Food & Drink A booze run to France still stacks up –...

A booze run to France still stacks up – here's how to do it

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Gone are the days when you could fill the boot – and the roof box – to the max with cases of wine at Calais and make your vinous haul last well into the winter. But shop wisely and that trolley dash on the return leg of your holiday could easily pay off. We show you how. 

Post-Brexit personal allowance

Our departure from the EU may have signalled the end of unlimited alcohol allowances for personal use, but that doesn’t mean you should forget stocking up. The biggest problem may be squeezing it all in around the kids, the dog and that lamp you couldn’t resist from that flea market in Nice.

Best total savings

Combine a case of Lanson Black Label fizz with two cases of a well-known brand such as Calvet and you can save a whopping £366 on UK prices. Even once you deduct travel costs of £165*, you’re still £200 better off. Going with another adult? You can double the amount you bring back but split the Eurotunnel fare and fuel – that way you’ll each spend £283 less than you would for the same wines this side of La Manche even after travel expenses. If space is tight, remember that with typical savings of £18 on champagne, picking up as few as five bottles each before heading home could cover the cost of your travel.

* Eurotunnel Short Stay Saver from £60 each way until 30 June 2024 plus mileage costs of £45

Best savings by value

Certain wines bought in France offer huge savings by value so check UK prices before you buy. The Calvet Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc costs £8.99 here while in Calais the same wine will set you back just €3.70 (£3.17 at average exchange rates**), a 64 per cent reduction. For still wines, look to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France and you could save 48 per cent on a white that typically costs £10.50 here. We also found an organic Côtes du Rhône from a respected producer with savings of 41 per cent.  

** based on year-to-date exchange rate of €1 = £0.8561

Stocking up for a wedding or a big party? Buy 24 bottles of the crémant and 48 each of the picpoul and côtes du Rhône and you’ll save £642 on UK prices. Remember, you’ll need to shop as a pair to make sure your haul doesn’t exceed the personal allowances. 

Replenish your wine stocks

A booze run isn’t just about finding the biggest savings. If you’re looking for a balanced selection to take you through the next few months, you might consider a case each of a smart Crozes-Hermitage and a food-friendly chardonnay. You won’t quite break even once you’ve deducted travel costs but your palate will be enriched. And if you’re on the return leg of a holiday, it’s a no-brainer to pick up a case on your way through Calais.

Wines to avoid

While Provence rosé might have been having a moment in the sun, it doesn’t necessarily pay to buy it in Calais. Snap up a bottle of the much-hyped Whispering Angel Côtes de Provence Rosé on your way to the port and you could pay morethan you would back home; UK promotions and multibuy deals have seen the price come down to £14.25 – almost two pounds less than in France – so do your research before you travel.

Further savings

You may be eligible for a VAT refund on your purchase. Check the French Customs website for more details. 

Where to shop

Calais offers a good mix of large shopping centres and small boutiques. Cité Europe mall and Carrefour hypermarket are a five-minute drive from the terminal. Channel Outlet, housing 55 shops including Galeries Lafayette, Kusmi Tea and Descamps homeware, is nearby (expect discounts upwards of 30 per cent). For wine, locals rate Calais Vins (exit the A16 motorway at junction 44) and Terre de Boissons in Cité Europe. Adjacent to Calais Vins – and ideal for stocking up before heading home – you’ll find cheese heaven at Fromagerie Philippe Olivier.

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