The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is due to be debated in Dáil in the coming weeks with the Government determined to have it passed (or substantially progressed) in the Autumn session. The bill will introduce minimum pricing, health labelling (eg, calories), restrict advertising and sponsorship and force shops to separate alcohol from other products, writes Leslie Williams.
The good news is that most people reading this have nothing to fear. The minimum price for wine will be around €7 so the bill will not impact on moderate drinkers. A ban on selling alcohol for less than it costs would be even more welcome as this practice gives multiples an unfair advantage over independents. Importers will be inconvenienced by the new labelling but I’m hoping there will be flexibility — shops could be allowed apply general health labels for example.
What we really need of course is a reduction on excise, given that we have the highest wine taxes in the EU. Imagine if France or Italy taxed Irish butter so that it cost €15? Yet a wine costing €2 at cellar door could cost more than €15 here after we add excise, VAT and transport, etc.
Alcohol should absolutely be separated from food and other goods in my view. It is currently an offence for someone under 18 to enter an off-licence unaccompanied, but small children can happily wander around the supermarket pointing excitedly at the pirates on the bottles of rum (as witnessed by a friend recently).
Supermarkets have helped democratise wine in Ireland but they also frequently use it as a loss leader which is not just unfair competition but also unfair on small growers whose wines cannot compete. It should not be possible to buy beer that is cheaper than water in my view and I would also claim that not all alcohol is the same — wine (certainly wine costing over €I5) is almost always served with food.
Having said all that my selections this week are French wines from both supermarkets and independents. SuperValu’s French Wine sale began last week and they have reduced the price of almost all their French wines. Also watch out for Chateau Sissan at €12 and the André Goichot Mâcon Lugny for €10.
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