Shopper wine

Additional paperwork and border checks, shipping delays, port congestion and labour shortages had added to the cost of shipping wine from the EU, importers claimed

Wine importers have criticised the “insidious impact” of Brexit red tape, which they claim has added up to £3.50 to the price of a bottle.

Additional paperwork and border checks, along with shipping delays, port congestion and labour shortages, had added “hundreds of pounds” to the cost of shipping wine from the EU, with some winemakers giving up on sending wines to the UK entirely.

Daniel Lambert, who runs a Wales-based import business for wine, said the UK’s departure from the single market had fundamentally changed his business model.

Before Brexit, Lambert said he was paying £180 to ship a pallet of wine from France to the UK, equivalent to around 25p-30p a bottle. Now that cost had risen to £400, or 55p-65p a bottle.

“In the old system with a single market, there was no ‘importing’ of wine – only moving wine,” he said. “The extra red tape has put about £3.50 on every bottle of wine you buy. If you used to buy a bottle for £8.99, that’s now £11.99 or £12.99.”

Lambert also claimed many winemakers “simply haven’t bothered” securing the additional paperwork required to ship from the EU since Brexit.

“The UK used to be one of the best places in the world to drink wine,” he said. “Now it is fast becoming one of the worst. Producers now need multiple registrations to ship to the UK. Many simply haven’t bothered, because they have dozens of other markets they can sell to more easily.”

The problem is most acute for smaller independent winemakers and importers, according to Kingsland Drinks MD Ed Baker.

However, Baker said there was “no doubt” Brexit was having “a significant impact on the wine industry” as a whole.

“The biggest effect has been the insidious impact of extra bureaucracy and uncertainty, which has consumed large amounts of time and generated inefficiency for no benefit,” he said. “A knock-on consequence of Brexit has been the devaluation of sterling and this has increased business costs.”

Issues such as the cost of goods, container availability, shipping delays, port congestion and labour shortages were issues that Brexit had failed to make easier to address for wine importers, Baker said.

He added, however, that “exceptional duty increases, volatile and soaring energy costs and consumer caution prompted by a cost of living crisis” were also harming the profitability of the sector.

“The business climate has not been aided by governmental and policy uncertainty and complexity, combined with a lack of understanding or engagement with the industry,” Baker added.

Supermarket wine prices have risen since the UK’s exit from the EU, albeit by less than the £3.50 figure claimed by Lambert.

According to The Grocer analysis of more than 1,300 products sold in the big four mults and Waitrose [Assosia], the price of a bottle of wine has climbed by 12.6% – or £1.37 – on average since Brexit.

On 8 December 2019, the average price of a 750ml bottle of wine sold in stores was £9.97. By 8 December 2023, that figure had risen to £11.35.