UK retailer Selfridges is set to petition for a change in the law after it was told by trading standards officials that it could not sell sip-sized samples of wine to consumers.
The retailer, which recently opened its Wonder Bar wine bar in London, was told by Westminster City Council that it had to stop selling samples of wine in 25ml and 75ml measures. Only glass-sized 125ml and 175ml measures are recognised by law.
One of the 52 wines available was Petrus 1996, which originally cost £32 a sip. According to Selfridges, two bottles were sold through the system in the first week of Wonder Bar’s opening.
Now, customers have to pay £160 for the wine in a 125ml glass.
The wines are served by a ‘jukebox’ (pictured) allowing customers to select the wine they want, the size of the serving, pay for and receive the sample.
The machines were re-set to provide only standard sizes after they were contacted by trading standards telling Selfridges they were selling wine in ‘illegal amounts’.
UK broadsheet the Daily Telegraph raised the issue, saying that ‘bureaucratic killjoys’ were denying the public ‘vinous delights’. The newspaper added that the law did not match the government’s stance on alcohol abuse.
‘One would think that the Government would wish to encourage such responsible drinking, given the current epidemic of alcohol bingeing,’ said the Telegraph.
Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services policy officer Richard Kidd told wine trade magazine Harpers that the issue came down to consumer protection saying that there was no way of checking customers had been given the correct serving.
Westminster Council said they were happy the issue had been resolved, but Selfridges said they will be lobbying the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform department to change the law.
‘There is a crazy piece of legislation that needs changing,’ said Selfridges sommelier Dawn Davies.
Jamie Hutchinson, at wine merchant The Sampler which also uses the wine ‘jukebox’ technology, agreed.
‘Basically the law was there to protect people from being ripped off in bars,’ he said. ‘It’s an insane application of that law.’
The Sampler, however, has not been told to increase its sample sizes due to being in a different London borough, the way samples are paid for and the fact that it is not a bar.
Written by Oliver Styles