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Where This Year is Better than Last

Unlike most of us, Majestic Wines seems to have had a better 2020 than 2019.

Last year was beset by restructuring, rumours of closures and an eventual sale to a venture capitalist group.

Despite all the massive Corona driven upheavals, Majestic actually seems in a better place than it was this time last year.   

Most of its physical stores are now open again (as is Majestic Commercial – for trade customers).

During the lock-down, Majestic’s online business saw major growth – dozens of new customers joined, 250 new lines were added and significant refreshes have been applied to its Spanish, Burgundian and Rosé ranges.

As well as the list’s imaginative and revitalised look, the average price point has (cannily) been tugged up just a little – reflecting both currency issues and the pursuit of that sweet spot where quality and value coincide.

Talking of prices, the figures shown here are the lowest available through Majestic’s slightly complex pricing policy but, in some parts of the UK, may be conditional on buying a “mixed six” bottles.

So, here is a “mixed six” of my own (but, admittedly, leaning heavily towards France).

As well as being enjoyable wines, they also suggest that Majestic’s future looks more promising than many commentators feared twelve months ago – including this one!

Starting with a well-priced red

Over the bridge from Lisbon lies Portugal’s Setúbal Peninsular – an increasingly important region for much more than its traditional muscatel wines, as this red from touriga nacional grapes loudly proclaims.

What particularly impresses me about the dark and dense 2019 Herdade de Gambia (£7.99 at Majestic and 13.5% abv) is the way its plum, blackberry and cherry style texture is sufficiently robust to merge with (but not be overpowered by) the wine’s pronounced savoury liquorice and mineral elements. 

Some stores may still be on the 2018 vintage.

But let’s head east

Western Languedoc (which includes Limoux – home to this red) is cooler than other parts of that region which is one reason why Limoux has acquired a reputation for its sparkling wines.

Interestingly, though, that locality’s reds tend to use Bordeaux blends as well as the more predictable grenache and syrah and this particular example is a (rather surprising) fusion of merlot, malbec and cabernet franc.

Aromatic, smooth and dark, 2017 Château Saint-Roch (£8.99 and 13.5%) has cherry, loganberry and prune flavours with firm acidity, modest tannin, savoury edges and suggestions of coffee, dried herbs and clove.

Speaking of Cabernet Franc

Of course, cabernet franc does appear further north and can produce exceptional light (definitely “chillable”) red wine in the Loire Valley – although good versions are not that easy to find there.

However, this is the real deal and a perfect wine for summer picnics, so ignore (I suggest) the mixed reviews it receives on the Majestic website,

Floral and organically produced, 2018 Lulu L’Alouette Cabernet Franc Chinon (£10.99 and 13.5%) delivers cherry, cassis and blackberry style fruit components with good acidity and a depth that includes hints of cocoa, herbs and liquorice.

Hopping to New Zealand for a white       

Oak and sauvignon blanc are not often bedfellows because barrel influences tend to alter the variety’s main characteristics and dull the strident acidity that typifies its style.

In 2019 Devil's Creek Barrel Select Sauvignon (£8.99 and 13.5%), though, the texture is smoothed out by the oak but that is achieved without diminishing the wine’s acidic lemon freshness or affecting either its apple and gooseberry flavours or the peach influenced depth on which it rides out.

Remaining with Sauvignon      

To match the classic regional style of the Chinon, stay in that area for this terrific value sauvignon that captures the restrained Loire sauvignon style so celebrated further upstream (in Pouilly or Sancerre) but does so at a wallet friendly price.

I did enjoy the aromatic yet soft depth of 2019 Thierry Delaunay Manoir Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99 and 13%) where it neatly underpins the long but balanced ripe pear and pink grapefruit flavours, tropical fruit edges and lime acidity.

Finally to a white Burgundy

It is always nice to see the fundamentals of sound white Burgundy captured in a well-made yet relatively affordable example – obviously, subtlety and complexity come further up the price ladder but this guy covers the essentials really well.

Ripe but nicely textured, 2018 Edouard Delaunay Septembre Chardonnay (£12.99 and 13%) brings us soft peach, apple and melon flavours with grapefruit and tangerine acidity and a nutty texture with a type of pie-crust background.    

Join us again on Monday when the focus for Top Tips is on the recent Wine Tour promotion at Lidl.

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Comments

4 Comments

David Cronin

Hi Brian
I was a big fan of the Waimea Elara oaked Sovee that Majestic stocked on there WIGIG promotion as was my daughter who wanted more but when she contacted Majestic they weren’t stocking it anymore and they suggested the ‘Devil’s Creek’ you highlighted. She bought a case and gave me a couple to try and I must say i was pleasantly surprised not as Oaky as the Elara but still a hint of oak and as you say, without losing the sovee style, we both enjoyed it.
The Touriga ‘Herdade De Gambia’ I regularly buy and can heartily recommend.

Brian Elliott

When barrel influences become too pronounced, oaked sauvignon usually loses me but, as you seem to find, Devil’s Creek seems to hit he middle ground well.

jim tague

M&S’s gorgeous Rare Cream Sherry is down from £12 to £6.56 in Scotland, £5 in England

Brian Elliott

Great call Jim and I hadn’t caught up with that particualr promotion. Cream sherry with a few ice cubes and twist of juice and pith from an orange is a delight. A million miles from the fare that “graced” almost every vicarage sideboard in the last century.


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