Three months ago, Majestic Wine was in the doldrums as its annual profits took a nosedive. A weak pound and fewer champagne corks popping were the main culprits. So autumn needed to be special for Majestic. And it is. The UK's favourite wine warehouse won the Wine Chain of the Year award at the awards ceremonies of both the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine Challenge.
It's a good month, too, for the consumer. After successfully halving the requirement to sell a minimum of 12 bottles following trials in its Newcastle and Darlington stores, Majestic has decided to extend the six-bottle minimum to all 150 stores. The 12-bottle policy remains (with free delivery) if you're buying online.
There's another reason for consumers to be cheerful this month. Thanks to recent harvest gluts and the credit crunch, there's been a re-appearance on the market of some great wine deals, and I'm not talking about the bogus bogof, or buy-one-get-one-free, in which the price of a wine is often artificially inflated to make it look as though it's a bargain. There are some distressed parcels, too. Nothing to do with unhappy postmen but rather the fall-out of surplus stocks piling up around the globe and producers being forced to open the floodgates. Majestic's recent acquisition of 400,000 bottles from the global giant Constellation is a case in point. Their loss is our gain.
For the consumer this means tapping into bargains, and I use the word advisedly. It's affected many regions, and countries like Australia and New Zealand have also produced larger than expected harvests. As long as the UK wine trade gets its skates on, we can expect to see some particularly good deals from these quarters. Bordeaux, California and Chianti's stockpile of unsold wines should see some bargains arriving from these regions too, while champagne's overstocking in the face of plunging exports is widely predicted to bring plenty of festive cheer in time for Christmas.
If you haven't picked up any of Constellation's Bay of Fires bargains at Majestic, now is the time. The global giant also owns South Africa's Flagstone Winery, whose nettley, green-peppery 2008 Free Run Sauvignon Blanc, normally £5.29, is down to £3.97 if you buy 2 bottles by 28 September. From New Zealand, Lion Nathan's tropical-fruited 2008 Marlborough Chardonnay, normally £8.99, is reduced to £5.99 if you buy two bottles, as is its tropical fruit and gooseberry-toned 2008 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc. And the sauvignon is the same promoted price in Waitrose's New World showcase running to 27 September.
A feature of Majestic's buying policy, bargains aren't always just about cut-price deals but equally cleverly sourced wines that punch above their weight. And there are plenty of those on Majestic's new autumn list. Among them, I would single out the impressively rich, classically peppery, blackberry-fruity 2006 Chalk Spring Vineyard Shiraz, Limestone Coast, £7.99, but £4.99 if you buy two by 29 October, the smoky, loganberryish 2008 Marlborough Hills Pinot Noir, £8.99, or buy 2 = £6.99, and, from the Cape, the elegant 2007 Thelema Mountain Red, a blend of shiraz and merlot with toasty oak and sweet cherry fruit, £9.99, but buy 2 by 28 September = £7.49. As the competition hots up between now and Christmas, I suspect there'll be many more reasons to make us cheerful.Reuse content