(09 Oct 2018)

9th October: The National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) has awarded its annual Irish Wine Show Star Awards to 45 wines at SIP 2018. Now in its eighteenth year, the winning wines from the Irish Wine Show Star Awards will be available to consumers all over the country from NOffLA outlets. At the event, NOffLA again called on the Government to reduce excise duty on alcohol, specifically wine which is currently taxed on average 624% higher in Ireland than other EU countries.
Speaking at the awards, Gary O’Donovan, Chairman of NOffLA congratulated the winners and commented on the current trading environment, noting “this annual event allows us to celebrate some of the finest products sold by our highly-trained members around the country. NOffLA members are committed to excellence both in terms of personal service and the high-quality wines that we offer.
“However, this offering is under serious threat due to cross-border trade following on from the 15% reduction in the value of the Sterling since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and 25% difference in cost between Ireland and UK. We fear that cross-border trade will soar depending on the final deal between the UK and EU and are calling on government to act now to protect the domestic Irish drinks industry through a reduction in excise duty.
“The current trading environment is exacerbated by punitive excise rates and NOffLA members are being locked out of the economic recovery by the government, members who are under significant financial pressure, given as much as 50% of the cost of a bottle of wine is Excise & VAT.
“Despite Ireland’s strong economic performance, NOffLA members continue to struggle with current excise levels. In the context of the current trading environment, and the looming uncertainty and dangers of Brexit, 81% of surveyed off-licence retailers believe that a 15% reduction in excise on alcohol will mitigate against the likely impacts of Brexit.
“NOffLA members are at the heart of their communities and serve as responsible and highly-knowledgeable local retailers that contribute through direct investment and local employment. We are calling on the Government to protect these local businesses that underpin communities all across Ireland.”
In excess of 600 wines were submitted to the Star Award adjudication panel of NOffLA judges and independent wine journalists. Points were awarded on the basis of appearance, smell, taste and value for money criteria, and the winning 15 were selected as the best wines from key suppliers across a number of price categories.
Each of the winning wines will be sold in NOffLA member outlets, of which there are more than 315 nationwide. The chosen wines will be recognisable by distinctive Award symbols on each bottle. In the pre-Christmas period NOffLA members will promote the Irish Wine Show Star Awards 2018-2019 Collection as ideal Christmas gifts, in a variety of special gift packs.

2018 Gold Star Award Winners
Old World White Under €10  Clos De Corten Sauvignon Blanc 2017  Mackenway Distributors Ltd.
Old World White Under €15   Agenda da Vinha Bianca 2017 Cassidy Wines Ltd.
Old World White Under €20   Réserve Mont-Redon Côte Du Rhône Blanc 2017 Mackenway Distibutors Ltd.
New World White Under €10  Santa Carolina Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Ampersand Wines
New World White Under €15  Callia Alta Pinot Grigio 2018 Mackenway Distributors Ltd.
New World White Under €20  Pear Tree Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Mackenway Distributors Ltd.
Rosé Under €15                    Doña Paula Rosé of Malbec 2018 Santa Rita Estates
Old World Red Under €10      Da Vero Vino Rosso Biologico 2017 Ampersand Wines
Old World Red Under €15      Rioja Vega Crianza 2015 Ampersand Wines
Old World Red Under €20      Coto de Imaz Reserva 2014  Mackenway Distributors Ltd.
New World Red Under €10     Kelly's Patch Shiraz 2017 Niche Vines by Counterpoint
New World Red Under €15     Doña Paula Estate, Black Edition 2016 Gilbeys
New World Red Under €20     Kaiken "Terroir Series" Vistaflores 2017 Liberty Wines
Sparkling Under €25              Villa Conchi, Cava Brut Selección NV Tindal Wine Merchants Ltd.
Sparkling/Champagne Under €60 Pommery Brut Royal Champagne NV Dalcassian Wines & Spirits

