Wine: Chain reaction
Nicolas invaded the UK in the late 1980s. At the time, it had 370 shops in France and an additional 40 franchises, and had recently, as an ailing business, been taken over by Castel Freres from Remy Martin.
In theory, there were many good reasons to avoid Britain - from the impending recession, and looser border controls, to a growing taste for New World wines and supermarkets' encroachment into off-licence territory. But, after a slow start, Nicolas successfully swam against the tide with its vive la difference approach.
Of the 1,300 products in the range, only 200 are non-French. Its great strength is exclusive wines. It gets to the nooks of la France profonde - places like Jura, Cahors and Madiran - that even Oddbins and Bottoms Up can't reach. Its shops look stylish, even if its wines are not the most competitively priced.
Last year was a record year for the firm, as people discovered what is has to offer. Its good-value Petite Recolte range and its Champagne discounts went down particularly well. This year, the firm has opened new premises in Primrose Hill and Muswell Hill. Plans for shops in Marylebone High Street, Fleet Street and Maida Vale will bring its total number of shops to 14. Staff are mostly French. They undergo a stiff, four-year maitre caviste course before they are allowed to manage a shop, so know more than many chain-store managers. Until recently, all staff were French. But in a new spirit of Anglo-French co-operation, Nicolas has taken on the odd Brit or two. Wines of the Week
1996 Chateau Haut Rian, Entre Deux Mers, pounds 5.99. Fine modern, full-flavoured Graves-style blend of two-thirds Semillion, one-third Sauvignon, from Michel Dietrich. 1996 Jurancon Sec Grain Sauvage, pounds 6.75. Assertive white, made at the Jurancon Co-op in the Pyrenean foothills from the intriguing Gros Manseng grape. 1996 Quincy Pierre Duret, pounds 7.50. Pungent, refreshing Loire-Sauvignon alternative to Sancerre with the backbone to age. 1994 Chateau de la Guiche, Montagny, A Goichot, pounds 11.50. Buttery richness and oak characterise this stylish Cote Chalonnaise white Burgundy. 1995 Domaine de la Berthete Cotes du Rhone Villages, P Maillet, pounds 6.90. Fine Rhone red with blackberry fruit and angostura-like spiciness. 1993 Chateau de Chambert, Cahors, pounds 8.99. Modern Cahors with sweet oak, backbone, tarry notes. 1994 Chateau Bel Air, Lussac St Emillion, pounds 9.95. Textbook, youthful, Merlot- based petit chateau claret. 1993 Prieure de St Jean de Bebian, Coteaux de Languedoc, le Brun-Lecouty, pounds 12.50. A Languedoc star, this Chateauneuf- style blend is rich and intense.
Life & Style blogs
iPhone 6s Plus photos: leaks show Force Touch display, subtly altered size
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus battery capacity will be weaker than predecessors, Apple leaks suggest
Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
Amazon Prime Video launches offline viewing, feature Netflix has said is 'never going to happen'
How to discover who your best friends are on WhatsApp - using a tool within the application
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...