Held over two floors of The Oval in London, Liberty Wines showcased their 2020 portfolio last week, representing over 300 producers from all over the world. This year sees 11 new names added to their books from Australia, Austria, Chile, Italy and France, promising some exciting additions to the wine lists and the shelves.
Liberty have always prioritised working with exceptional people and brands and, as their portfolio has exponentially expanded since setting up in 1997, this is something they haven’t compromised on. To illustrate the point, Jancis Robinson’s favourite champagne (in a recent blind comparison of 2002 and 2004 prestige champagnes) greets me as I start the rounds – the Blanc des Millénaires 2004 from Charles Heidsieck. Classic, creamy and genourous on the palate, this is a luxurious champagne that is pegged for its outstanding value.
The Eden Valley whites and Barossa Valley reds from Johann Henschke are an exciting addition to the Australia section. Six generations of winemaking are woven into each bottle, the labels proudly displaying the names of different family members; ‘Julius’ Eden Valley Riesling, ‘Louis’ Eden Valley Semillon and ‘Giles’ Lenswood Pinot Noir are to name a few. Sustainability is at the forefront of their agenda, producing clean, pure wines, with a focus on terroir and character. If I had to pick a favourite, I really enjoyed ‘Johann’s Garden’ Barossa Valley Grenache/Mataro/Shiraz. Juicy and gluggable, framed with elegance – just the right amount of pepper and refined spice.
Staying in Australia, I made a stop at Shaw + Smith for their renowned Adelaide Hills whites and ended up staying for their concentrated, structured reds. The single site ‘Balhannah Vineyard’ Shiraz is very fine, with a finish that lingered deliciously. Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW have also been making waves in Tasmania, particularly with their Coal River Valley Pinot Noir under the Tolpuddle label, which James Suckling described as ‘arguably the greatest pinot noir in Australia’, awarding the 2017 99 points.
The Alsace wines from Cave de Hunawihr also stopped me in my tracks – Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Riesling are three grapes I fail to resist. The Riesling Grand Cru ‘Rosacker’ proudly waves the flag for Hunawihr and it is a perfect Alsace Riesling – intense, aromatic, concentrated, but not overpowering – still lively, zesty with a citrusy, slightly saline finish.
Liberty Wines can always be relied upon for their mix of the old and trustworthy and the new and exciting, keeping their portfolio proudly buffed. The stellar selection made the inevitable palate fatigue at the end of day completely worth it – and deserved.