Top 10 Wines @ Liberty Wines Annual Portfolio Tasting 2017

Getting a chance to attend the Annual Portfolio Tasting of Liberty Wines in London was a professional beauty in my agenda. The company was founded in 1997 by David Gleave MW as a start-up with just four people working as staff. Today, it employs 130 individuals and has an annual turnover of £45 million. With awards annually pouring in from IWC, Decanter and SWA (On-Trade Supplier of the Year, Merchant of the Year, Wine Educator of the Year…), I honestly don’t see the need to bore you further with data and statistics of what Liberty Wines is in the international market today.

The APT 2017 was held on the 17th of January in the fascinating Kia Oval cricket ground in South London. This is the chief event of the company and gives wine lovers a chance to taste over 600 wines, spirits, beers, ciders and olive oils from over 150 representatives. To be frank, I only tasted around 250 samples. I started off slow and focused on my writing, but after a few hours I figured out how time is soaring by without me trying anything French or Italian. Luckily, eight hours presented a perfect time period to keep me sane and awake (though a lil’ dehydrated), so I cherry-picked the most sophisticated examples in the last 60 minutes. Being a WSET Diploma student, I really can’t complain about the producers selected for this event, because everything I wanted to cover and rehearse for the upcoming Unit 3 exam was there – Barolo, Tuscany, Australia, Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, South Africa, Rioja…

After a loooong day the choice was difficult, but it had to come about, so here are my top 10 picks of the exhibition. Mind you, these are not the picks from the last 60 minutes, but from all the samples I tasted at the event.

Dobogo Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 2007
Tokaj, Hungary

Dear baby Jesus, YES. The light golden yellow color doesn’t tell me much at first, but as soon as the wine touches my palate, another universe opens its doors and takes me away. The nose of this Tokaji is exciting by itself that it makes me come back to it constantly, minute after minute – notes of jasmine, almond cookies, vanilla, honey, quince, apricot and orange marmalade, pineapple, ripe peach and yummy splashes of minerality. Beautiful structure, freshness and length. Rich mouthfeel, not overpowering for a second, followed by dazzling acidity to counter the dripping sweetness. A hint of bitterness completes the perfect regional and stylistic expression of this fairly young Aszu. I’d recommend getting your hands on this outstanding bottle and keeping it for further aging, because pure brilliance waits just around the corner. 97/100

San Polo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010
Tuscany, Italy

Seriously bricking garnet color. Excellent Sangiovese character on the nose displaying notes of violets, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, minty sage, cherry pie and wet tea leaves. Powerful in the mouth, showing titanic structure – expressed, but still slightly green tannins, fat fruit concentration and high levels of alcohol/acidity. Balsamic aftertaste with fireworks of dark chocolate, toasted almonds and Mediterannean herbs. A modern style of Brunello that’s definitely too young to appreciate now, but the drinking window is opening up gently, so with the fact of 2010 being an extraordinary vintage for Sangiovese, there is no room for doubt. 96/100

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995
Champagne, France

Do you remember Zlatan’s 30-yard screamer against England in 2012? This is the wine equivalent of that, except it’s French. The nose reveals tones of baked apple crumble, quince, cinnamon, jasmine, lemon zest and delicate minerality. If you are looking for the true definition of Champagne, you’re getting it exactly in this bottle. Intense, powerful, yet elegant palate with flaunting texture and a textbook balance of acidity and alcohol. Eternal finish and SO FRESH (!) for a 22-year old blanc de blancs with a €100 price tag. An effortless condensation of everything you love about this bubbly liquid. Unbelievable stuff. 96/100

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Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 2008
Barossa Valley, Australia

New World Shiraz gives you those jammy, powerful and chewy reds, which Slavic people like to call – serious wine. In the glass, this one is showing a deep inky black color and a rich nose with aromas of blackcurrant, sweet cherry, plum, kirsch and milk chocolate. Full-bodied and euphoric in the mouth, displaying dense texture, ripe tannins and tones of baking spices on the mid-palate transitioning into a minty aftertaste. Begs for decanting and serious food (Texas BBQ ftw). Smooth, sweet and so good. 95/100

Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2014
Niagara Peninsula, Canada

Finding a 95-point Canadian in this batch was no easy task, but thank the wine gods for creating sweet wines made out of Riesling. Vidal is nice, but this is the real deal. The nose is marked by vivid, yet elegant aromatics of honey, peach, lemon zest, caramelised apricot and flashy tropical fruit. Lusciously sweet on the palate, but poetically integrated with the pronounced natural acidity of this grape variety. Lengthy finish with a hint of chalkiness to round it up. Heaven. 95/100

Dreissigacker Wunderwerk Spätburgunder 2013
Rheinhessen, Germany

This Pinot Noir was a sneak-peak gem (hits the market in March 2017) and a true steal for €25. Gorgeous translucent garnet color displaying thick tears on the glass. Medium intense aromatics of root beer, sweet cherry, raspberry and milk chocolate. The palate is heady, marvellous and absolutely cram-packed with rich baking spices and red fruit for days on end. Well-structured and nicely polished to show the truest expression of this fussy grape variety. I want this in a spray bottle. 95/100

Kaiken Mai 2013
Mendoza, Argentina

Release the Kaiken! Malbec was always that grape you had special feelings for, but never admitted it because your friends have no idea where the wines come from and therefore never buy them for their parties. I’d secretly like it to stay that way. This black beauty shows notes of ripe black fruit blended perfectly with the sweet oak, vanilla and wet earth in the background. The palate is bombastic with a brick wall of acidity and tannins with the key word here being: BALANCE. A definite cellar candidate – exceptionally enjoyable now but certainly something that will last the upcoming 20 years. 95/100

Koomilya DC Block Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale, Australia

Is the fruit in South Australia perfect or something? Because rare are those bottles which are not worth mentioning. Just 35 km from Adelaide, McLaren Vale is by far one of the most important and oldest wine-producing regions in Australia. This Shiraz shows you why. Impenetrable black colour in the glass and an exciting nose which immediately reminded me of Negroamaro – tones of eucalyptus, mint and sweet black fruit. Dry with highlighted tannins and fruit concentration. HUGE structure going deep into the abyss of mind-boggling chewiness. No trace of flabbiness or sharp edges. An outstanding Aussie. 95/100

Matošević Grimalda Red 2013
Istria, Croatia

Just when I thought I was going to get rid of Balkan wines on my agenda, this guy shows up. No, just kidding. But I am immensely glad that he did show up, because the red Grimalda tells you something. It tells you that Istria has the power to launch Croatia into the orbit of European fine wines and let it stand comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder with the Italian, French and Spanish giants. The 2013 blend of Merlot and Teran stands out by its bombastic concentration, high tannins, racy acidity and, most importantly, a unique terroir expression. Great integration of fruit and oak, displaying tones of blackberry, ripe cherry, chocolate, vanilla and Mediterranean spices. Bizarre price and quality ratio, so don’t hesitate to buy two cases of this at your next visit to the wine shop (or even better, winery). 94/100

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Blanchots’ 2012
Chablis, France

This was a wine I brought home to celebrate my first visit to London, so yeah, emotions do show when describing the wine, but just ask Wine Spectator how they judged it if you think I’m overdoing it a bit. Medium golden color in the glass, beauty on the nose with notes of peach, apricot, nectarine, jasmine, yellow apple and pear juice. Oak is very well-integrated displaying tones of charred wood, vanilla and cedar. Boom! Palate is properly French Chardonnay – smooth, crispy, mineral. Great balance, expressed acidity with medium alcohol which is a bit off on the aftertaste, but nothing major. Regional and varietal expression couldn’t be more on point. A fabulous wine. 94/100

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Written by Aleksandar Draganić.

I’m a WSET certified grape juice drinker, and yes, I’m that 1% of people that love their job. I drink wine, write about it, preach about it, even take pictures of it. Find me at @grapenomad

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