Regional revamp for Matthew Clark portfolio

Matthew Clark revealed a shift in focus towards regional wines and family-run producers as the UK on-trade supplier introduced over 150 new listings at its annual tasting.

Although acknowledging a high rate of consolidation within the UK on-trade in recent times, Laurie Davis, wine range controller at Matthew Clark, pointed to the emergence of a broadly positive scenario.

“What we’re left with is the really good pub operators and they’re starting to look at the next price point up from entry level, where it was all getting a bit ‘samey’”, he remarked.

At the same time, Davis confirmed: “We’re seeing good growth in the independent free trade. They’re reacting more quickly than some of the bigger groups and looking at the £7-£12 mark.”

In a bid to respond to the shifting demands from these sectors, Davis showed off a number of new portfolio additions to represent the company’s stronger focus on regional expression and family businesses.

In particular, Davis flagged up the reorganisation of Matthew Clark’s Bordeaux selection. Describing the previous range as being “all over the place”, he explained the decision to focus exclusively on estates within the extensive Lurton family stable.

“It’s a mix of ‘old’ Bordeaux and ‘new’ Bordeaux, which is great, and the family are all such individuals,” remarked Davis, adding that buying a large selection from a single family also helped secure more favourable prices. “They get what we’re trying to do with our range,” he summed up.

Other notable new family partnerships include JJ Hahn in the Barossa Valley, Oakridge Estate in Yarra Valley, Terlato Family Vineyards in Sonoma and Matthew Clark’s first English sparkling wine, Jenkyn Place from Hampshire.

As part of the company’s tighter regional focus, Davis pointed to the addition of wines such as Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc from the Awatere Valley within Marlborough, as well as The Vintner range from Langhorne Creek, of which he observed: “at about £6 it’s the same price point as the South East Australia wines.”

The supplier has also increased its focus on Fairtrade wines in preference to the organic category, which Davis described as “very confused”. By contrast, he confirmed that Fairtrade styles were “working really well,” explaining: “it’s something tangible and people can actually see what it does.”

Among Matthew Clark’s new Fairtrade listings is the Unsung Hero range, a Shiraz and Chenin Blanc produced by Fairhills in South Africa. To clarify the Fairtrade message still further, the back of each label features the story of an individual being supported by sales of these wines. If successful, Davis plans to add range extensions from Argentina and Chile.

Of around 75 wines which were delisted as part of the portfolio’s reorganisation, Davis maintained that much of this was achieved through the tidying up of its Bordeaux range as vintages ran out.

However, he also pointed to “a bit of a chop” to the company’s supply of Italian entry level wines. “People are now moving from Italy to Spain for cheaper wines,” he remarked, warning: “That will probably have quite a big impact on the category towards the end of the year.”


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