Bibendum and Matthew Clark have had a lot of publicity in the last few weeks for all the wrong reasons, but as the dust starts to settle on C&C’s last minute deal to rescue them from Conviviality and administration it’s time to get back to the day job of selling wine to the premium on-trade. But do they have a range good enough to get them firing on all cylinders again? “Hell yes they do”, so says Roger Jones, our Michelin Star roving editor, who joined a select band of journalists to go through their portfolio on March 27 at the height of their troubles.
You might have thought the buying powers at Bibendum and Matthew Clark had more pressing things to worry about than put on a showcase tasting of their top wines late last month, but it was also a determined stance to show the wines it believes best demonstrates what they have to offer the trade. Roger Jones gives his assessment.
I was invited to a tasting of Bibendum and Matthew Clark’s fine wine portfolio last month. It was a special tasting of their ‘Top’ 100 wines showcased by Andrew Shaw, Simon Jerrome and Willie Lebus who were all at pains to encourage “Business as usual” and that, despite the recent financial turmoil, they had all been busy building up both the portfolios of Bibendum and Matthew Clark.
The tasting was laid out quite simply with Bibendum down one side and Mathew Clark the other side, interestingly or mistakenly I started on the Bibendum side having not taken notice of the heading of the list of wines I was given. The idea that Matthew Clark is the lesser partner certainly did not warrant that title, and on the day I was equally impressed with the Matthew Clark portfolio that highlighted some exceptional wines.
Together, these two household names supply the daily bread and butter of much of the UK on-trade and have built up a very good broad list to fulfil the needs of many establishments across the whole of the UK. Of course mistakes have been made but their portfolios still showcase great wines. They are also the essential link between major importers who do not service the on-trade.
Prices are ex VAT and, of course, are negotiable – here are a few of my highlights, with new wines to their portfolio marked.
The wines from Bibendum
La Guita, Manzanilla NV – NEW
Andalucia, Spain | Palomino | £5.59
Can’t go wrong with this classic.
Lacourte Godbillon, Terroirs d’Ecueil 1er Cru Brut NV – NEW
Champagne, France | Pinot Noir, Chardonnay | £27.88
Very approachable, with a lovely deep but delicate mousse, soft and gentle on the palate with a fine finish. Well balanced and an excellent aperitif champagne.
Pouillon & Fils, Brut Reserve, 2010 – NEW
Champagne, France | Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier | £30.41
Fuller and seemed to have had more time on its lees, seemed to have more Petit Meunier giving it more depth and a bit more masculine, great with food.
Calabria, Italy / Greco / £10.07
Funky retro bottle, sea shore freshness, floral, balanced.
Surrey, England | £17.54
Good balance of Chardonnay and Bacchus, sourced from three counties, zesty and fresh currently but made to age.
Bulgarian, Lugana, 2016
Lombardy, Italy | Turbiana | £12.21
Expensive well-designed looking bottle, fresh and vibrant, peaches and apricots, nutty finish.
Johann Baptist Schafer, Pittermannchen Riesling Kabinett. 2016 – NEW
Nahe, Germany | Riesling | £15.37
Stunning wine, full-flavoured ripe fruit balanced perfectly with citrus flavours, textured, makes you appreciate great German Riesling.
Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre Blanc La Moussiere, 2016 – NEW
Loire, France | Pinot Noir | £21.42
Good to see this great name of Sancerre back, classic style from one of the best sites in Sancerre on the Moussiere vineyard on the Sancerre hills. It has it all: crisp, fresh, balanced with elegant texture, fresh but layered.
Kreydenweiss, Lerchenberg Pinot Gris, 2016 – NEW
Alsace, France | Pinot Gris | £15.78
Famous for its artistry labels, this very fine Pinot Gris offers texture and depth and is an ideal ‘New’ wine to promote with food.
Vrignaud, Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, 2015
Burgundy, France | Chardonnay | £22.74
Text book Chablis, precision, focused and delivers.
Chenin Blanc | Gisborne, New Zealand | £17.00
James Millton is a superstar being one of the first 10 wine makers to go biodynamic in the world when he set his winery up in Gisborne in 1984 with his wife Annie. Superb Chenin, focussed, bright ripe stone fruit, honeyed, delicate citrus finish, complete.
Domaine Grand Veneur, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Le Miocene, 2016
Rhone, France | Clairette, Roussanne | £26.98
Love the purity on this wine, its textured, its full of mellow flavours with a gentle ripple of freshness, perfect foodie wine.
Valpolicella, Italy | Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara | £11.09
Juicy and meaty, full flavoured but equally easy drinking, great value for a wine that packs so much in.
Castello di Ama, San Lorenzo, 2014 – NEW
Tuscany, Italy | Sangiovese, Merlot | £30.05
Very fine clusters of berries, opulent, well balanced with delicate spices controlling the luscious fruit, seductive.
