Showing posts with label Liberty Wines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liberty Wines. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

“Each tank is tasted three times a day to determine what is needed.” Altos Las Hormigas “Terroir” Malbec Valle de Uco

Altos Las Hormigas “Terroir” Malbec Valle de Uco Mendoza 2019, 13.5% ABV, 

RRP €26.95. Stockists: The Cinnamon Cottage / JJ O’Driscoll Superstore Ballinlough / The Corkscrew

“Each tank is tasted three times a day to determine what is needed.”

Coming from a careful selection of grapes from the oldest geological part of Uco Valley in Argentina, this Malbec is a deep ruby. The aromatics feature dark berries and cherries and also show outstanding violet notes. The vivid fruitiness and the distinctive floral elements all come together harmoniously in a fresh and round palate, while acidity and tannins also play a balancing role here and the finish pleasantly lingers.

Not my first time enjoying this stellar wine. Very Highly Recommended.

“This Malbec is ideal to pair with various dishes, from red meats to pasta or grilled vegetables”, according to the producers, Malbec specialists since 1995. Serve at 16 degrees.

Check out  our Top Wines 2024 list (with stockists and short reviews) here 

Looking for better value? All under 20 euro. Click here

Just to give you an idea of the attention to detail here, here’s a quote from their website on this Malbec’s fermentation. “100% Malbec grapes harvested by hand. After a careful, double-sorting process, the grapes are softly pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts to express the vineyard they come from. Fermentation takes place in separate stainless steel tanks between 24-28°C for 10 days. Each tank is tasted three times a day to determine what is needed. The wine is then aged for a minimum of 9 months in concrete vats. No oak aging.”

Pic via Diego_Torres Pixabay

Where did the name come from? It was already there even before the vineyard was founded. The ants (Las Hormigas) love newly planted vines. But the owners didn't want to poison them, after all the ants were the original inhabitants; they lived with the nuisance and then found that the ants had no interest in the vines once they began to grow. (Source: Wines of South America by Evan Goldstein.)

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Drink of the Week. A special Riesling from Italy.

Drink of the Week. 

A special Riesling from Italy.

GD Vajra “Petracine” Riesling Langhe (AOC) 2021, 13% ABV

When you think of Riesling around the world, European vineyards such as Alsace and Germany, along with New Zealand and South Australia,  will probably cross your mind.

But surely not Italy - unless you are familiar with this special organic Riesling by GD Vajra from the Langhe (Piedmont). Otherwise, it is a surprise, as it was for me, and a very pleasant one indeed, vibrant and massively appealing. 

The pioneer of Riesling in Piedmont is Aldo Vajra. Aldo got passionate about this variety during his University studies, investigated more and more about it and planted the first clones in Langa in 1985. This is how Pètracine was born, a wine whose name evokes the roots digging into the rock. It is an exercise of biodiversity, born by a massal selection from Alsace, Palatinate and Rhine. “This is a wine that requires patience, much like the great reds of our land.”

Beautifully aromatic (peach and apricot and lemon, no hint at all of petrol or diesel here) greet you and take you on to a bone-dry palate. No shortage of minerality, but it is well-balanced, and that surprisingly fresh acidity is a key part of the equation. The invigorating character of this beauty lingers long at the finish. A great food wine. Enjoy it with the usually recommended Asian cuisines but with many other dishes as well including pork, white fish and seafood.

The wine is imported to Ireland by Liberty Wines and you can find it by checking with your Liberty stockists or by searching online. Price seems to be around 40 euro. Very Highly Recommended.


Monday, January 22, 2024

From an island paradise comes this divine Vermentino

From an island paradise comes this divine Vermentino

Domaine Vico Le Bois Du Cerf Vermentinu (AC) 2022, 13% ABV

RRP €28.95. Stockists: The Cinnamon Cottage / JJ O’Driscoll Superstore Ballinlough / Sweeney's D3 / Jus de Vine / Clontarf Wines / Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop / Grapevine /Blackrock Cellar

The grapes for this 100% Vermentino are sourced from 45-year-old vines, which sit on blue schist soils at 300 metres altitude. Unlike most Corsican producers, Domaine Vico’s vineyards are situated away from the coast in mountain foothills.

Vermentino is mainly associated with Sardinia, where over half of the production occurs. However, it is also commonly grown in Corsica, where it is known as Vermentinu, and where several superb examples are produced, including this one.

