Report – Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting



The imposing home of Surrey County Cricket plays host to Liberty Wines Grand Tasting
The imposing home of Surrey County Cricket plays host to Liberty Wines Grand Tasting

London’s Kia Oval is the world famous home of Surrey Country Cricket where of course England also play many Test Matches, including those testosterone-charged games versus Australia. However the Aussies I met there recently came bearing gifts, and the only sixes scored were cases of wine.

Each year Liberty Wines, the large international wine distributors, hold their Portfolio Tasting amidst the hallowed portals of this impressive temple to cricket. Essentially, all the producers on their portfolio, world-wide, are asked to attend, bring their wares and share them with those in the trade. This year, I was invited to attend.

This invitation, which came right out of the blue, was from our friend Daniel Castaño, of Bodegas Castaño, DO Yecla, whose wines have appeared several times in Cork Talk over the last eighteen years. It was an opportunity that I really couldn’t turn down and I accepted with alacrity, as you might imagine.

I was to be part of a three man delegation from Bodegas Castaño: Daniel, Head of Exports, and bear in mind that this bodega was the first to export wines from DO Yecla and in fact exports a huge 95% of its total production, to Europe, USA, Asia and more; Mariano the Head Wine-maker, who has been responsible for all the Bodega’s wine success (as well as that of the once sister bodega, Bodegas Sierra Salinas, now sold on); and me, with a rather less impressive CV!

Delighted to have been co-opted onto the Bodegas Castaño Team!
Delighted to have been co-opted onto the Bodegas Castaño Team!

However, I had my uses! Mariano’s English is not perfect and it was thus my role to accompany him around the tasting, translating the details spoken in English by all the exhibitors. Now, it would be being extremely economical with the truth if I were to tell you that my Spanish is fluent, far, far from it. However, my wine-Spanish isn’t too bad.

Looking back now over my notes I see that we tasted over 70 wines so we didn’t do too badly!

Mariano has an amazing knowledge of wines and an exceptional palate and nose for wine appreciation. All of which enables him to identify strengths and weaknesses in wines as well as the grape varieties from which they were made. So whilst I was translating for him as quickly as I could, I was also taking note of his comments as well as those of mine re the multifarious wines we tasted.

Liberty Wines had taken over two whole floors of the Conference Centre of the Kia Oval, plus the dining room on the bottom floor where an excellent lunch was served, yes, with wine! The ‘Ashes Suite’, the ‘India Suite’ and the ‘England Suite’ evoked memories of gargantuan battles of the past with walls adorned with photos of cricket legends. With huge windows in each suite that looked out over the tranquil and almost blindingly green square, well it was all rather stirring – and this from a football man!

What a stadium! The Kia Oval, London.
What a stadium! The Kia Oval, London.

Liberty Wines are very strong on Italian and French wines, but their extensive portfolio also more than adequately covers many other countries. South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Austria, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Armenia, Germany, Spain of course and England are all represented and others too! So there was an interesting mix of Old World and New World wines to be sampled. We set about our work resolutely!


Clearly, there is not enough space here to describe all the wines we tasted, so here are just a few of my favourites from a truly excellent field.


I was impressed with the English Sparkling Wine. Time restricted us to tasting fizz from only one of the producers on hand. I would have liked to have tasted them all, but the one we did taste is perhaps the most famous of all English Sparkling Wines, Nyetimber. Award winning and now served on BA First Class flights, when this fizz hit the headlines Champagne producers started looking over their shoulders!


The Classic Cuvee 2009 uses the triumvirate of Champagne varieties, Chardonnay (the highest proportion) and the black grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with the latter perhaps adding a sort of youthful fruitiness to the overall flavour. It has spent three years on its lees adding a depth and richness to the finished product.


Nyetimber’s Blanc de Blanc is, of course (the phrase means white from white and as Chardonnay is the only ‘white’ grape in the traditional gang of three, it has to have been made with Chardonnay), made exclusively with Chardonnay. This wine is a different animal. It’s still vibrant, still has what we want from a Sparkling Wine, but its five years on its lees have given it greater complexity, richness and depth of flavour. Super, with a trade price of 32 pounds!


We started with white wines and some of my absolute favourites were in attendance. Condrieu from Maison Nicolas Perrin is a stunning wine. It’s made with 100% Viognier with notes of apricot and honeysuckle flowers. It’s an iconic wine, with everything that is best about this marvellous variety. It’s not cheap with a trade price of 27 pounds, but it’s sooo worth it!