Chateau Maris La Touge, Syrah Grenache, 2014
Minervois, France | Syrah, Grenache | £13.74
More New World in style, juicy and textured, touch of perfume, red fruits in abundance, great balance and easy drinking – try it just a bit cooler on a hot Summer’s day.
Maule Valley, Chile | Carignan | £20.44
This is a beautiful wine, great fruit intensity, deep layered flavours that roll around the palate, it’s exciting and perfectly blended.
Piedmont, Italy | Barbera | £15.89
Gamey, fresh, vanilla, dark red berries, savoury and vibrant, seems to have too many adjectives but this is a well structured wine that would be perfect with some squab pigeon and white Alba truffles.
Rhône, France | Syrah, Roussanne | £16.71
Classic Rhône, delicate on the nose with a very fine defined nose, fresh red berries, hints of spices delicate oak, perfectly balanced, a real marvel.
Château St Cosme, Gigondas, 2016
Rhone, France | Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre | £22.47
My word how refreshing to find a great Gigondas that has freshness, although it still has that distinct big nose on the palate it is delicate with cocoa, dark but control berries, sweet and liquorice on the end.
And then there were the wines from Matthew Clark…
La Guita, En Rama Manzanilla NV
Jerez, Spain | Palomino | £7.63
I see MC took the better option on the Manzanilla, just that bit of extra to this En Rama style giving it more depth and backbone.
Closer, Adelaide Hills NV
South Australia, Australia | Pinot Noir | £14.23
Highlighting how good Australian sparkling wine can be, soft and controlled acidity, mellow on the palate with bright berries.
Taittinger, Nocturne Sec NV
Champagne, France | Chardonnay | £37.95
Love this wine with its extra depth and structure, the extra dosage gives it a luxury lift and ideal as a late night digestif or matched with food such as ceviche or sashimi.
South Australia, Australia | Riesling | £18.61
My word, this is classic Australian Riesling at its best, brilliant.
Rheinhessen, Germany | Riesling | £14.83
Classic German Riesling offering rich fruit with wet stone and citrus lime, perfectly balanced and a lively clean easy drinking friendly wine to challenge Sauvignon Blanc.
Shannon, Semillon Elgin Valley, 2015/16
Elgin Valley, South Africa | Semillon | £13.23
Touch of spritz to give it freshness, fresh clean and focussed, a different style to the Hunter but a lovely fresh style that showcases what South Africa can do with Semillon.
Burgundy, France | Chardonnay | £24.30
Classic Chablis, pretty perfect with such delicacy and tiny explosion of flavours tantalising the palate
Victoria, Australia | Chardonnay | £12.84
Incredible value for this typical Australian Chardonnay with lemon zest, apricots, beeswax – a Yarra classic.
California, USA | Chardonnay | £15.42
Vibrant, toasty, nutty, exotic fruits, highlighting good value from California, a blend of three sub regions.
Emile Beyer, Gewürztraminer, Alsace Tradition, 2016
Alsace, France | Gewürztraminer | £12.37
Beautiful nuances of Istanbul Turkish Delight, delicate florals, wonderful fragrance, clean and bright on the palate, great as an aperitif or with food.
Tenute Fiorebelli Cabaletta, Rosso delle Venezie, 2015/16
Venezie, Italy | Corvina, Rodinella | £7.82
Full on wine for this price, cocoa, sweet fruit, delicate perfumes mixed together, serve slightly chilled.
Agostino Petri da Vicchiomaggio, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2013/14
Toscana, Italy | Sangiovese, Canaiolo | £15.32
Classy, delicate perfume on the nose, hints of soft vanilla, bright clean red berries, a lovely mouthful of freshness.
California, USA | Pinot Noir | £18.42
This is a Californian Pinot no doubt, deep intensity of flavours with some mocha and dark berries, balanced well and great texture.
Victoria, Australia | Pinot Noir | £14.31
So pleased to see Stonier back in the UK market, highlighting the quality of wines especially Pinot from Mornington Peninsula. Delicate wine with a purity that evolves on the palate, incredible freshness from the light red berries.
Te Kairanga, Pinot Noir, 2014/15
Martinborough, New Zealand | Pinot Noir | £14.14
Martinborough like Mornington produces classic, light New World Pinot Noirs and this is a stunning example of what this little village the other side of Wellington can produce.
Altos de Jose Ignacio, Tannat Merlot, 2016/17
Maldonado, Uruguay | Tannat, Merlot | £10.16
Love the Merlot part of this which helps soften the Tannat, clean fresh, focused, it’s got backbone but still juicy and easy drinking.
Bierzo, Spain | Mencia | £16.10
From the cooler part of North West Spain, using old vines, this is focused, vibrant, clean but lingering, the fruit is piercing in freshness.
Tierra Fuerte, Graciano Mentrida Abanico, 2013/14
Mentrida, Spain | Graciano | £11.04
Big and bold but has a fine freshness to the ripe fruit, the richness is balanced well with a fine, fresh, vanilla finish, this is a very easy drinking red that will be a crowd pleaser.