Friday, December 10, 2010

The curious incident of Spar's Donacella Cava

I got a press release from Spar the other day trumpeting that research had shown that the public couldn't tell champagne from Cava

Apparently they conducted a blind taste test amongst 105 wine drinkers to see if they could distinguish between Spar Donacella Cava Brut, their own label champagne Marquis Belrive, Moët & Chandon Impérial and Lansons Black Label.

"Nearly a quarter" couldn't taste the difference between Lansons Black Label and the Cava and 34% incorrectly identified Moet as the Spanish sparkler.

The results don't hugely surprise me. I conducted a similar, less extensive experiment myself recently (the results of which you'll find in my Guardian column on December 18th) but to be fair the Spar experiment actually showed that three-quarters and two thirds of the sample respectively could distinguish between Cava and champagne.

Eager to see what the fuss was about my OH dropped into our local Spar and picked up a bottle which I have to say was pretty impressive. Slightly lacking in fizz (it may have been on the shelf for a while) but attractively soft and honeyed (Rating ***) It could certainly pass for cheap bubbly.

The odd thing though was that he had to pay £8.19 for it instead of £6.79 the price the press release had mentioned. But the actual price is apparently £6.65 on top of which there's supposed to be a 25% offer which should have reduced it further to £4.99.

I raised this with Spar's PR company who told me that "individual branches have discretion on what they charge and whether they choose to run promotions - which is why your husband was charged more in your local branch. As SPAR isn't a franchise, our stores are independently owned or managed by people who live in the communities they serve, they have control over their prices. Anything we quote is a recommended retail price."

So the result of "living in the community you serve" means you rip off your neighbours? That seems a strange kind of trading to me.

Anyway, if you can pick up this bottle at £4.99 - or even £5.09 which would be a 25% on the original trading price of £6.79, go for it - it's a good deal. It was on promo at £5.49 back in September which is also fine. But there's an ocean of cut-price Cava out there so I wouldn't pay any more than that.

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