It has a straw-yellow colour. Citrus and floral, the engaging aromas also have a hint of honey. It is complex and absolutely gorgeous on the palate, the aromas staying on strongly as the refreshing fruit (fresh citrus and orchard fruit) and herbaceous flavours spread across before a fruity and refreshing finish.  

Very Highly Recommended

Harvested by hand, the grapes are gently crushed before undergoing several hours of skin contact to maximise flavour extraction. The must is then fermented with indigenous yeasts in neutral, temperature-controlled tanks to preserve the fresh fruit character. Matured on fine lees for six months in concrete tanks for additional texture.

The label illustration is eye-catching. You may see the full drawing on their Instagram here. The vineyard of this Cuvée is located on the extreme north of the island and they are really near a forest where they sometimes meet the “wonderful deer from Corsica. In central Corsica the reintroduction of deer is a success, .. one is regularly seen in a wood adjacent to the estate... and as we love  @leslie_orsatti drawings ... We asked him to draw this for us…”

Friday, October 27, 2023

Engaging and elegant Vermentino from Sardinia.

Engaging and elegant Vermentino from Sardinia.

Atzei Saragat Isola Dei Nuraghi (IGT) Vermentino 2022, 13.5% ABV,

RRP €20.95. Stockists: The Cinnamon Cottage; JJ O’Driscoll Superstore Ballinlough; Searsons Wine Merchants; Red Nose Wine; Jus de Vine; Bradleys; Blackrock Cellar.

Confidence rises as you read the introduction, by importers Liberty, to this Vermentino from Sardinia. “The Vermentino for this wine is grown on the hillsides and the plains close to the village of Mogoro, in the Alta Marmilla sub-region of southern Sardinia. The soils are granitic with a large instance of limestone, producing highly aromatic wines. Atzei follows a strict selection process in the vineyards at harvest, ensuring that only the very best fruit is picked, and the resulting wines display excellent concentration of flavours.”

The colour is a light straw yellow. Aromas are quite forward, a rush of elderberry along with white stone fruit (peach, nectarines). The palate is full of intense flavour, from the first sip to the long finish and all the time the wine is engaging and elegant.

I do like my Vermentino, even more so now. Very Highly Recommended.

Sardinia’s 2020 vintage was a great one. “The spring was characterised by good levels of rainfall that replenished water reserves in the soil. Summer was warm and dry, and the grapes matured evenly without any intervention in the vineyard. The harvest started in the second week of September and the fruit was healthy and perfectly ripe.”


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


After a short maceration on the skins, fermentation took place at controlled temperatures with the use of selected yeasts. Vinification is conducted without the presence of oxygen, in order to preserve the natural, fresh fruit aromas. The wine was then transferred to stainless-steel tanks where it remained on fine lees for 40 days, with regular bâtonnage performed, before bottling.

The colourful label takes its inspiration from the clothes of Sardinian women. The bright colours reflect the colours of the earth, the sky and the sea. Even nowadays, on feast days, Sardinian women wear these rich, colourful dresses with great pride, passing them down from generation to generation as the most precious gift. 

Perfect as an aperitif with cheese puffs or slices of Sardinian ham, dishes with fresh bottarga (salted or dried tuna), savoury pies with vegetables, dishes with shellfish and seafood. Very good with pecorino cheese and semi-hard cow cheese.

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).

Monday, September 4, 2023

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro. Concluding the Portugal mini-series

Concluding the Portugal mini-series (with two from Liberty Wines)

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro

Part V of the Portugal mini-series

The Douro is perhaps the best-known of the Portuguese wine regions, mainly because of its historic connections with Port. While the British were enjoying the fortified sweet wines, the locals were enjoying their own simple table wine, even the infants were drinking wine rather than water, according to the chapter on the Douro in Foot Trodden.

The Douro Valley is a spectacular place and draws all kinds of tourists including of course wine lovers. As you know, much the same grapes are used for Port as for still red wine. 

The Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions of Portugal, located just south of the famous Douro Valley. The mountainous region is home to Touriga Nacional, and only became a DOC in 1990.

The region’s wine industry, for so long shackled by the dictator Salazar’s imposed cooperative system that rewarded quantity over quality, certainly needed the improvement in quality that has taken place in the last 30 years or so.

