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A Brief History of Wine

Sainsbury’s wine over the years

Sainsbury’s had to obtain off-licences before it could sell beers, wines and spirits in its branches. This was sometimes made difficult by local magistrates who opposed the idea of customers selecting bottles themselves in the new self-service layouts. The page below is from the company’s staff magazine, introducing readers to the first own-brand wines and spirits. The full article can be found here. It claims that “a remarkable lot of nonsense is talked about wine”, and explains the subject in a straightforward style.

SA/SC/JSJ/21/8 'JS Journal', December 1967, p.12


The first range of Sainsbury’s table wines included reds, whites and a rosé. They came from France, Spain, Germany and Yugoslavia. Labels for early own-brand bottles were fairly simple and featured an image of a ship, highlighting that the wine was produced abroad.


As the range of wines expanded in the 1970s, price lists were distributed so customers could compare what was available. This example shows that many wines came in a choice of smaller or larger bottles. The most expensive Champagne on the list only cost £2.50!


Signage was put up in branches to help customers choose exactly what they wanted.


Labels were also added to the back of bottles to meet the demand for even more information.


As well as printed material and photographs, the archive also contains numerous bottles with wine still inside!


The Vintage Selection range, launched in 1983, offered customers a wide choice of fine wines in addition to the existing own-brand range. A special logo was added to bottles to identify them.


With more and more different types of wine being introduced, advertising campaigns were carefully planned to make them stand out. This example of in-store promotional material comes from the late 1980s, when Prosecco was less widely available than it is today.


By the 1990s Sainsbury’s sold wines from all around the world, as well as low and no alcohol options. Labels could be highly decorative. Customers could also order wine from the comfort of their own homes using the Wine Direct service, a forerunner of today’s online grocery shopping.