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The rise and rise of Majestic

Who thinks wine staff are intimidating? Amy Wislocki finds out why Majestic deserved its Decanter Wine Merchant of the Year award

Two different statistics this week tell a very different tale.

Majestic profits surge by 20%, while UK supermarkets are slammed in a consumer survey for failing to help wine buyers. 45% of respondents to the survey on WineOption.org said they felt intimidated by the people in charge of wine at the supermarkets, with the biggest complaint the frustration they feel when trying to get sensible information about wine.

Majestic has won Decanter’s Wine Merchant of the Year Retailer Award every year since the inception of the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2004. Yes, this is partly down to the quality and range of wines on offer. But what makes Majestic stand out on the high street today is the genuine passion of their staff, and the in depth wine knowledge that they are only to happy to share with customers – not only informally as you browse the aisles, but through instore wine tastings and free introductory sessions on how to appreciate wine.

I attended a ‘Wine Walk’ at my local, Kingston upon Thames branch recently, held after closing time. After a glass of Chilean sparkling wine, we were led around the store and given four pairs of wine to taste, under the categories ‘Off the Beaten Track Whites’, ‘Finding Chardonnay’, ‘Off the Beaten Track Reds’ and ‘Finding Cabernet’.

The wines were fine. But what struck me was the delivery, and the quality of information given. Each pair was accompanied by a food match, set out by head office, and extremely successful: not only Parmesan with a balsamic reduction to accompany the Portuguese and Languedoc reds, but more offbeat offerings too – Hungarian thistle and Dry Furmint, anyone?

The only downside to the evening was the poor turnout. There were 16 registered, and of these 12 no-shows. The demand is obviously there, as the aforementioned survey shows. Let’s hope Majestic continues to offer such value-added services for free, and that its no-shows get their act together.

Written by Amy Wislocki

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