More on these two regions here in Part II of our mini-series on Portuguese wine.

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional Dão (DOC) 2019, 13.5% ABV.

RRP €32.95. Stockists: Baggot Street Wines;; The Corkscrew; Martins Off Licence

An outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional

This intense, complex, and elegant Touriga Nacional from the heart of the Dão is a dark ruby colour with slightly lighter tones at the rim. Aromas of black fruit and well-integrated spice from its 12-month oak ageing are followed by vibrant dark fruit and spice on the palate. The wine has great depth, acidity, and smoothness, and the finish is long and persistent.

The Touriga Nacional is a much-loved indigenous variety, but it is rare, in Ireland at least, to see it bottled on its own. Quinta dos Carvalhais is located in the Terras de Azurara sub-region of the Dão, to the southeast of Viseu.

The 105-hectare estate, with 50 hectares under vine, was purchased by Sogrape in 1988. They invested a huge amount into improvements in both the vineyards and the winery – and are credited with spearheading the quality renaissance of wines from the Dão in the early ‘90s.

Following decades of state control and a cooperative monopoly in the region that favoured quantity over quality, they replanted the region’s indigenous grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional and Encruzado, and saved them from near extinction.

Our wine here may be a single varietal but the art of blending has been utilised. Even the single-varietal wines here are complex blends of different plots on the estate, vinified separately before blending. The Touriga Nacional showcases the signature black fruit and violet characters of this prized indigenous grape alongside a well-integrated spiciness from 12 months in French oak.

The final blend was made to fully express the high quality of the Touriga Nacional, as well as the distinctive character of the Dão region. 

Overall, this is an outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional. It is complex and elegant, with great depth and length, a welcome “guest” at any wine lover's table. It is advisable to serve at a temperature of 16-18 degrees Celsius. It is a "very gastronomic" wine that pairs well with dishes such as octopus à lagareiro, oven-roasted pork, and mushroom risotto.

Very Highly Recommended.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos Douro Tinto (DOC) 2021, 13% ABV.

RRP €20.95 Bradleys, McHugh’s Off Licence - Malahide Road/Kilbarrack Road,, Baggot Street Wines, Pinto Wines, Drink Store, The Vintry Rathgar.

A feast for the senses.

The label sums this Douro red pretty succinctly: mid complexity, medium tannins, mid-body, full fruit. It advises serving it at 16 degrees with fish and shellfish, poultry and beef. Pasta with a tomato-based sauce should also be considered. Also quite delicious on its own.

This ruby red wine is a feast for the senses. The nose is bursting with aromas of juicy strawberries, blackberries, and cherries, with hints of violets. On the palate, Papa Figos is smooth and balanced, with velvety tannins and lively acidity. The ripe fruit flavours linger, making it an easy-drinking treat.

It is, like most of the country’s wines, a blend and in this case consists of 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Franca, and 15% Touriga Nacional. It may well be from the land of cork but it does come with a screwcap closure. 

By the way, Tinta Roriz is also known as Tempranillo, and it is the most widely planted grape in Portugal. It gives the wine its red fruit flavours, such as cherries and strawberries.

There was no use of oak in the winemaking process and the wine remained in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete vats until bottling and this helped it towards a fresh and fruity profile.

The wine is called 'Papa figos' or 'fig muncher' which is the nickname for the golden oriole (featured on the front label), a migratory bird that passes through the Douro. 

Highly Recommended. Talking about the wine here, not the bird (though it looks beautiful)

The grapes for this blend are sourced from high-altitude vineyards in the Douro Superior region, with around 25% coming from Quinta da Leda (the flagship estate) in the far eastern reaches of the region, close to the border with Spain. Soils are predominantly schist (right)

The Duoro Valley, in brief:

  • The Douro Valley is located in northeastern Portugal, along the Douro River.
  • It is known for its steep slopes and rocky soils, which are well-suited to growing grapes.
  • The region is home to a wide variety of grape varieties.
  • Both red and white wines are produced, as well as Port (for which it is justly famous).
  • The wines of the Douro Valley are known for their complexity, intensity, and longevity.

The valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal. A number of wineries in the region offer tours and tastings. It is also a popular destination for hiking, biking, and river rafting.

Portugal mini-series

Part V (Dão, Douro)

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho)