Tesco press tasting and filing my US tax return at the embassy

The Tesco press tasting was held today, on a fruit day (according the biodynamic calendar). The wines tasted pretty good, and I found plenty that will end up in my Sunday Express column. It’s important for wine drinkers in the UK that major retailers such as Tesco do a good job, because they dominate the off-trade. But of today’s line-up of 130 wines out of a much larger range, many were also present at the last press tasting. The result is that we press only get to try a subsection of what punters are actually buying. It would be interesting to try the 100-best-selling wines from the Tesco range.

I also had to file my US tax return today. The advance for my next book, Natural Wine, was paid from the USA (University of California Press). They witheld 30% for US tax, which I don’t have to pay as a non-resident alien paying tax in the UK. To get this back, I had to file a US tax return, with form W7 attached which gets me an ITIN (individual tax identification number). Reading up about this on the IRS website, I was worried that it could involve jumping through quite a few official hoops and be pretty time-consuming.

So I trekked over to the IRS office at the US embassy expecting to stand in line for ages. It actually turned out to be very straightforward. The IRS office was quiet, I got seen straight away, they authenticated the copy of my passport photo page (which meant I didn’t have to part with my passport, or pay to get a notarized copy), they helped out with filling in the return, and I filed it directly with them. Result.

The US embassy website says that you aren’t allowed to bring in any electrical items, such as mobile phones or PDAs. So I left my phone and laptop at home. It felt strange to spend a day without both of these: I felt a bit naked, and yet also a little liberated. Such devices increase productivity, but they also enslave us. I suppose it’s all about balance.

7 comments to Tesco press tasting and filing my US tax return at the embassy

  • Stu

    I noticed that Neal Martin was less effusive about the Tesco tasting. I agree that it is important that they do a good job given their dominate position in the market. In fact supermarkets per se given their ability to capture the shopper “just grabbing a bottle”.

    I also saw, through someone’s twitter post, some information on Tesco looking to focus on their own labels. What do you think of that? I’ve not been as big a fan of own labels myself, preferring to know something about the region/ vineyard/ winemaker.

  • Mark

    I wonder whether the only balance that can possibly be achieved is by leaving them at home :-)

  • James

    Do you have a publication date for the new book? Looking forward to it.

  • Tesco do a lot of private label work, as do Asda, Sainsbury’s and M&S. It’s becoming increasingly important.

    How do I feel about it? If it is done well, it is a good way of supplying inexpensive, well made wines. I know that many of the supermarkets are active in NPD (new product development) work with various wineries across the wine world, and that customers are in these cases often getting a good deal. This is more like a partnership, not an abusive relationship.

    If the supermarkets are just buying the cheapest bulk wine and labelling and bottling it, then it’s not such a great deal.

    If the private label is simply a way of hiding the origin of the product and therefore allowing the retailer to use a huge margin (with lots of room for deep discounting), then I’m not keen on it either.

    The better private label wines disclose the winemaker and region/vineyard.

  • Mark, good point

    James, it looks like spring next year, which seems a long time away, but is something I don’t have much control over

  • Doug

    The range of supermarket wines is far more limited than they would have you believe. I went onto the Tesco web site, typed in Pinot Grigio and nearly forty wines came up (all roughly between £4.00 – £6.00). Every brand you care to name (Gallo, Black Tower, Montana) was covered. To choose between any two of these milquetoast wines would be to choose, as Dr Johnson opined, between a louse and a flea. It is not just Tesco; this bulk, bland, factory-produced wine is on every supermarket wine shelf.

  • Steve

    But Doug, Tesco’s isn’t there to sell an selection of wines you approve of- it doesn’t care if it’s selling lard or Lafite, as long as the profit margin is acceptable. Waitrose online sells Pinot Gs from ten different countries, including England and Slovenia. M and S’s selection ranges from bland to not at all shabby. Not all supermarkets are the same, but yes, they all sell some pap, because their duty is to make money, not educate. And quite honestly, do wine lovers really want to see their favourite small producers beholden to the whims of the supermarkets?

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