“Sometimes, I go out by myself, and I look across the water”, so sang Amy Winehouse (as did The Zutons before her, although their name doesn’t have quite the same wine-related ring to it). And sometimes I do too. I last visited Calais on a little food and wine shopping spree just before Christmas, and took a lovely little break to have a stroll on the cliffs just outside Sangatte, to wake myself up after the obligatory big French lunch. With my Boeuf Bourguignon gradually settling down, I braved the bracingly stiff sea breeze, and stopped for a few minutes to take in the view across the Channel. On that cold, but beautifully clear December afternoon, Dover’s white cliffs were still in full view. My eyes followed a never-ending stream of ferries, which gradually changed from tiny white specks on the Dover coastline into great magical behemoths, sloping gracefully into Calais harbour. I hadn’t realised it quite so acutely before, but France really isn’t very far away at all.
It’s kind of like London, really. Having travelled over on the Tunnel that morning, looking back across the water reminded me of how I felt the first time I walked from Tottenham Court Road to Leicester Square instead of Tubing it: amazed at how short a distance it actually is. On that occasion, I vowed never to take the Underground for any journey I could make easily on foot. Now, I’m not suggesting that the same applies to the journey to France. After all, you can’t walk on water (well I can’t, anyway). Besides, the Tunnel is so quick it feels like one step away from teleportation, and you still have the choice of a more leisurely ferry trip in the sea air if you prefer, so it’s pretty simple and enjoyable whichever method you choose.
It’s a new year now, and time for a bit of a change at Majestic in France. Despite how easy it is to get over to France these days, it hasn’t always been easy to figure out how much you’re saving by shopping for your wine there. You’d have to look at the current exchange rate, the alcohol duty and VAT rates, then factor in the cost of your travel at current prices. Dodgy puns aside, I reckon “Parlez-vous France save?” seems like a fairly pertinent question: working out your savings sometimes feels like learning a new language. No wonder we Brits are so bad at learning French: we’re too busy calculating prices to have time to even flick through a phrasebook!
You’ll be pleased to hear that things are a little simpler now. We’ve always got round the exchange rate issue by showing our prices in Sterling, as well as accepting payment in Sterling. However, the big news for 2010 is that we’re now guaranteeing that all our wines will be at least £2 per-bottle cheaper than Majestic UK’s best current price which, broadly speaking, represents the saving per bottle due to the difference in tax. With so many popular Majestic favourites now available in Wine & Beer World, this will make it much easier to draw a meaningful comparison. We’ve also replaced our long-running free ferry travel offer with a simplified cash discount structure for larger pre-orders, which will benefit a greater number of customers, and remain consistent regardless of any changes in the ferry operators’ seasonal price changes.
So, now you can decipher the lingo of cross-Channel wine shopping, you can start planning your next visit. I just need to go and learn how to order something a bit lighter for my lunch. What’s French for paté?