Anthony Rose: 'Majestic has improved its offering, by reducing the minimum purchase from 12 to six bottles

Wine Rack est mort, vive Wine Rack! Or so, at least, the London and suburban residents of the 20 locations now served by the revamped Wine Rack are hoping. When the premium arm of the Thresher group decided to offload its entire chain in November 2009, it looked like curtains for the ailing high-street brand. But after Venus plc bought the company with 13 stores, refurbished them and added seven more, Wine Rack has once again made a startling comeback. Mind you, holding its press launch on the day of Majestic's spring tasting wasn't the best timing in the world.

It was inauspicious because comparisons, however odious, were inevitable, as Majestic is the competition to beat. Where the high street has contracted in recent years, Majestic, like a mighty salmon swimming upstream, has expanded. It has improved its offering, and, by reducing the minimum purchase from a dozen to six bottles, brought in new customers. It trains and retains its loyal staff, not least a skilled wine-buying team that juggles existing suppliers with bringing new ones on board and sourcing great "deals" like the recent parcels from Houghton and Ravenswood.

With its nose to the ground, Majestic's buying team has also started to snap up surplus wines from premium suppliers, selling them under a new Prestige Parcels label. Like good journalists, they won't divulge their source, but the 2009 Prestige Parcels Pinot Gris, from Marlborough, £9.99, buy two = £7.99, is an example of the type, a vibrant, fresh, pear-fruity ringer for an Alsace dry white. There's a Gewürz in the same series but I'd pay the extra for the pot pourri-scented, refreshingly dry 2009 Spy Valley Gewürztraminer, Marlborough, £12.49, buy 2 = £9.99.

Among other smart white buys, the 2009 Domaine de Villargeau, Coteaux du Giennois, £9.99, buy 2 = £7.99, is a snappy, gooseberry fool-rich sauvignon blanc, and a perfect alternative to pricier sancerre. On the reds front, I was struck by the quality of the 2008 Givry Rouge from Antonin Rodet, £13.99, buy two = £11.99, an elegant raspberryish pinot noir spliced with an accomplished touch of toasty oak, and, on Bordeaux-style lines, the vivid, intensely cassis flavoured, 2008 Craggy Range Te Kahu, Gimblett Gravels, £13.99, buy 2 = £11.99, from New Zealand's Hawkes Bay.

Back to Wine Rack, who've been fashioning their new list. There was an old-fashioned flavour, however, to the proceedings: a plethora of negoçiant burgundies and Bordeaux petits châteaux, some drab and tired, apparently bought off-the-peg from UK agents rather than the result of footslogging research. Of the sauvignons, the 2010 Mudhouse Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, £11.49, stood out for its elderflower and tropical fruit, as did the lemongrassy 2005 Elizabeth Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley Semillon, £9.99.

Fine reds included a youthfully mellow 2004 Baron de Ley Reserva Rioja, £13.99, a vibrant and powerful, raspberryish 2007 Vacqueyras, Domaine Grand Montmirail, £13.49, and a damson-rich, satisfyingly mature 2004 Clos Les Fites Priorat, £23.99. With so many new wines, some looking a little pricier than they might be, there's still a work-in-progress feel about the list. But with 5 per cent off any six wines until tomorrow, it's a good time for Wine Rack locals to check out whether the phoenix has the wings to fly or not.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific