Majestic Wine 2020 range review: South Africa, Italy and Beaujolais

Majestic Wine is introducing a raft of wines this Autumn, as part of its 2020 range review. To find out more DRN caught up with wine buyer Nadia Williamson, who has worked on enhancing the retailer’s South Africa, Italy and Beaujolais ranges.

Williamson explained that of all the range reviews Majestic’s work on South Africa has arguably been the most important, predominantly because the country and its winemakers have been hit hard by Covid and the strict restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

She says: “I have spent a lot of time talking to our suppliers and friends in the area, to ensure that we really find ways of supporting where best we can. And we know from our staff and customer feedback they want to do their bit too.”

The idea behind the range review for South Africa was to not only reach out to a new generation of winemakers but also to support the whole region, she explains.

“We want to create a Majestic renaissance of South African wine in our stores. We want this to be the time our customers really open their eyes to potential and depth of the whole Cape. And we want them to keep coming back for more.”

To do this, Williamson increased the number of SKUs by 17% and renewed 40% of the overall range.

One of the key aims, according to Williamson, has been to help shift the consumer perception away from bulk-produced entry-level wines, and instead help to educate wine drinkers about the quality of South African wines that can be found at slightly higher price points.

Therefore, many of the bulk-produced wines have been delisted and Majestic’s average price point for South African wines is now higher than before.

She has also introduced “characterful winemakers” to the range, who focus on quality and also regionality. Examples of these include Trizanne Barnard, David Finlayson and Samantha O’Keefe.

She adds: “We are also actively looking to work with more suppliers from a BAME background, in areas where our support can make a real difference”. South Africa is also “a really exciting frontier” for organic and biodynamic winemaking, and new additions from Reyneke are examples of this, she says.

The changes are aimed at being “not just a short-term fix”; instead the idea has been to bring in new suppliers and producers to showcase the best of South Africa, as well as working more closely with some of the retailer’s existing winemakers.

Another part of the focus has been to ensure Majestic has more of a spread of regions, and so new additions here include Helem-en-Aarde (Creation), and Tulbagh (Fable Mountain), while also strengthening established customer favourite regions.

In addition, two iconic varieties – Chenin Blanc and Pinotage – were identified as being underrepresented in Majestic stores, which has led to new additions to create a better ladder of styles and price points. Meanwhile “old friends” including Springfield Estate and Porcupine Ridge have been welcomed back to Majestic.

Italy

Williamson is also the buyer responsible to rejuvenating the range of Italian wines.

In her view Italy should be “the real wine-lovers paradise” but she felt that as a fan of Italian wine herself, Majestic’s range didn’t draw her in.

She says: “While we have had some great successes over the years with introducing esoteric grapes like Fiano, Pecorino and regions like Sicily, we needed to build on those and continue to push boundaries – and unleash the potential of our staff to really support that voyage of discovery for our customers.”

As part of the overhaul, the retailer has increased the overall number of SKUs by 38%. Duplication of styles and grapes has been reduced but 31 new lines have been introduced.

She notes also that the breadth of the range has “massively increased”, with more styles, and price points for existing regions such as Chianti, while bringing in more smaller DOCs and indigenous grape varieties was a key focus for Williamson. As part of this, she has added more premium options for white wines, such as Pecorino, Soave and Sardinian Vermentino.

She says: “Plenty of important wines have been added to the range, which have been missing over the recent years, including Lugana, Etna Rosso Bardolino, Salice Salentino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano; plus additions to the Definition range, including a Barolo and Valpolicella.”

Majestic is now working with more boutique suppliers, from areas such as Super Tuscans (Grattamacco and Famiglia Mate), Barolo (Marcarini) and Brunello (La Magia Organic). It has also increased its Sicilian wine offer with a Nero Ora brand expansion (an Appassimento Grillo) and more indigenous wines.

Williamson says: “Key to recapturing the magic of our Italian range was ensuring we had representation from all the key regions and styles – plus some absolute curve balls too.”

Beaujolais

Williamson’s final area for the Autumn segment of the 2020 range review is Beaujolais.

She points out that this was one of the surprise success stories of lockdown, with sales up more than 70% against the same period in 2019.

She says: “With plenty of customers buying into the category, our key aim is to continue to show the quality available across the region. We want to showcase that the cru-level wines have plenty to offer than just simple, light-drinking fun – and that by spending a little bit more you can uncover something truly unique.”

Majestic has added new wines that make statements about the direction of Beaujolais, to highlight the quality and innovation from the region. Within this, there are new organic additions, including a Fleurie from Jean Marc Pardon. Other newcomers include Lucien Lardy in Moulin A Vent and Morgon Cote de Puy, and a parcel of Beaujolais Chardonnay, which Williamson says is “going down a storm with our customers”.

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