In a world where everyone is looking for a bargain to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis, deciding how to measure value (as opposed to price) is fiendishly complicated.  

In fact, it’s enough to drive you to drink.  

Which is a pity, because that is perhaps the most complicated area when it comes to working out whether you are getting a good amount of bang for your buck.

As regular readers will know, I am partial to a glass of wine - I am seldom that cheery without a glass in my hand.

And much as I like a bargain, I am horrified that the average price paid for a bottle of wine in the UK is just £5.50.  

Although I am no mathematician, even I can work out that no producer can hope to provide anything other than gut-rotting vinegar for that price – and that’s before the chancellor increased the duty on wine by a whopping 20% in last week’s Budget.

If your view of a winemaker is someone sitting in the sun watching his grapes ripen and the cash roll in, think again.  Very, very little of that £5.50 reaches the chap who actually makes the product.

I often encounter people who baulk at paying £10 for a bottle of wine, saying they will get much better value by buying two bottles of supermarket plonk for a fiver.  But they are wrong – what they are electing to do by choosing the cheap option is give most of their money to the taxman.

Duty on wine is levied on volume and alcohol level, not on price.  Even before the Budget, the chancellor took the first £2.23 of every bottle. Factor in the VAT, and of that average £5.50 spend, £3.15 is tax; that’s 57%.

When the new duty rates come in to effect in August, the taxman will take another 44p in duty, making the amount levied on the average bottle a staggering £3.59, fully two-thirds of the price.

Leading wine merchant Bibendum calculates that even before the duty rise announced last week, the amount left over to actually make the wine in that £5.50 bottle once duty, VAT, packaging, transport and retailer margin is taken into account is just 21p.  

With the best will in the world, no-one can make a decent bottle of wine for that.  That 21p has to pay for buying the land, planting the vines, pruning, picking, investing in the winery and bottling plants, making the wine, putting it in the bottle, and finding someone to buy it.

No wonder so many of those supermarket wines taste so awful.

Here is the thing, though.  If you spend a bit more, the duty per bottle remains the same, so there is exponentially more for the winemaker to play with.  

Bibendum calculates that at present duty levels, spending £10 will provide the winemaker with £2.48, nearly 12 times as much as he gets from that £5.50 bottle.

Splash out £20 and he has £6.67 to play with, more than 30 times as much as the bargain bottle gives him, and this will be reflected in the wine.

With Mr Hunt helping himself to a further 44p from August, the difference will become even more pronounced.

Of course, not everyone can afford to drink top-end wine.  But spending just a couple of quid over the average means the winemaker has seven times as much to play with, although even here, at £7.50 a bottle, more than half of your money is going on tax.

Many words have been spilled about whether last week’s Budget was about giving another tax ‘bung’ to the already well-off.  You may have your own views on that, but it’s unarguable that the way we tax wine is massively skewed in favour of the wealthy.  

An oligarch drinking a £1,000 bottle of Domaine Romanée-Conti will pay the same amount of duty (£2.23) as you or I pay when we buy that bargain bottle in Aldi.  It hardly seems fair, does it?

In Norfolk and Suffolk we have some fabulous vineyards producing award-winning wines.

If you have ever wondered why they tend to be a bit more expensive than the pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap plonk in the supermarket, just try to imagine producing wine here for 21p a bottle.

Other than completely changing our tax system, which I’m afraid is out of my pay-grade, all I can suggest is this: drink better, even if that means drinking less.  

You will have a much superior taste experience, and you will be contributing less to Mr Hunt’s ruse to subsidise his rich friends.  

I’ll drink to that!