It's been a long time since I've gone on a booze cruise and I have to say, it was good craic when we last visited a "foire aux vins", one of those sales in September that French supermarkets. This was back before we started importing our own wine and we just wanted to have a look to see what the story was.
Some food and a feed of pints on the overnight sailing, then a quick dash around the supermarket grabbing bottles without much idea as to what they might be like - then a race back to the boat and a repeat of the night before and then back to Rosslare.
With the new duty really making itself known now that everybody has to finally pass on the increase, the search is on for that holiest of Holy Grails - great, cheap wine. When you spend €10 on a bottle in Ireland now, €4.65 is going straight to the government - €1.87 in VAT and €2.78 in Duty. The poor guy who makes the stuff is getting considerably less than that, not to mention the even poorer guy/gal selling it!
I'm not a very emotional kinda guy, I like dealing in facts and figures so let's have a look and see if it all adds up. Apparently, Martin Moran was writing about booze cruises in the Sunday Times last weekend, but I didn't read it so can't comment. Thankfully, Tomas Clancy, also writing last weekend about it already has done some research so lets do the sums as I am too lazy to do my own:
Champagne - this is on Normandie Wine's website at €36 - Tomas reckons you can save €13 per bottle but if you were coming in to me looking to buy 3 doz champagne, I would give you a deal on that, but lets leave it at €13 per btl cos the Normandie crowd might cut you a deal as well...
Red Wine - Tomas quotes €7.50 for Paralelle 45 Cotes du Rhone from Normandie Wine - why you would take 2 days out of your life to buy Paralelle 45 is beyond me, but let's run with it. You can probably pick this up for €12.50 - certainly on a deal so you are saving a fiver per bottle.
White Wine - Tomas mentions the Bouchard Macon Lugny - once again tap water is a perfectly good alternative - but let's run with it for the sake of argument. You should also be able to get this for €12.50 if only for the fact that the wine shop owner should be keen to get shot of it, so again you are saving a fiver.
Champagne 36 x €13 = €468
Wine 100x €5 = €500
Total saving about €1000
Now, what does it cost? €300 for boat, €50 on petrol €100 on food & drink - let's call it €500.
So, the real saving is about €500 on an average sized wedding buying average wines at average prices. That's not accounting for your time - 2 days and nights spent holed up on a boat - that sounds bad until you factor in the fact that it's a little bit windy in this part of the world. How good are the old sea legs? Like the smell of vomit? Sometimes there is entertainment on the boat - putting up with that can have untold consequences, post-traumatic stress, sleepless nights....
Also, what kind of car do you have? Is it able to carry that much wine (this amount would weigh about 300kg)?
Now, if you are looking for a weekend away, this is certainly an option, but if that is what you are looking for, the newspapers have perfectly good travel writers who can recommend options for you. The wine writers are not best positioned to advise you on your travel plans.
Spending two nights on a boat to buy at best average (at worst piss poor wines they can't sell anywhere else) wines doesn't cut it for me.
The other and in my, opinion, only option for a booze cruise is to carefully research great producers in your chosen region, take a week and arrange visits to taste the wines and, please by all means, buy from them and bring them home avoiding the ridiculous taxes in this country. Take a week, take two weeks and take your time, get to know the region, the wines and the people who make them. Come home with great wines and a love for them and spread the good news to all your friends and family. Because the more people love great wine, the better it is for the increasingly small number of people who sell good wine in this country.
As always, be careful out there, think about what you drink, go for quality not quantity. Keep away from the horses.