In a former petrol station in Primrose Hill, Simon Farr had a big idea. He would sell cases of wine directly to customers. The wines would be a mixture of classed growths and funky unusual stuff, rare bottlings and anything else that took his fancy. This idea quickly took shape as Bibendum Wine Limited. Customers soon got into the habit of dropping into Regents Park Road for some quality browsing, getting advice from Ben Collins and Co, and walking out with armfuls of delicious wine.
You can sample a bit of what Bibendum was like in the 80's on YouTube.
A few years later a restaurant called Odette's opened up the road which promptly became our first-ever trade account, OD01. This proved to be such a popular idea that we soon found ourselves with a booming on trade business. The young Michael Saunders (see photo - check out the hair!) was the on trade division. One of our suppliers was Geoffrey Roberts, who employed a tenacious and extremely vocal salesman called Willie Lebus. The only way to curb Willie's noise, it seemed to us, was to give him a job here. We're still working on it. The boom in restaurant sales in turn created a need for exclusive wines, and our contacts with overseas suppliers led to us becoming agent for a number of wineries. Amongst the first on the roster were the likes of Jamet from the Rhone and Guindon from Muscadet. Still here!
Once we found ourselves the happy owners of all this wine, it made sense to start selling it elsewhere. The Off Trade division came into life in 1995. Dan Jago was the Off Trade Division. For more 90's Bibendum souvenirs, check out YouTube.
These days Bibendum is one the UK's biggest wine companies. There are over 200 of us (and we're always on the look-out for good people, and the company turns over something like 120 million pounds a year. Ben Collins is still there, as is Simon, and Michael, but the unusually large quota of Kiwis has recently diminished slightly! The 2000's, Bibendum style, are remembered on YouTube.
The Bibendum idea is still basically the same as it was in 1982: the wine trade is complicated and it doesn't need to be. We'd like to be simply the most accessible, relevant and captivating wine company in the business. Easy!