Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Liberty Tasting at Hayfield Manor puts focus on “Sustainable Winemaking”.

Liberty Tasting at Hayfield Manor puts focus on “Sustainable Winemaking”

At the Hayfield Manor Tasting (l to r): Liam Campbell, Wine & Drinks Editor & Consultant; Sandra Biret Crowley, Castlemartyr Resort Sommelière;
Marcus Gates, Liberty Wines.

If you are asked about sustainability in wine-making, you may well think first about looking after the vineyard, understanding and looking after the soil. But of course, the subject is much broader than that as was obvious from the Liberty Wines Sustainable Winemaking Focus Tasting at the Hayfield Manor last Monday.

Let us start with bubbles as many tastings do. My first call was to the Rathfinny table, an English Sparkling Wine producer from the South Downs, just 3 miles from the channel. The Drivers, Mark and Sarah, are the owners here and are sustainability supporters: “We aim to be a sustainable wine producer. As a result, we take the stewardship of our land seriously. All our buildings are constructed using locally sourced materials, such as flint from the vineyards, and we have worked with Natural England and the South Downs National Park to implement a programme of improvements to enhance wildlife habitats and reclaim areas of natural chalk grassland, as well as creating wildlife corridors throughout the vineyard.”

This ‘re-wilding’ of what was previously an arable farm ensures greater biodiversity. This focus on the environment, and to sustainability and the soil, ensures good quality fruit.…sustainability is multi-layered, it’s everything we touch. It’s not just about the use of carbon or energy or chemicals. It’s about how we treat our soils, our use of water and all the inputs we have in the winemaking process, the whole environment.” 

Rathfinny is taking multiple steps to increase biodiversity following a pioneering assessment by Buglife.

This attention to detail shines through in the wines, which are beautifully made, elegant and balanced. I tasted their Classic Cuvée Brut (2018) which has spent 3 years lees and is one of the best things you can ever put into your mouth on a Monday morning! A brilliant start to the day! 

However, this focus on sustainability is not limited to the vineyard. Pepe Raventos’ restoration of the Can Sumoi estate has protected 380 hectares of forest. Piper-Heidsieck uses the lightest available Champagne bottle as part of their commitment to reach net zero. Nor are these efforts limited to environmental sustainability. Fairview supports an association for its farm workers, enabling employees to further their education, build new homes and make their own wines.


The 80 wines on show were roughly half white and half red with a Sake (Keigetsu Sake Nature V) in between and a superb Port (Dona Antonia 30-year-old Tawny) to finish. 

One of the outstanding whites and new to Liberty this year was the Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Blanc `Le Clos du Château de Puligny-Montrachet 2020. Superbly balanced and one of my Star whites on the day.

Etienne de Montille was an early advocate of organic farming when, in 1995, he introduced these principles in the estate’s vineyards. Biodynamic practices followed in 2005, and the domaine received ‘Ecocert Bio’ certification in 2012.  Montille’s `Le Clos du Château` is a five-hectare vineyard located within the walls of the castle of Puligny.

My other Star whites were

2021 Blank Canvas Reed Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay

2021 Loimer `Loiserberg` Kamptal Grüner Veltliner Reserve

2022 Domaine de L’Enclos Chablis

Always something differentand colourful
from Gallina de Piel

Other gettings a big thumbs up were

2021 Pieropan `Calvarino` Soave Classico

2019 Gallina de Piel `Manar dos Seixas` Ribeiro Treixadura/Albariño/Godello/Loureiro

2022 Matošević `Alba` Malvazija Istarska 

2022 Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna

2022 Château La Verrerie Hautes Collines Viognier

2023 Tinpot Hut Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - perhaps the freshest wine in the room, just in from New Zealand.

2017 Mount Pleasant `Elizabeth` Cellar Aged Hunter Valley Semillon -

2020 Cullen `Grace Madeline` Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon V


One of the outstanding red wines was NV Dreissigacker `Vintages` St. Laurent/ Pinot Noir. This multi-vintage wine has elegant and charming aromas, is well-balanced with a silky texture and is altogether gorgeous.

Jochen Dreissigacker has 45 hectares of vineyards in Rheinhessen. All of his wines are certified organic and he describes his transformation to organic viticulture as “the artisan path to purity”. In 2019, Jochen also started following biodynamic principles in order to create the optimal conditions for the grapes to thrive – an approach that he describes as “a long-term investment in nature and wines”.

`Vintages` red (he also has a white) is a harmonious ensemble of St. Laurent and Pinot Noir from 2018 and 2017. Fermented separately before blending and ageing in barriques for three years, it certainly made a big impression last Monday.

Three excellent Italians

Pedro Parra is a major favourite of mine. He has spent decades working internationally but bit by bit realised he really wanted his own vineyard and winery and so he set up in Itata near the ocean, 500 kms south of Santiago, the capital of Chile. And this Vinista (below), the fruit sourced from 120 year old vines planted at 300 m above sea level, is one of the results. It was my wine of the year in 2020. 

País is a red grape variety of great historical importance. According to it was the first Vitis Vinifera grape variety to be exported from the old world to the new world in the 16th century.
 You've heard of flying winemakers. You're more
likely to find Pedro Parra in the ground. (pic from Liberty zoom session).

My other Star picks in the reds were:

2019 Racines Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2022 Monterustico Dogliani

2019 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2019 G.D. Vajra Barolo `Albe`

2021 Domaine Vico `Le Bois du Cerf` Rouge

2021 Pedro Parra `Vinista` Itata Valley País

2020 Montes Colchagua Merlot - Montes have significantly reduced their water usage through a technologically advanced approach to drip irrigation.

2021 Cuevas de Arom `Altas Parcelas` Calatayud Garnacha

2021 Can Sumoi Garnatxa Sumoll - - The restoration of the Can Sumoi estate has protected 380 hectares of forest.

September morning at the Hayfield Manor.

And big thumbs up for:

2022 Frédéric Berne Beaujolais Lantignié `Granit Rose

2021 Domaine Grégoire Hoppenot Fleurie `Clos de l’Amandier`

2019 Altos Las Hormigas Mendoza Tinto

2019 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - the estate is certified organic, run on biodynamic principles and a lead in regenerative viticulture.

2019 Kaiken Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

2021 Montes Apalta Vineyard Carignan/Grenache/ Mourvèdre

Cattle at Fontodi (pic via Zoom masterclass 2020). More detail here

Liberty had no bother in picking 80 great examples to illustrate the topic of sustainability.  “Wine producers are adapting the way they work in the vineyard to adapt to climate change and to produce better grapes. Both mean better wines,.… There is much more to do before we achieve a truly sustainable wine industry – and much required for producers to adapt to the increasing temperatures and extreme weather caused by climate change." 

"We are proud to work with producers rising to this challenge and, as a Carbon Neutral Positive distributor, share their values. These producers are not only making excellent wines with a clear sense of place today but also ensuring that such wines can be enjoyed in future.”

No denying. Harvest dates get earlier and earlier as global warming builds up.
Chart via Cellar Master Émilien Boutillat during Liberty Zoom masterclass May 2020.

* The Liberty Wines Dublin Autumn Portfolio Tasting on Monday 2nd October 2023 at The Westbury (trade only).

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