food & drink

Sharpish practice

Consumers are largely unfamiliar with what are known as buyer's own brand (BOB) or private label wines. Until now they have not been common in the Spanish market, but the countdown has begun, and very soon their wine shelves and those of big wine stores may look rather different. If a supermarket chain has, say, five best-selling wines, it will look for bodegas capable of supplying as near as possible perfect copies for marketing under that supermarket's own label. The losers are the bodegas producing the original wine and the consumer, as what is effectively happening is that the retailer is pirating a good product and the customer is getting a poorer wine. The practice is immoral and unethical, but unstoppable.

Although El Corte Inglés was the first store to do this many years ago, probably with no evil intent, Lidl, Aldi and the like are now operating it aggressively. In the USA and northern Europe there is not a major wine retailer that has not adopted this deplorable practice. All supermarket chains now have their own private labels, but the problem is that these wines have no background or history. They are selected for their similarity to the original wine that was better and perhaps cost more. Sometimes the bodega's name may appear on the back label in small print, but usually does not. By this method retailers maintain control, inviting buyers' brand loyalty for wines that would otherwise have none on their own merits. Another con is to number the bottles to convey the impression that production is limited, when in fact the producing bodega can supply unlimited quantities.