UK government spent £73,000 on wine in year before Covid, figures show
The government spent £73,000 on wine in 2019-20, almost three-quarters of it on English or Welsh wine – jokingly known as “Brexit juice” at Westminster – official figures show.
Data published on Thursday reveal the changes in the vast government wine collection – used for official hospitality and functions – between 2018 and 2020.
In total, £73,000 was spent topping up the cellar in 2019-20, up from £46,906 in 2018-19. The average price was £17.25 a bottle, and 73% of the wine bought was English or Welsh.
Purchases included 1,440 bottles of Chapel Down Bacchus, a dry white wine from the Kent vineyard.
The replenishment of the collection is part-funded by selling off high-value bottles of wine. In 2018-19, the government raised a total of £44,000, with the sell-off including 24 bottles of Château Margaux 1988, and six magnums of 1982 Krug champagne.
Another selection of bottles had been earmarked for sale in March 2020 that was expected to raise up to £50,000, but like so many other things it had to be abandoned because of the pandemic.
In total, 4,045 bottles of wine and spirits were drank on government business in 2018-19, and 3,336 in 2019-20.
There has been a shift towards British wine in recent years but it has accelerated under proud Brexiter Boris Johnson, who served it onboard the prime ministerial jet when he flew to the Biarritz G7 summit shortly after becoming leader.
However, when the UK formally left the EU in February 2020, he celebrated at No 10 not with Brexit juice, as Leave campaigners had dubbed it, but with a £350 bottle of French red, reportedly donated in a Conservative donor’s will.
In total, 613 bottles of English sparkling wine were served at government receptions and events in the year to March 2020, and 163 bottles of white wine. France remained the producer of choice for red wine, however, with 257 bottles of claret consumed.
The government wine cellar is housed in the basement of Lancaster House, the grand Foreign Office building on the edge of Green Park.
In March 2020 – the most recent date for which information is available – the cellar contained 32,921 bottles. Their estimated value was £810,896.
Sales and purchases from the cellar are made under the advice of the government wine committee, which includes three masters of wine, who give their advice unpaid, and is chaired by a retired senior diplomat.