Friday 17 September 2010

Things that would make Sir Geoffrey's head explode: French edition

Wine in French supermarkets now comes in self-serve tanks at 1.45 euro/liter.

Bring your own resealable bottles, Poland Spring containers, jerrycans, whatever. Or you can get one at the store. Select your grade (red, white, or rosé). Pump. Print receipt.

Astrid Terzian introduced this concept that hearkens back to a bygone era when wine would arrive in Paris shops in tonneaux and consumers would bring their own flagons to fill. But today, Terzian says, she started this scheme in fall 2008 to fill a niche, tapping into two key themes, environmental awareness and the economy. (She actually wanted to buy a wine property and run a B&B but it was too expensive. So she turned to what she says she knew how to do: sales.) The elimination of packaging mass means that the wine can be shipped much more efficiently from a cost and carbon perspective.

The cost-savings are passed on to the consumer in the form of low prices of 1.45 euros/liter (about $2/liter). She installed her first machine in June 2009 at the Cora supermarket in Dunkirk and now has them installed in eight supermarkets in France. The wines vary; one is a 2009 from the Rhone, technically a vin de pays méditerranée.
I don't buy cask wine and so would be more than a bit nervous about trying this contraption.

But imagine the reaction from the righteous here were New Zealand supermarkets to adopt this innovation. Wine for about NZ$2.50/liter. It would be considered a worse crisis than the earthquake.


  1. I remember a while back it was pretty common for bottle stores to have this sort of arrangement for beer and, in a few cases, spirits. Harringtons was a favourite, we'd go in there and fill up a 2L coke bottle or 5L plastic jerry-can with our favourite yeasty brew. And just across the road was Tandoori Palace. Everything a growing lad needed for a good night :)

  2. Every French market I have been to has a place to bring your bottle for a refill. I'm trying to figure out what is newsworthy here. Is it that it is in a supermarket as opposed to an open-air market?

    It does look fancy and computerised. Also, it is in Paris and maybe they don't notice France outside the city border.

  3. Even Vin de Pays is not horrible in France. This is because they generally make it at only 10 or 11% so they have a lot more room for error.

  4. @Lats: Harringtons still sells beer that way.
    @Brentcu: The newsworthiness, for NZ, would be that a civilized country like France allows bulk purchase of very cheap wine in supermarkets. Here, it's considered the end of the world that you can sometimes buy wine in supermarkets for as little as about $6 for a 750 mL bottle (quelle horreur!)
    @Blair: need to find an excuse to spend a sabbatical out there sometime....

  5. Cool, thanks Eric. Wasn't sure if anyone still did that, haven't been to Harringtons in ages, not since the move out to the town of the future :)

  6. I plan on exercising my democratic right to fill a rigger tomorrow at McCashin's and it won't cost me a dime (because I have a voucher) - take that wowsers!

  7. There are folk who complain that NZ$6 wine is too cheap? I don't understand - they want more expensive wine to prop up the idea that it is elite?

  8. Hmmmmm.

    A similar system was in place in Nyons (bills itself as "the olive capital of France," at the northern tip of Provence) at their local wine & olive oil co-op last time I was there (about eight years ago).  What looked like a very clean gasoline filling station was parked inside their warm-wood-and-halogen-lit display room, with the various hose-heads marked "vin ordinaire," "vin rose," "vin blanc," etc.  You could also get a vintage (I think it was whatever the previous year was).  20-litre plastic carboys were available for purchase or you could bring your own.  I concluded that I'd like to retire there, simply so that I could drink myself into a state of grace prior to my inevitable demise.  ;-)

    Garth Wood

  9. @Brentcu: if wine is cheap, poor people are tempted to drink too much. Some want minimum price regulation. Ugh.

  10. One Matakana winery I know of, has a
    fill-your-own day where you can BYO empties and get a damn fine Sangiovese for $10 a bottle.