Michelin Star chef Roger Jones thinks that Liberty Wines has got it right when it comes down to what it offers the UK on-trade. Jones picks out the highlights from Liberty’s 20th Autumn Portfolio tasting including eight Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio that really tickled his tastebuds, along with new wines from Blank Canvas and Cullen, amongst others.
Full tasting notes of the Pinot Grigio below, plus wines from South Africa, Graves and the Loire.
Twenty years trading and the Liberty team continues to excel at providing a portfolio of great wines at an excellent price range, firmly geared up to feed the UK restaurant trade. The list is not over filled with mega buck superstar catwalk wines, that’s not what David Gleave and his team are about, but the list is dominated by the very best examples in each and every category a restaurant would wish to list without needing to invest in a top-up mortgage.
The Liberty Autumn Tasting is always set out in varieties which is an excellent way to showcase the range each grape can provide from winemaker to region to country, and this was no better showcased in the Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio section which not only highlighted that Italy can provide quality here, but also that the New World can Challenge with this grape.
On the road with Pinot Gris/ Pinot Grigio
Gasper, Pinot Grigio, 13.5%, Goriska Brda, Slovenia 2016 (DPD £9.44)
Tinpot Hut, Marlborough Pinot Gris, 12.5%, New Zealand 2016 (DPD £9.89)
Ca di Alte, Pinot Grigio, 12.5%,Veneto, Italy 2016 (DPD £7.03)
Bright, clean, fresh and vibrant, delivers well at this price.
Innocent Bystander, Pinot Gris, Yarra Valley, Australia 13% 2015 (DPD £10.63)
Specogna, Pinot Grigio ‘Ramato’, Friuli -Venezia Giulia, Italy 13.5% 2016 (DPD £12.39)
Stopham Estate, Pinot Gris, West Sussex, England 11.5% 2015 (DPD £13.78)
Cesconi, Pinot Grigio, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 2015 14% (DPD £13.95)
Vie di Romans,”Dessimis” Pinot Grigio, Fruili-Venezia Gillian, Italy, 13.5% 2015 (DPD £22.14)
One of my favourite Pinot Grigios which excels even more with a couple of years age, a beautiful textured and layered wine with fresh sweet brioche nuances, perfect Pear William, juicy yellow peaches, well balanced.
Grape Varietal Tasting
It is a beautiful way to showcase the depth and breadth of a grape, and is certainly a great way to learn of the variance one can achieve from one grape, this was especially true of the above.
Matt has recently launched Blank Canvas, first vintage was a Gruner Veltliner and a Riesling in 2013, followed by a Syrah and Pinot in 2014. So it was a delight to catch up with Matt and his partner (in life, work and wine) Sophie Parker-Thomson at the tasting to see what they had added to heir collection besides a toddler.
Matt is the original flying winemaker, entrusted with working on numerous projects in Europe and the New World not only with Liberty but with many other partnerships mainly in New Zealand and Italy. His bedtime reading as a teenager was Robert Parker’s journals, not to be left behind Sophie, despite having a toddler and busy with the wine side of things is also now in the depths of studying for her MW. They also own and run Kiwi-Oeno, which is a a global wine consultancy business and employs four winemakers.
Their project with Blank Canvas is very much their own expression of wine, from their vast experiences, especially Matt who has produced some 40 vintages in a career of over 20 years, highlighting a series of varieties from the finest sub-regions of New Zealand and maybe break some traditional rules along the way. They do not own the vineyards, but are able to source grapes from single vineyards that they believe will give them the very best results. A bit like Craggy Range but on a budget.
Blank Canvas, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 13%, New Zealand 2016 (DPD £13.04)
Think wet river stone, seashore spray, white currants, passion fruit, guava, lemongrass, it is a wonderful combination that excites. It is layered and takes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to a luxurious level that drinks well by itself but equally good with oysters and razor clams.
Blank Canvas, Marlborough Chardonnay, 13.5%, New Zealand 2016 (DPD £17.95)
Minimum human intervention (but the earthquake last year gave it a good shaking), lovely textured, white and yellow peaches, rich and opulent but with a purity and freshness that carries it well. Some spices from the oak, soft gunflint, drinking well now but will evolve majestically.
Vanya Cullen continues to excel and excite, no more so than with the Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillón grape, with two separate bottlings, one from the Mangan Vineyard (situated next to the main Cullen winery) and the other from the Cullen Vineyard.
This traditional Margaret River blend is a classic wine for food, with its texture, beautiful fruit purity, and gently perfumed style. Reminiscent of white Bordeaux at its best, it is a style that we should be encouraging people to drink.
Cullen’s beautiful biodynamic vineyard does, of course, produce exemplary world-class, megabuck, superstar catwalk wines such as the 2012 Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2014 Kevin John Legacy Flower Day Chardonnay. But Cullen’s philosophy – Quality, Integrity and Sustainability applies to all her wines throughout each price bracket.
Cullen ‘Mangan Vineyard’ Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillón, 13%, Australia, 2016, (DPB £15.79)
Fresh, balanced, lovely purity of fruit, soft gentle aromas, textured, lingers but fresh on the palate, limes, lemon curd, white peaches.
Cullen ‘Cullen Vineyar’ Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillón, 13%, Australia, 2015 (DPD £16.70)
Whether it is the different older vintage or just that it is the Cullen vineyard, I am not sure but this is a stunning, masterly balanced wine that integrates these two grapes beautifully together into a restrained but complex, feminine and structured wine that oozes class. Think biting into a perfectly ripe white peach from a market stall in Antibes, and enjoying the herbaceous and aromatic aromas from around the market with the fruit purity in your mouth.
And whilst we are on the subject of these two grapes here are a few other stars from the tasting.
Gabrieslskloof, Magdalena Semillón/Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, Walker Bay, South Africa, 2015 (DPD £15.88)
Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum fame (also sold by Liberty) uses Franschhoek semillon with local Bott River Sauvignon Blanc to make a profound wine that is full of citrus freshness, white currants, waxy depth, succulent stone fruit to give a wine that wants to star in a glitzy party.
Chateau Lamothe-Bouscaut, Pessac-Leognan Blanc, 14%, Bordeaux, France 2015 (DPD £18.09) 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillón.
Citrus and floral on the nose, classic waxy white Bordeaux, layers of flavours, pink grapefruit, some quality dried pineapple, white flowers all combine together to offer a very fine wine with a distinct clean bright finish. The French have obviously picked up a few tips from Margaret River.
Not a blend but a 100% Sauvignon Blanc La Voute 2015, Touraine Chenonceaux, Loire, France 12.5% (DPD £11.04) was a wine that sits well in the company of above offering a textured and layered Sauvignon Blanc that profiles grapefruit, mango, paw paw, white currants, and basically just gives a fabulous juicy fresh clean wine which has everything from minerality to ripe fleshy stone fruit.
All prices are – DPD – Duty paid, price delivered per bottle, ex VAT