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Regal offerings

06 June 2014

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OVER the past few years, the middle ground seems to have disappeared in the wine trade. At the one end, the power of the supermarkets has been consolidated; at the other, a number of fine independent wine stores have sprung up. Threshers, Unwins, and Augustus Barnett have all bitten the dust.

The one company that has filled the gap has been Majestic Wines. It used to insist that you bought a minimum of 12 bottles; but, more recently, this has been reduced to six. It has attracted enough customers to ensure a steady expansion throughout the country.

If you read the financial pages of the newspapers, you will have seen that the first quarter of this year witnessed a slowdown in Majestic's inexorable rise. This might account for some of the excellent offers that it is making on its summer price-list, if you are prepared to buy two bottles of the same wine. In this way, you can obtain a discount on the regular retail price.

My attention was particularly taken by those wines under £10 a bottle. Looking first at white wines, I would suggest the refreshing vinho verde from Portugal, Quinta de Azevedo 2013, at just £6.98 (all prices quoted are per bottle, based on your buying two). More full-bodied is the South African Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Vergelegen at £8.91. From the south of France came a wine with the traditional Marsanne/Viognier blend of the northern Rhône: here as a Vin de Pays d'Oc, the Bordière Nord 2013 (£6.79).

Every white-wine selection must now include something from New Zealand, and I would plump for the Black Cottage Marlborough Pinot Gris 2013 (£9.98). Finally, I was pleased to find three for which I would expect to pay much more: two Burgundies, the Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 from Nicolas Potel (£8.65) and, from the Cooperative Cellar at Buxy, a Montagny Vieilles Vignes 2010 (£8.91); and the Pouilly Blanc Fumé (£9.98).

For me, the best red-wine bargain is the Côtes du Ventoux 2013, from the Rhône producers Perrin et Fils, at £6.74. For those who like a claret with some maturity, there is the Ch. Le Vivier Médoc 2008 (£7.99); or, for something even older and less expensive, go to Spain for the Valdepeñas Gran Reserva 2005 from Finca Los Altos (£6.79).

From Chile, I would select the Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Franc 2013 (£5.19); and, from the Casablanca Valley, the First Class Pinot Noir 2013 (£5.99). Representing Portugal, I would select from the Douro, Quinta do Crasto, Crasto 2013, a full-bodied, fruity wine for £9.34; and, from Italy, the Barbera d'Alba Sucule 2010 Lo Zoccolaio (£8.92).

The rosé I have chosen is a newcomer to me - Ch. La Gravette, Minervois 2013 (£6.79). This should be drunk well-chilled, and should be perfect for relaxed sessions by the pool. Sadly, there are no sherries within the price range, but half-bottles of two luscious wines from California just make it at £9.98: they are Quady's Black and Orange Muscats - a great finale to any meal.

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