A Wonderful Day Out – and Lots of Fun
The booze cruise is one of the great delights of life, a mini holiday that provides you with a change of scene and massive savings
Column by Elizabeth Moore
The booze cruise has had a bad rap of late, the image being of lager louts and queues of cars. Along with that, when you see British supermarket offers promising 25 per cent off wines the idea of schlepping down to the Eurotunnel to save a couple of quid hardly seems worth it, but believe me it really is, and I am not the kind of girl to skimp on a bottle of wine… clothes possibly, but never wine. The important thing to remember in how the price of that bottle costing five pounds in the UK actually breaks down……in fact you are paying £2.16 in excise duty, 83p in VAT, 36p for the bottle and packaging, 20p for logistics and the person who makes the wine makes a profit of £1.08. All this means that the actual drinkable liquid in your bottle costing a fiver is worth 37 pence – which might explain why you have a bit of a headache in the morning… This is also why if you are going to stay in the UK and do your shopping I suggest you drink half as often and go for a bottle costing £10 as the value of the wine then jumps up to £7.09 of the cost of the entire package, a far higher proportion as the taxes take a much smaller percentage of the cost of your bottle.
All this leads me neatly back to the booze cruise. Put aside the wonders to be found on your daytrip in your average Carrefour…the oysters in little baskets, the cheeses, the foie gras if you have no moral objections to it, and the canned cous cous vegetables and packet soups, and concentrate on the wines. To get to them you simply have to get as far as a ferry, or the Eurotunnel which in my opinion has had a very bad rap. Outside peak July and August, we have never had a major problem other than the odd half hour delay and it is cheap and efficient. You drive up, onto a train, and 35 minutes later you are in Coquelles, and you can see the shopping centre from the comfort of your car, in which you remain as you whoosh through the Chunnel.
At this point I should say that on arrival on the Continent you can simply drive across the road to Carrefour and buy very respectable wines in the supermarket for a fraction of what they will cost you here, but take your courage in your hands, programme your satnav and set out on the mile journey to the many wine superstores catering for day trippers just like you. I tend to spread my bonheur amongst The Calais Winestore, Majestic Calais and Pidou. All of them, incredibly, offer to pay your ferry or train once you reach a certain level of spend, so as well as amazing savings, you can also travel free.
The way this works is as follows: you log into The Calais Wine Superstore www.calaiswine.co.uk, or www.majestic-wine-calais.co.uk where you will see all the travel options. In short, you can choose your wines from the comfort of your British armchair, and as soon as you spend £250 you can book either a free same day ferry crossing, a free same day Eurotunnel crossing or an overnight Eurotunnel crossing. This should encourage you to drive speedily towards the waiting train or boat and arrive in La Belle France by around 11am. If you would prefer to take advantage of the all-day every day tastings offered at all the wine stores, simply commit to a spend and choose when you arrive and you can still get free travel.
Once you are there one of two things will happen. Either your wine, pre-selected by you before you travel, will be waiting on a pallet and loaded into your car by a helpful and informed member of staff, or you will make your way to the tasting area to see what you fancy taking home. If I tell you that the first section you will be confronted with will be wines for £2.49 or less you will begin to see why the trip is worth it. These include Rosemount Estate Chardonnay Semillon for £1.99 saving £6.00 per bottle on the UK price and this eminently drinkable, balanced wine will not disgrace you at any dinner party. If that doesn’t appeal, try the Paarl Heights Rose for £2.49 a bottle, saving £7.50 per bottle on the UK price. McGuigan Silver Collection Chardonnay retails at £1.99 saving £5.00 per bottle on the UK price. My chosen Pinot Grigio – beloved of the drinking classes – is the delicious Lentezza from Veneto which has four stars and is my best friend’s favourite wine in the world, retailing at £2.29, a saving of £4.70 on the UK retail price. These are the wines we quaff daily, but the bargains don’t end there.
At the more serious end of the market, you can find a Magnum of Heidsick Monopole Blue Top Brut NV for £35.99, yes – a Magnum! Prefer Tattinger, or Laurent Perrier in magnum? Laurent Perrier NV retails for £49.99 which is an incredible £30.00 cheaper than the cheapest UK retail price and it comes in a beautiful wooden box, a birthday present fit for a king. Want to try something sparkling and delicious without pushing the boat out? Try Saint Louis Blanc de Blancs for £2.99 instead of the £6.99 it will cost you at home, or Prosecco Visconti della Rocca, a wonderful buttery five starred wonder for £4,49 instead of £9.50 in the UK. I could go on…….
Looking for something to lay down in your cellar? Try Chateau Vieux Cantenac Saint-Emilion 2014 in Magnum for £19.99 a saving of £10.00 per Magnum, or the delicious Chateau Ramage La Batisse 2013 for £11.99 a bottle when you buy three, a saving of £7.00 a bottle. I am dwelling on Calais Wine Superstore as you can look at Majestic Calais’s website and literally compare prices between your local Majestic and France. Lidl France also offers wonderful bargains if you know what you are looking for, I am treasuring my last six bottles of Santenay Louis Latour 2011 that cost me four euros the Christmas before last!
You get the idea, have a look. There are offers on offers to be had, vouchers encouraging you to return, multibuys, it’s endless… all this combined with a wonderful day out and lots of fun. There are bags in the box if that’s your bag, and lunch in the Old Port in Boulogne with a Plateau de Fruits de Mer to be had while you discuss your purchases. The booze cruise is one of the great delights off life, a mini holiday that provides you with a change of scene and massive savings, along with a chance to remember that we are all here to work to live, not live to work.