Wine trendspotting – Finds from the Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting 2019

Last Thursday 28th of February the Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting 2019 took place. Over 300 wines were open for the trade and the media and among them,  17 producers saw their wines introduced to the portfolio.

Liberty Wines operates in Ireland and the UK. The fine wine distributor and importer’s annual tasting is not just one of the most comprehensive and highly anticipated of the year, it is also a great opportunity to spot trends and to have a glimpse at what we’ll be drinking throughout the year…

The rest of France

Bordeaux and Burgundy had excellent representations on the tasting tables but they were by far not alone.

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Among the new producers featured at the tasting, a dozen were French and seven from those came from regions other than France’s two hyper-iconic appellations: Beaucastel (Rhone), Blanville (Languedoc), Causse du Théron (Cahors), Chateau du Rouët (Provence), Domaine Cauhapé (Jurançon), Domaine de Bréseyme (Rhone) and Frédéric Berne (Beaujolais).

On top of the newcomers, there were many praiseworthy returning producers. To give an example, there was producer La Croix de Saint Jean from Minervois, one of France’s hidden gems.

Export Manager Patrick Besson-Léaud was proudly serving two of the winery’s captivating reds: ‘Lo Mainatge’ Minervois and the next in rank, ‘Lo Paire’ Minervois, a Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre blend made with the innovative vinification integrale method.

Red wines and chill

Coming from a tropical country, I’m no stranger to the idea of chilling red wine (trust me, you don’t want anything at “room temperature” except soup when the thermomether marks 35°C or more).

Once a hard no-no, now places further from the equator are acknowledging the wonders of a light red served cool (not lager cold, think 20 minutes in the fridge levels of cool).

One wine tried and loved that would fit this category was Dominique Morel Fleurie, a delighful Beaujolais Cru with a lively parade of ripe red fruit notes and a floral touch.

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New world Pinot Noir is another style of wine that begs for a bit of chilling. Hailing from the Chile, ‘Arenaria’ Aconcagua Costa Pinot Noir surprised me: after seeing the 15% ABV note on the label, I though it would need a serious amount of intensity and a very high acidity to balance that up. On the palate, it showed it had the strenght to carry the alcohol with elegance.

Also from the South, New Zealand shinned with fine examples from both Marlborough (Tinpot Hut Pinot Noir) and the Pinot Noir capital of the New World, Central Otago (Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir).

New Latitude Wines

New Latitude Wines are those from non-traditional winemaking areas, in particular the ones made outside or at the edges of the known borders of fine winemaking: the latitudes of 30° and 50° in both hemispheres of the globe.

Despite the gimmicky name, I loved the fullness of Niagara Chardonnay, from guess where… Canada! It was tense and full bodied, a Chardo that has nothing to envy from many of its neighbours south of the border.

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A small assorment of wine from China and India also turned a few heads. Chinese Kanaan Winery showcased a white (Riesling) and a red (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend).

From India, two collaborations from Fratelli Wines were poured: M/S, a blend created by wine legends Piero Masi and Steven Spurrier, and J’Noon, a joint venture between Kapil Sekhri of Fratelli wines and Jean-Charles Boisset.

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Just FYI, Fratelli Wines rests at latitude 17.80°, almost the same as Kingston, Jamaica. A coordinate more often associated with coffee or rum production.

Alternative Bubbles

Not all that sparkles is Champagne and at the Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting 2019 the world of fizz was diverse and inviting.

Yes, Champagne had two worthy ambassadors (Devaux and Charles Heidsieck), but there were also fine examples from other rising stars. Australia’s Tasmania has earned the world’s respect for the quality of its sparkling wines and Arras Tasmania Grand Vintage was just wonderful.

English sparkling was also in show and while Bride Valley’s Dorset Crémant had the shinny “New” label, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvee Multi Vintage was more to my taste.

While the big absence one the sparkling table was Spain’s Cava, Italy stepped in and not just with Prosecco. Bellavista Franciacorta uncorked both its Alma Grand Cuvvée Brut and its lovely rosé and there was also a rare but delightful red dry Labrusco on show: Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro.

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From the Prosecco selection, my highlight was Prosecco Superiore Spumante Asolo DOCG, a very fizzy explosion of peaches, white flowers and orchard fruit.

All in all, the Liberty wines Portfolio Tasting 2019 was a wonderful opportunity to try beautiful wines in many styles.

The day presented an expanding map filled with beauty coming from previously forgotten or underestimated regions as well as solid examples of why the big names have stood the test of time.

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