Bibendum Wine is just one of those cool companies. The kind of place that you wished you work for, but you don’t – at least in my case.
Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure of being invited to their offices a few times now over the past few months in order to sample their wines. Besides learning more about my favorite beverage, it has been a great way of meeting other food and wine people in the flesh, cementing relationships formed virtually through our increasingly ever ‘connected’ worlds.
Most recently, I attended their cleverly titled and well organized annual event called the ‘B Festival’. Rhyming with the well-known ‘V Festival’ music event, the wine tasting adopted a very musical theme as well. Spread over two days, and taking up most of the non-desk space in their offices, there was a ‘Main Stage’ of wines which included some of Bibendum’s most popular labels, including Bodega Catena Zapata, Petaluma and Castello Banfi (which I recently had the pleasure of visiting in person, and of which more soon in an upcoming post on Italy). In addition, there were two other ‘stages’ each day. When I was there, there was a ‘Rock Stage’, which was all about the world’s most exciting terroirs, and the ‘Alternative Stage’, which offered wines a little off the beaten track that could make good and fresh alternatives to classic wine styles/regions such as Sancerre, white Burgundy or Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
I managed to taste most of the wines in the two specialist rooms, which were small and cozy, and was delighted by how far the music theme had been taken. For instance, in the ‘Rock Stage’ they had a Nirvana Unplugged music video playing on a flat screen TV…you get the picture (literally below).
Being somewhat of a novice, this was by far the most wines I had tasted in one go. I was literally like a kid in a candy shop as a number of wines that I’ve been reading about as of late (and dying to taste) were there for the drinking. I don’t know if it was my rookie taste buds, which may have been unaccustomed to so many different wines, but I think that after about the 20th wine I tasted, it became much more difficult to differentiate between wines that were even mildly similar. In any case, you can read a bit about some of the wines that stood out for me, and I have to say there were only one or two wines I didn’t like at all, which is quite a feat given the number I tasted.
Top draw for me amongst the 12 wines on offer in this room were as follows, in ascending order of price:
- 2007 Savennieres Clos de la Coulaine, Chateau Pierre-Bise (Loire, France), 100% Chenin Blanc
- Notes: A beautiful nose of stone fruits, apricot and nectarine. This is classic Chenin. Refreshing, fruity and dry, with a good dose of minerals and a dense richness. £13.26/bottle.
- 2005 Aglianico del Vulture, Gudarra Bisceglia (Basilicata, Italy), 100% Aglianico
- Notes: Very nice rich and ripe red fruit and extremely well balanced. Good smooth texture in the mouth with some spiciness and pleasant, unobtrusive oak. £14.50/bottle.
- 2006 Calera Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir (Mount Harlan, California), 100% Pinot Noir
- Notes: Absolutely stunning. Smooth, rich, luscious, slightly tannic. Pure pinot fruit (red fruit, black cherry, orange peel) and some subtle spice. Good length and just the right amount of sweetness. Quite a long and soft finish. Could drink quite a few glasses of this! Unfortunately not that cheap at £29.65/bottle.
There were a lot of wines I really liked in this room, but again three or four stood out:
- 2007 Sangiovese di Romagna, Superiore Terragens (Emilia-Romagna, Italy), 100% Sangiovese – Alternative to Chianti Classico
- Notes: Exceedingly good value. Slightly sharp at first but then lovely roundness with strong red fruit (cherry) and jam. Some vanilla in there too, and a very full wine all in all. £6.00/bottle.
- 2006 A to Z Pinot Noir (Oregon, USA), 100% Pinot Noir – Alternative to Red Burgundy
- Notes: Wow, very nice, coats the mouth, round and smooth. A good dry finish which fades away slowly. Another glass please? My favorite so far. £15.26/bottle.
- 2007 Glenguin Estate, Protos Chardonnay (Hunter Valley, Australia), 100% Chardonnay – Alternative to White Burgundy
- Notes: Nice…extremely fruity with a bit of oak. Very fresh and very light in color. This wine is nutty, creamy and has a lot of depth. The best chardonnay from Australia I’ve tasted recently (along with Katnook Estate’s 2005 Chardonnay). This really is a lovely alternative to white Burgundy, but maybe not that much cheaper than some at £15.50/bottle.