WHITE WINE OF THE YEAR 2018-2019 Callia Alta Pinot Grigio 2018

WINE OF THE YEAR 2018-2019 Kaiken "Terroir Series" Vistaflores 2017

 This will help protect Ireland’s already struggling regional and local economies by increasing rural employment, as well as securing the livelihoods of communities in border regions.
 In turn, this would increase employment in both the drinks sector and the communities around which such enterprises form, from the farmer to the retailer.
 NOffLA members continue to see market contractions, and 96% of members cited deep discounting and promotions by large supermarkets, as the most significant reasons for this.
 Should excise be increased in Budget 2019, 43% would struggle to remain open, while 33% of members would be forced to reduce staff by one or more member.
 Reducing excise duty will lead to job creation and investment in local communities, allowing the economic recovery to spread beyond urban centres and throughout the rest of Ireland.
 Ireland’s tourism industry has grown significantly in recent years, though it still demonstrates a strong dependence on the British market, with 35% of all tourists coming from the UK in January-August 2018– this is more than the entirety of the EU combined. However, this proportion of trips to Ireland by residents of Great Britain has decreased from 37%, when compared to the same period last year.
 Devalued Sterling has had an immediate impact on Ireland’s cost-competitiveness, and is compounded by excise rates that are 400% higher than some EU counterparts, making Ireland less affordable and attractive relative to our European neighbours, resulting in many Irish made beverages costing more to purchase at home than abroad.
 Considering the recovery has not yet been felt in many parts of Ireland, Brexit threatens to decimate the already sparse employment levels along border counties as cross-border trade, fuelled by exchange rates, asymmetrical excise, and VAT regimes increases.
 81% of respondents to the 2018 NOffLA Members Survey, which accounts for more than 1,200 employees, believe that a reduction of excise duty would combat the likely impact of Brexit.
 Wine excise on a 75cl bottle of wine is on average 35% (€0.82) higher than the equivalent cider and beer excise on a 75cl bottle.
 Retailers and suppliers have to raise and pay an extra €17,958 per 1,000 cases of wine in excise and VAT due to increases in Budget 2013 and 2014, now totalling €47,035, up 61%.
 Import excise is frequently payable at the point of entry or with 30 days’ credit; a lack of available finance from banks puts severe pressure on working capital for wine importers and retailers, and if the excise is not paid then there is no product to sell, creating a credit crunch, ultimately costing jobs.
 A ban on below invoice cost selling of alcohol would ensure that alcohol is retailed in a responsible manner through the elimination of deep discounting and will work in tandem with Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) to prevent premium alcohol brands being retailed at dangerously low prices to drive footfall.
 Banning the retailing of alcohol at below invoice cost price will ensure that large mixed retailers can’t reclaim 23% of the loss in their VAT return; saving the State an average of €24 million each year.
 55% of members believe that implementing Minimum Unit Pricing alone will not ensure that alcohol is retailed at a responsible level but must be supported by a ban on below invoice cost selling (63%).
 Many online retailers of alcohol located outside of Ireland are illegally selling and delivering alcohol directly to Irish consumers without paying the legally required excise and VAT in Ireland.
 Given the devalued Sterling, and the lower rates of excise and VAT charged in the UK, cross-border illicit trade has been given an added impetus.
 In addition, higher excise gives an economic incentive to the smuggling of alcohol products. The number of Revenue seizures of alcohol products increased greatly in 2016 compared with previous years. In 2016 for example, there were 1,875 seizures of alcohol products, compared to 938 in 2015, an increase of 99% year on year. This year is stayed at this high level, with 1,819 seizures.
However, the value of these seizures was higher than in 2016. This compares to 550 seizures in 2014, 507 seizures in 2013, and 359 in 2012.
 Online tax evasion is generally achieved by the vendor labelling the shipment with non-alcoholic commodity codes such as foodstuffs, collectibles, or not for consumption items which would not attract duty, thus enabling the exporter to bypass customs and the excise which should be payable on import.
 A Remote Off-Trade Licence should be created by the Department of Justice in the upcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill.
About NOffLA
NOffLA was established in 1991 and represents independent specialist off-licences across Ireland. The Association has 315 members, and the sector represents 5,900 jobs in 26 counties. NOffLA works to promote the responsible sale, marketing and consumption of alcohol and to share best practices with the entire trade. NOffLA’s members' outlets are specialist or pure off-licences and tend to be owner-operated, located in the heart of their communities and employ expertise in responsibly retailing many unique products.

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