Wine for your shopping list....

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As I read about how Majestic Wine Warehouse profits’ go from strength to strength I often wonder how they do it because whenever I go past a Majestic store there’s never anyone in it. They’ve been around a long time, which is good for brand recognition, plus unlike some recent failed wine retailers they’ve stuck to their guns and kept things simple: they’re a wine, beer and spirit specialist, not a cigarette, chocolate bar and paper vendor.

Whatever it is they clearly have something right, they have a loyal following of white-collar workers that no doubt keeps their bread buttered and now introducing minimum orders of 6 bottles (instead of a rather daunting 12) they have their sights firmly set on recruiting the commitment-phobe younger market.

There’s little doubt, if you’re looking for a few bottles of wine, your thoughts will turn to Majestic, the other obvious candidates are the big four supermarkets where buying a bottle is easy and often cheap. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have the UK wine market sewn up in terms of volume but what makes a supermarket go from a food shop to a wine destination? It has to be more than convenience of the weekly shop, surely.

I buy most of my food from Sainsbury’s and M&S. I buy wine from M&S but rarely from Sainsbury’s. I find shopping in Asda at anytime of the year as stressful as hitting the Christmas sales on Boxing day. There is no Tesco or Morrison near me so I’m sheltered from those giants. Waitrose on the other hand is near where I work and live and is a curious hybrid having managed to successfully become both a food and wine destination albeit for the more discerning customer.

But what about the other high street chaps like The Cooperative, Somerfield or Spar? I can’t think of any friends or family who’ve boasted about a great bottle they recently picked up from The Coop or on their way home from their local Spar. Despite what is in some cases excellent wine buying (eg: the Coop) what do these little chaps have to do to become ‘wine shops’ and creep onto the general wine drinkers radar? And if one of the supermarkets doesn’t do it for you, then what can they do to tempt you in?

The big advantage I have as a wine blogger is that I’m invited along to ‘press’ tastings. From the Spring tasting season this year I did M&S, Spar, The Coop and Asda to name a few but if I didn’t have an access all areas wine pass certainly Spar, Coop and Asda would rarely, if ever, appear on my website.

The most eye opening of the tastings was without doubt Asda and I enthusiastically penned two of the best white wines I found in their range: Oscar Brillant Sancerre 2011, Loire Valley, France (£11.27) and Three Choirs Regalia 2011, English Regional Wine (£7.30) on missbouquet.com.

One that has yet to get a mention is Asda’s own Petit Chablis 2010 which is petit by name but not by nature, its baked apple and citrus edge demonstrating effortlessly why a store like Asda should be higher on my shopping list. Of course Petit Chablis sits on the lowest quality rung of the Chablis ladder but when there are so many rank chardonnay’s out there it’s great to find an elegant one at such a modest price (£7.27) and from an appellation that you’ll otherwise struggle to find much below a tenner. It’s also a show-them-how-it’s-done finger pointed in the direction of pub wine lists who too often list sickly, low quality new world chardonnay that continue to give this awesome grape a bad rep.

Onwards now to The Coop and Spar……