Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Resist Anything but This Mad Temptation

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Resist Anything but This Mad Temptation

Article excerpt

Byline: By Helen Savage

Majestic has the happy knack of getting it right. The proof is its bottom line ( just about the healthiest sales record of any major wine business in the UK.

The secret of its success is much more than a formula of `pile it high, sell it cheap'. Its buying policy seems to be a very canny combination of snapping up bargain lots of quality wine (like the stunning `parcel' of 36,000 bottles of fabulous mature Burgundies they released last August), and of knowing exactly what its customers want.

My only grouse is that I sometimes wish it would play a little less safe.

Its Spanish range, for example, is dominated by Rioja, but I admit that it's deservedly popular (after a rather wobbly time a decade ago), and the Majestic selection is typically well-chosen and pretty stunning by any standards.

Another big reason why Majestic made record profits last year must be down to its knowledgeable and helpful staff. Thirty-one-year-old Lisa Ashman, the manager of the Newcastle Warehouse at Haddricks Mill Road, South Gosforth, (there's also a warehouse in Grange Road, Darlington) radiates a deep enthusiasm for wine.

She grew up in a family that enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner and, after her student days at Northumbria University, she saw an advert for Majestic's graduate training scheme, thought it might be more exciting than sitting in the Civic Centre doing social research and soon found she'd made the right choice.

"They're an interesting and fun company to work for," she maintains.

She enjoyed mugging up her wine knowledge with the company's help and was moved from Cheltenham to Ayr, and all stations in between, as she rapidly learned all the skills needed to successfully manage a big store (at Gosforth she leads a lean team of four, plus a full-time driver).

She's been back in the North-East for five years and, as much as she loves the life here, she looks forward to any opportunity to go and see vineyards for herself and learn more about wine.

When we met, Lisa was just about to visit New Zealand. "What a marvellous country it is. I adore Sauvignon Blanc and I'm really looking to seeing where it's made and trying some of the new varieties we don't see here. …

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