Matthew Clark is now showcasing increasingly quirky choices at its tastings, chosen by its knowledgeable buyers. Roger Jones of the Harrow at Little Bedwyn is pleased that the company is so willing to diversify
There has been an impressive overhaul at Matthew Clark in recent years. It's gone from a business that prided itself on keeping the pubs, bars and restaurant chains of the UK well-stocked, and has now entered the premier league by adding unique and prestigious wines to its account.
By diversifying and expanding its portfolio, it is not only gaining many new high-profile accounts, but also encouraging its long-standing customer base to look at enhancing and upgrading its wine lists.
It would have been easy for the buyers at Matthew Clark just to add the ‘big commercial glory labels' to its new portfolio, but instead it has sourced an impressive array of new wines. The company is now working with some of the best UK importers to find the very best available.
Its recent London Tasting, held at the fabulous Tobacco Dock in East London, showcased some stunning wines. Here are some of the lessons the tasting provided.
Spain is offering not only great value, but great diversification at the moment, giving you a great platform to enthral your customers with new experiences.
With Prosecco being everyone's cash earner, I would highly recommend stepping up a level and looking at quality Cava (which is made in the traditional Champagne method). Villa Conchi offers a range of distinctly more upmarket sparkling wine.
Villa Conchi Brut Selección, Cava, Catalunya NV, £8.88
The nose is full of fresh-baked brioche with a mouthful of ripe-flavoured stone fruit that is bubbly, fresh and exciting. This wine is perfect for an appetiser and offers enough quality to wow the customer at a great price.
Villa Conchi Brut Reserva, Cava, Catalunya NV, £10.29
This is a much more textured wine with softer bubbles and rich flavours coming through, highlighting the quality of the wine. Just a small step up in price certainly gives a more structured drink that would go well with appetisers with spice, such as chilli squid with caramelised pork belly.
Villa Conchi Extra Brut Imperial, Cava, Catalunya 2010, £11.69
The new whites of Spain
Uno Txakoli, Goianea, Basque 2014, £11.64
Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia aren't the easiest grape varieties to shout about, but the splash of Riesling got me interested. This is wine made by a priest, a restaurateur and a stockman. It's a wonderful example of what a bit of searching around will get you.
Delicate banana flavours mingle with apricots and zesty citrus peel. It's silky and vibrant - a sure winner by the glass - and a great match for shellfish such as gooseneck barnacles.
Torres Fransola Sauvignon Blanc, Penedès 2014, £16.06, and Torres Milmanda Chardonnay, Conca de BarberÁ , Penedès 2010, £25.38
Torres has, of course, a big following for its reds, but I have always loved its whites and was highly impressed with both of these, each offering a luxurious and elegant style.
Orgullo White, Castilla 2014, £7.92
This blend of Chardonnay (partly oak-aged) and Sauvignon Blanc gives an intense, creamy nose and vibrant flavours on the palate with exotic fruits and a clean, fresh acidity that will take spicy food well. The label is that of the Pride flag and a percentage of each sale will go to LGBT charities.
Ánima de Raimat Blanco, Costers del Segre 2013, £8.34
This wine has a balanced, mellow nose with a deep, honeyed and savoury mouth feel. There are peaches and nectarines, similar to a classy Sémillon, although this is made from Chardonnay, Xarel-lo and AlbariÁ±o.
Doyard sells about 50% of its crop as juice, notably to MoÁ«t & Chandon for Dom Perignon and to Louis Roederer for Cristal, keeping the best parcels for its own Champagne. These wines are a revelation.
Doyard Cuvée Vendémiaire, Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru Brut NV, £27.18
What is apparent with all of these Champagnes is their generosity - they provide full, tropical flavours with a succulent and juicy mouth feel, featuring toasted brioche and a very fine acidity to cut through the texture. It's a fabulous, classy style at an affordable price.
This current Cuvée is a blend of three vintages - 2009, 2008 and 2007 - meaning it's really a multi-vintage Champagne rather than its official label of non vintage. Enjoy it with a smoked eel and Waldorf salad.
Doyard Oeil De Perdrix Grand Cru Extra-Brut Millésime 2011, £51.03
This is classified as a rosé but it is more blush, with 75% Pinot Noir (oak-aged), 25% Chardonnay (stainless steel) and with a small content of the Pinot grapes being very gently pressed to get a touch of colour. It's refined, complex and beautifully balanced. I would love to drink this with Pyrenees milk-fed lamb.
Doyard Cuvée Libertine, £120.72
It certainly has a price tag, and with 6.5g residual sugar, is more akin to ChÁ¢teau d'Yquem with bubbles. It's lusciously rich and full bodied with a limey acidity that's balanced with dried fruits and caramel. The flavours capitulate your palate. This is a one-off Champagne; it's based on four vintages and cellar-aged for 12 years. Food matching? Just drink it at the end of the meal and enjoy.
South African pastures new
With South Africa currently the darling of the wine trade, it was pleasing to see some real gems from the Cape at the tasting.
PongrÁ¡cz Rosé NV, £12.48
Kleine Zalze, MCC Vintage Brut 2010, £18.40
Two sparkling wines, or MCCs (Méthode Cap Classique as they call them in the Cape), shone: the attractive and easy-drinking PongrÁ¡cz Rosé NV (pronounced "pomgrass"), which is full of juicy strawberry flavours; and the Kleine Zalze MCC Vintage Brut, 2010, which balances citrus and bright red berry with a delicate brioche background.
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve, Chenin Blanc 2014, £15.25
If you are not familiar with the new breed of super Chenins coming out of South Africa, now is the time to take note. This wine is a result of multi-vineyard blending, barrel selection and natural filtration. It has notes of stone fruit and citrus, and is creamy and textured with a vibrant acidity. It goes well with a range of dishes; from carpaccio (meat and fish) to poultry and light Asian appetisers.
Shannon Sanctuary Peak, Sauvignon Blanc 2014, £10.31
With a movement against the tinned, grassy, bell-pepper Sauvignon Blancs of old, here we have a classic from Elgin in the Walker Bay region. There is some 10% new oak barrel-fermented Sémillon added to this wine, giving texture and elegance. There are white peaches and lush citrus fruits, making for a very balanced wine that gives lots of layers in the mouth.
Hopefully this gives you a taste of what Matthew Clark is up to. The company offers wines at every budget, but together with its education scheme and focus on wines solely for the on-trade, it is becoming a class act. If you missed the tasting, do not be alarmed, as Matthew Clark will hosting numerous masterclasses throughout the year.
Prices are correct at the time of writing but may vary
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