Majestic reds, Prestige des Princes 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape noté 16.5
Written by Richard Hemming MW
19 Dec 2017
Majestic and Oddbins - same but different?
It makes less and less sense to compare UK retail chains Majestic and Oddbins these days. They might once have been fighting for the same turf, but now their respective models seem decidedly disparate.
Oddbins have 55 high-street shops, of which 30 are in London. Their range is working hard to recapture the quirkiness for which Oddbins was renowned in the 1990s, manifesting itself in wines such as Moisés Virgili Rovira's Blanc Vi Natural, pictured. The label might be blanc, but the wine is in fact red and is a flavoursome example of the light and crunchy style of red which is bang on trend these days.
Majestic have 210 stores and have shifted from being a warehouse-style by-the-case merchant to a more conventional shop. Their range is increasingly focused on own-label wines (about which I grumbled in my June review of their range), and discounting is integral to their strategy. The entire range is discounted by varying degrees when you purchase six or more bottles.
I feel uneasy about this approach, and their recently launched Wine Concierge service illustrates why. It's a straightforward subscription service whereby a case of pre-selected wine is sent every three months. Such models have been successfully run for decades, most notably by Laithwaite's and its wine-club subsidiaries, but what bothers me about them is the way they subvert the true value of wine by purporting to offer almost HALF-PRICE deals, as boasted by the Majestic literature. Price becomes by far the most important factor, thereby undermining all the qualities of wine that should make it so valuable (appellation, vintage, producer, etc).
Something is obviously working, however, because the group recently reported half-year profits of £8.6m, which is no mean feat in the current climate. Perhaps my own view is unduly blinkered by a sentimental affection for my time working there.
Anyway, the point of this article is to compare the wines. They were tasted at press tastings during the last three months, and there's no doubt that both retailers have put together a very strong range. The Oddbins collection is probably more quirky and on-trend, but the Majestic range is full of reliable, good-quality brands covering a wide range of styles, as well as several more unusual additions, such as a 1991 red from Tuscany and an excellent Verdicchio - in fact, their Italian range is a particular stand-out right now.
On the evidence below, both Oddbins and Majestic are currently offering plenty of great wines in their ranges, and surely that's the most basic requirement for wine retailer.
These 118 wines are grouped by retailer and colour then listed in descending score order, which you can rearrange using the menu below. You can jump to the relevant section using
Vanilla, wonderfully ripe blackberry fruit, long and complex on the finish - although there is a touch of oxidative character here too. But it all works in context, and the mid palate has good freshness and concentration. Has the feeling that it is only just opening up. (RH)
£32 Majestic Wine 17.5
Lovely smoky aroma with generous fruit and chocolate flavours. Super-ripe and ready. Finishes dry, leaving a long, smoky aftertaste. Very satisfying. (RH)
£16.99 Majestic Wine 17
Rich and spicy on the nose with juicy black fruit aplenty on the palate. Loads of concentration and juiciness - but appreciably lighter oak than such styles might once have had. Proudly warm climate. (RH)
£19.99 Majestic Wine 17
Lovely oak fragrance with roses, red cherries, high acid and soft tannin. Great refreshment and complexity. Perhaps that acid is pushing the boundaries of balance a little - seems to be a little bit spiky. (RH)
£46 Majestic Wine 17
Perhaps a little bit fungal on the nose, but there is ample ripeness of fruit giving delicious blackberry fruit with juiciness and ripeness on the palate. A fantastic buy at the price! Snap this up while you can. (RH)
£9.99 Majestic Wine 17
Porty character on the nose, cooked black fruit and spice on the palate. Hot, fleshy, ripe - all the Châteauneuf clichés to the fore. (RH)
£21.99 Majestic Wine 16.5