Majestic Wines is exploring a sale of its entire UK retail portfolio as it shifts its focus to the online business that trades under the Naked Wines brand.
Sky News has learnt that Majestic's board has appointed bankers at Rothschild to sound out prospective buyers for its retail and commercial operations, which encompass an estate of about 200 stores.
Private equity firms have been contacted in the last fortnight to gauge their appetite for a potential acquisition of the divisions, City sources said on Tuesday.
The news comes a month after Majestic outlined a transformation plan which highlighted scope for asset sales and store closures, but did not disclose the possibility of a full exit from its UK retail business.
As part of the revamp, the wine producer and distributor said it would change its corporate name to Naked Wines.
The strategic shift highlights the pressure that Britain's biggest specialist wine retailer has been facing from supermarket chains, as well as the broader headwinds afflicting high street chains in the form of rising costs and shaky consumer sentiment.
A plethora of prominent retailers have either gone bust or turned to emergency restructuring procedures to shut stores and slash rent bills in recent months.
Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group, Debenhams and Monsoon Accessorize are among the chains which plan to launch Company Voluntary Arrangements in the coming weeks in a bid to survive.
Majestic, which has seen its shares virtually halve in the last 12 months, at least has the advantage of a thriving digital operation to offer encouragement about its future performance.
In its most recent update to the City, it said it was on track to meet a £500m sales target this year, and that the one-off costs of exiting retail stores could "largely be recouped through asset disposals".
The value of the divisions Majestic has asked Rothschild to sell was unclear on Tuesday.
Majestic's retail and commercial arms are likely to appeal to turnaround funds, although the company declined to comment on whether any had expressed an interest in acquiring them at this stage.
Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, a Majestic spokesman said: "The combination of customer migration, disposals and store closures from Majestic Retail will release substantial investment capital and transform the company into an out-and-out growth business.
"While a total sale of Majestic Retail continues to be a potential option, it would be wholly unwise to pursue a single-track process and materially limit the potential value that can be realised to drive growth."
The company plans to provide a further update to investors in mid-June.