- 2005 Bodegas Catena Zapata, Nicolas Catena Zapata (Mendoza, Argentina), 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malbec – Alternative to Icon Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
- Notes: Beautiful nose with lots of raspberry. A deep red, ruby color. Sweet, rich red fruit flavor (again, raspberry and some cherry) plus dark chocolate squares, with lots and lots of length. This is a bold and classy wine which is probably pretty age-worthy. A winner, but not cheap at £44.98/bottle!
There were a lot of wines I enjoyed from this wide assortment of 100 bottles. However, I’ve selected a few below which really floated my boat:
- 2006 Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots, Domaine Laroche (Burgundy, France), 100% Chardonnay
- Notes: Excellent, very strong and crisp chardonnay with well integrated soft oak in the background. Notes of mucky leaves and truffles as well. I love this wine. It is important to note that with Laroche the wines from the business’s own land say ‘Domaine Laroche’ (like this one), but that the labels on the wines from grapes brought from other growers simply say ‘Laroche’. £33.50/bottle.
- 2006 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne, Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot (Burgundy, France), 100% Chardonnay
- Notes: Absolutely beautiful, so fruity, so oaky, they run into each other. But this sweetness and ripeness is kept in check with a streak of zesty minerality. Not sure of the price as it was substituted for another similar wine from the same domaine which was retailing at £29.18/bottle.
- 2003 Meursault, Domaine Matrot (Burgundy, France), 100% Chardonnay
- Notes: One of my favorites for sure. Fruity, fat, oaky, crispy. Extremely good value at £18.63/bottle for this quality of wine.
- 2006 Cote Rotie, Domaine Jamet (Rhone, France), 100% Syrah
- Notes: Wonderful classic Cote Rotie, with deep blackberry married with the hallmark burnt/roasty taste. Could probably age well, but that said, it is very drinkable now. £46.75/bottle.
- 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, Castello Banfi (Tuscany, Italy), 100% Sangiovese
- Notes: Very deep red color. Red and black fruits on the nose (blackberry, cherry, raspberry). Full body, with a hint of spice, something mushroomy and a lot of chew and length. I actually tried this wine at Castello Banfi’s Taverna restaurant a few weeks ago and liked it even better. 2004 was a particularly good year for this wine in my view. £24.92/bottle.
- 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio Alle Mura, Catello Banfi (Tuscany, Italy), 100% Sangiovese
- Notes: This was even better and more complex than the ‘normal’ Brunello from Banfi. A bit dryer in the mouth, extremely tannic. Lots of rich red fruit and note of cigar or tobacco and some spice. This is a food wine, but still interesting on its own. A bit more dear at £34.50/bottle.
- 2006 Catena Zapata, Malbec Argentino (Mendoza, Argentina), 100% Malbec
- Notes: Out of all of the Catenas on hand, this was my favorite. Other nice ones were the 2007 Catena Malbec (much cheaper at £10.84/bottle and good value) and the 2004 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon (£23.68/bottle). This wine was very complex and concentrated and had a nice balance and lingering freshness to it. You will have to fork out £36.50/bottle for the privilege though.
I was lucky enough to get a peep into the ‘Media Tent’ to taste some of the more affordable wines that will be more readily available to the public in supermarkets and national wine store chains. At this point, my palate was a bit the worse for wear, but there were a couple of really good values which stood out for me:
- 2008 Bouchard Chablis (available at Sainsbury’s) at £9.99/bottle
- Notes: A very pleasant and quaffable Chablis but not a knock-out. Fresh, citrusy, flinty. Very good value for the price point.
- 2006 Petaluma Chardonnay (available at Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Majestic) at £14.99
- Notes: Wow, this was a pleasant surprise. Nice strong fruit with some apples and peach, and then a good oaky finish. Very round and luscious wine and I think it’s not bad value for the price.
- 2008 Gewurztraminer Martin Zahn (available at First Quench) at £9.99
- Notes: Extremely floral nose, sweet and with good acidity. Lots of interesting fruits in the mouth (pear, tropicals) and a very long dry apricot finish. A very good value indeed.
Last up was a very nice Vinsanto, which I thought represented really good value for the money. Very tangy and lots of sweet (candied?) almonds. You can see a picture of it below.
Well, not much else to say except a big thank you to Bibendum and happy drinking to you all out there.