Much less consumer-friendly are many of the "buy-one-get-one-free", "three for £10" or near-permanent "RRP £5.99, our price £3.99" offers on familiar branded wines.

The costs of these promotions are largely met by the wine companies involved, which means that the "recommended" price is artificially inflated. The wine is usually worth no more than the offer price, and probably a lot less once advertising costs have also been factored in.

In between those two, there are a host more reasons for reductions, some sound, some dubious. So before you jump, remember the golden rule that a bargain, irrespective of what it costs, is good value only when you actually like the wine and it will fit into your (responsible, I trust - but that's another issue) drinking pattern.

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Resolution number two is to trade up a bit, especially at the lower end of the price scale. There's huge emphasis now in food on quality of ingredients, sustainability of production, traceability and lots of other well-intentioned "ilities". Most people happily spend generously on them and enjoy the results, so why not the same on wine?

Do some sums and realise how silly it is to be parsimonious: add up the Chancellor's share in duty and tax, the cost of bottling and transporting, a miniscule profit for grower, wholesaler and seller, and the value of the wine in a £3 bottle is probably in single-figure pennies. The more you pay for a bottle (until you get to the levels where price reflects demand, scarcity and fashion) the less, proportionally, are those costs and the contents should taste noticeably better.

Encouragingly, some of that message is getting through, with steady increases in sales in the £6 to £8 range. But with the average retail price of wine in the UK still below £4, there's a long way to go.

But all this has got a bit long-winded. For some final resolutions, how about these:

Go to the sales and buy decent long-stemmed, thin-rimmed, wide bowled, tulip-shaped glasses - even modest wine will blossom in them.

Be broadminded, and try something different at least once a month - from Europe, Austrian reds or Mallorcan whites, for example; from Australia, Italian varietals such as barbera; from New Zealand, aromatic riesling or pinot gris; from Chile, any wine from the cooler valleys; from England, reds as well as sparkling whites.

Remember that Spain offers far more than cheap cava bubbling up through a lake of hot reds.

Consider the charms of traditional-method fizzes from elsewhere in France, and the world beyond, when times are too lean to afford decent champagne.

And keep reading the wine press...

o Jeroboams (branches in Hampstead and St John's Wood as well as central London) has an innovative wine sale, with prices of the selected bottles dropping 10pc day by day until tomorrow (Fri 10th). The lowest price will still be there on Saturday - provided buyers have been brave enough to wait and stock remains.

Liz Sagues