Majestic Wine 2020 range review: Regional France
In the latest glimpse at Majestic Wine's 2020 range review for the Autumn months, DRN caught up with Beth Pearce MW to find out more about the new additions from Regional France.
The most important element of this part of the review is that it is no longer just about Southern France, according to Pearce. Majestic's Regional French range now encompasses more of the breadth and variety on offer outside the more famous regions, with new additions including bottles from Cotes-d’auvergne, Jura, Savoie and the Ardeche.
Pearce says: “For me, Southern France is the ultimate ‘house wine’ location - and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Many customers may not know their Colombard from their Gros Manseng, but they know quality when they taste it in a blend of the two.
“Whilst the New World has fantastic options at entry-level price points, we know that for many of our customers their go-to bottle needs to be French, strong on quality and reasonable in price. But that doesn't mean our regional range has to be just entry-level plonk. There’s so much more to get excited about.”
The retailer has now broadened its representation across the French regions with introductions of wines from Jura, Savoiie and Gascony, and strengthening existing regions such as Ardeche. It has also ensured there is a good representation of organic wine and Pearce has strengthened areas its customers already love, such as Viognier and Picpoul.
Pearce says: “Producers here are far more ambitious than we were giving them credit for in our range. The level of investment, world-beating expertise and incredible range of grapes and terroirs on offer mean customers will get a lot of value per pound they spend. It’s a really exciting time for winemakers right across France, and we’re keen to champion them in Majestic stores.”
The amount of SKUs for these regions has remained roughly the same as before, although Pearce points out that this is still greater than the market average.
She has added some new producers, including suppliers who are using concrete eggs to ferment.
Moving on the Rhone, Pearce has been keen to diversify into lesser-known appellations like Rasteau, Laudun and Vinsobres, while reducing its reliance on Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape.
She says: “The Rhône is about more than Côtes-du-Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but our range had become far reliant on these famous names. Whilst they continue to make excellent wines, it’s a disservice to the region to become too focused on them, and made us blinkered to many of the fantastic emerging villages and winemakers across the whole valley.
“What really excites me (and I’m sure our customers will discover) is how fluid quality is. It’s unlike anywhere else in France in that sense. Villages can emerge as leading names under the right stewardship and conditions. Our range should be a showcase for these too. By stocking a more varied range of appellations, we can really show that variety and innovation now taking place across the Rhône. It’s a really exciting story to tell.”
Majestic has now improved its Northern Rhone offering and introduced organic options from the region, for example from Alain Jaume.
Looking at other regions in France, Alsace has been one of the steady success stories for Majestic in recent years and Pearce notes it has a firm Majestic customer following and a “really devoted fanbase” with store colleagues.
The aim for this region was to maintain a strong presence of key aromatic varietals at different price points, including Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer.
She says: “We’ve always had a strong offering across the aromatic whites of the region, and one of the key strengths of our range has been the scalability. “Unlike in many other regions, customers already have key styles at different price points they can browse with us - and some much-loved producers feature prominently in the range.
“The key area for us to improve, however, was our non-existent red Alsace range. For me, this is a really exciting frontier for the region - and their Pinot Noir has the potential to take on some of the big names of France with its light, cherry scented opulence and great value.”
Majestic’s first Pinot Noir from Alsace in more than a decade is from Hunawihr.