If asked what my favourite wine, or why style, is, I always explain that it’s impossible to say. I’m so lucky to be able to taste incredible Spanish wines, but of course there are equally wonderful wines made all over the world. However, if cornered I’d have to say that white Burgundy wine has to be up there with my all-time favourites.


Chablis, of course, would be a contender. Chablis 1er Cru ‘Les Vaudevey’ was lovely! Good acidy with a little butter on the nose, good length, rich fruit, lively. From the same producer, Domaine Laroche, I thought the Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Blanchots’ was outstanding – though at 38 pounds, it jolly well should be.


I also loved Rully, Saint Roman, Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Mersault – marvelling at how diverse the flavours and aromas of Chardonnay can be.


For reds (I told you I’d have to be brief!) I was very impresses with all the wines made with Syrah/Shiraz. Côte-Rôtie, again from Nicolas Perrin, was wonderful, and for me this is not surprising – it also has a touch of Viognier in the blend. I also really enjoyed the Crozes Hermitage and the Ermitage from the same producer, though the last was very expensive at 43 pounds a bottle.


Perhaps understandably, given that I am so accustomed to Spanish wines that have had the benefit of so much sunshine, I tended to warm to the Australian Shiraz a little more than the French. The Clonakilla Canberra District Shiraz/Viognier (yes, that blend again!) is magnificent with rich Shiraz fruit and a little white pepper with added aromatic value coming from the small percentage of  white Viognier.


Also Mitolo’s Jester Shiraz and Gam Shiraz were outstanding.


Contact Colin: and via the website where you can see all Colin’s wine events, articles etc; and via Twitter @colinonwine


PS There are just a few seats left for the Gourmet Tapas/Spanish Wine Pairing Evening at Vintage Gastro Bar & Restaurant, Albir. Vintage is owned and run by Dani Bowler who shot to fame on UK TV’s Masterchef Programme, and his precise and imaginative cooking is now enjoyed by all who visit his new restaurant. Proceeds from this event will also go to the:  Asociación Espanola contra el Cáncer (AECC)! Please contact Colin to reserve your places!

REPORT: Liberty Wines Tasting

The imposing home of Surrey County Cricket plays host to Liberty Wines Grand Tasting
The imposing home of Surrey County Cricket plays host to Liberty Wines Grand Tasting

I was delighted to be invited to be a part of the Bodegas Castaño Delegation attending the annual Liberty Wines UK Grand Tasting, held at the excellent Kia Oval, home to Surrey County Cricket, towards the end of January 2015. What a super way to start a new year of wine events!

Delighted to have been co-opted onto the Bodegas Castaño Team!
Delighted to have been co-opted onto the Bodegas Castaño Team!

My role, apart from tasting as many of the top quality wines on show as I could, was to assist Bodegas Castaño’s Head Winemaker, Mariano, who has worked the vineyards of DO Yecla for 30 years! Whilst my Spanish is some distance from being fluent, my wine-Spanish isn’t bad at all and I was pressed into service as translator.

Liberty Wines have an international portfolio of wines whose prices range from the economic to the expensive, but wherever one buys within this spectrum, you can be assured of value for money.

Mariano was a man on a mission and I had to keep up with him! We tasted, first, many of the range of white wines available and there were lots of splendid examples from well known wine producing countries (Italy and France figure very strongly on the Liberty list as well as Australia and New Zealand) and also from countries whose wines one doesn’t find so easily here in Spain – USA, Austria and Canada are examples in this category.

So many different white wine grape varieties and perhaps for me it was the superb Burgundy Chardonnays along with the ‘perfect’, in Mariano’s word, Condrieu, using of course, Vioginer.

From reds we went onto rosé where we found some lovely examples, particularly from Australia, showing a variety of soft red fruit notes as well as demonstrating that one cannot call rosé wine, pink any longer! Such wines are now made in many different versions of pink, though there is at the moment a noticeable leaning towards the very pale Provence style.



I wonder if winemakers of Provence are pleased to be flattered in this way, or slightly worried about the competition! I think we can expect to see many of these Liberty Rosé Wines, of all hues, taking shelf space in the coming Spring and Summer!

And the reds? Well an amazing variety from so many countries. Favourites for me were those which had Syrah/Shiraz either in the blend or made as mono-varietal and two of these included a tiny percentage of Viognier, one French one Australian – both excellent.

Please see my article soon in the Costa News Group click Cork Talk   for more information about this excellently organised and extremely tasty event!

What a stadium! The Kia Oval, London.
What a stadium! The Kia Oval, London.