The 3 best places to buy cheap wine in Calais
The 3 best places to buy wine in Calais.
There has been a lot written about Brits going on 'booze cruises' to buy cheap wine in Calais over the years. How great these trips are on one hand, and what a waste of time they are on the other. There is also a perception in some quarters that they're not worth it anymore, that there used to be great deals available but not now.
The view here is they're definitely worth the time and effort. And if you live in the South East and buy wine regularly, a day trip to buy cheap wine in Calais will save you hundreds of pounds. (If you're reading this in early 2019, please see our note at the bottom about Brexit.)
I'm going to focus on the 3 best wine shops you should visit. I choose Calais because the ferry crossing is the shortest and also generally offers the best deals.
Calais Wine Superstore
Calais Wine Superstore is my favourite. They have a huge selection of very reasonably priced wines, a tasting room where you can taste literally hundreds of the wines they have available, and their staff and friendly and knowledgeable. AND they all speak English, which is fantastic if your French is limited. Oh, and at the time of writing there's free wine too when you spend over £99 - that does of course help.
Calais Wine Superstore is located on Rue Marcel Dorset and is around 5 minutes drive from the Ferry Port. It's open 7 days a week from a 9am - 7pm French time. You can pay in a Pound Sterling by cheque or cash - or by card in Euros. You can order online prior to your travel and pay when you pick up your order.
They have various travel offers that vary but if you spend over £250 at just about any time of the year they'll pay for you to travel by Ferry or Eurotunnel to France. Wines currently start at £1.49 a bottle and they have plenty of very good wines at £1.99 a bottle. There are of course more expensive wines that still save a huge amount, but almost every bottle of wine will be at least £4 a bottle cheaper than it is in the UK.
You will find Majestic Wine located on 1 Rue de Judée. It's on the opposite side of the roundabout to the Calais Wine Superstore so if your time is limited they're the obvious two to visit. Majestic is open from 8am to 7pm from Monday to Friday and 9am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday.
All staff there speak English and you can pay by cash in Pounds Sterling. Majestic doesn't have as many cheap wines at Calais Wine Superstore or Pidou, but they do have good deals and with a bit of research you can pick up some good bargains.
Pidou is located on Rue de Marcel Dassault and is open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm. Not all staff here speak English but if you pre-order wine via their website and ask for M. Stephane Bernard on arrival, he will take car of you. Staff dealing with pre-orders do speak English. You can pay for your purchases here in Pound Sterling but only notes are accepted and change is given in euros. Their selection is vast and there are some amazing deals. My personal favourites are the Terra Molina Boxed Wines. The 3l boxes cost €4.79 each. Even if you assume the Pound is 1:1 - that's 4 bottles of wine for under a Fiver. And both the white and red wines are very drinkable. I'd have no hesitation in recommending them. Lots of other bargains - browse their website for more.
General - Buying Wine in Calais
- All three of these outlets accept payment in Pound Sterling.
- They all have staff who speak English.
- If you were only travelling to buy wine and beer you could travel from the UK without the need to speak French or have Euros. And you could do all three of these within 2 hours so you'd have the ability to book your ferry (or Eurostar) travel with just 3 hours in Calais.
- As things stand today (before Brexit): you can bring back 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer without the need to prove to HMRC that your purchases are for personal use. You can expect to have your car checked as you leave France. If you are carrying more than that amount, you would then need to prove all the alcohol you've bought is for personal use
- An average case of 6 bottles of wine weighs around 7kg. Check your vehicles maximum load weight so you don't overload your vehicle - it's illegal and unsafe
- You'll need a breakdown kit with you to comply with French law. Buy one before you travel as they're much more expensive on the Ferries and EuroTunnel.
- Check that you have European Insurance for your vehicle before travelling
- Breakdown Assistance would be nice but don't worry too much about this - you'd have to be very unlucky to break down during your 10 mile journey around Calais.
- Take a photo of your passport, travel docs and driver's licence with your phone and upload copies to Dropbox or similar - it's a useful backup in case anything goes wrong.
The Best Way to source Great and Cheap Wine is...
...to make your own! It's cheaper than going to Calais, in fact. But you knew that. In case you didn't, take a look at our Wine Kits. You can make a really nice bottle of wine for between £1 and £1.50 a bottle and could be enjoying it in 3 weeks' time or less.
Footnote added in 2019:
As at today, it is unclear what impact Brexit will have on our ability to pop over to France and bring back wine with no duty to be paid. Currently total duty on a case of wine in the UK is over £30. Meanwhile in France, current duty is around 33 cents (less than 30p) per case. That's why it's cheaper to buy wine in France and bring it home. A key factor will be whether or not the UK stays in the EU Customs Union when it leaves the European Union (EU).
If we leave the EU with no deal at the end of March 2019, we will not be able to bring wine back from France with no duty to be paid. But until then: we still can. So make hay while the sun shines :)
Footnote added in 2020:
So now we're in a global pandemic so we're not going anywhere. And due to leave the EU at the end of 2020. Watch this space...