The annual Liberty Wines portfolio tasting took place today. Below, a highlight video with my picks of the day.

Who are Liberty Wines?

Liberty Wines are a wine importer/distributor who set up in 1997 in the UK and opened their Irish office in 2002. Their reputation was built initially on their range of Italian wines but their portfolio has since expanded and today there were wines on show today from Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Austria, Germany, Spain,  Italy, Chile, the US and Canada.

So, what impressed?

In my very short time there and inbetween interviewing the folks in the video below I focused on reds – Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Canada and a few very respectable Italians from the Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont.

Consensus was that the Italians came out on top and from the ones I sampled, you I tend to agree.

The Pinot Noirs

For my Sideways moment, I started with some the Pinot Noirs. From New Zealand, different regions with their varying styles. From South Australia, the cool Adelaide Hills and from Walker Bay in South Africa, a new wine in Liberty’s portfolio to mathc the best of Hamilton Russell and indeed, Burgundy. Lastly, a very decent one from Canada. My first dry Canadian wine, I believe.

Canada – Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir, Niagara – 2006 (RRP €27)

And Canada is as good a place to start as any with their smooth, elegant and creamy Pinot Noir, the Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve. Gorgeous red berries and a mineral vein running through a very classic Pinot style. It’s no surprise, with the respected Burgundian, Boisset involved in this venture in the Niagara region of Ontario.

South Africa – Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir, Walker Bay 2008 (RRP €22)

A neighbour of Hamilton Russell, producer of exquisite Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is another very similar Burgundian style – farmyard on the nose, cherries, dusty minerality, good high acidity and a very long finish.

New Zealand – Tinpot Hut Pinot Noir Marlborough 2008 (RRP €18)

Meaty, almost like steak juices (in a good way) with lovely minerality in it. My first sampling of Tinpot Hut in a few years and I wasn’t disappointed.

New Zealand – Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir Marlborough 2008 (RRP €20)

Intense red berry flavours, lovely balance, acidity and complexity.

New Zealand – Delta Vineyard “Hatter’s Hill” Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007 (RRP €26)

Similar to the above, but with even more elegance and very very clean. And to that a layer of creaminess and some earthy mushroom tones.

New Zealand – Wild Earth Pinot Noir, Central Otago (RRP €28)

A fuller more rounded style to its Marlborough cousins. There seems to be less acidity and a bit of a smoky edge to it. Different, but no less satisfying.

Australia – Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2008 (RRP €30)

Who said the Aussies couldn’t make good Pinot? Light coloured, but intensely flavoured with a very pure, precise mineral texture. Fabulous stuff.

The Italians

Liberty first established their reputation for their selection of Italian wines and it’s easy to see why. Some of the wines were absolutely outstanding and a few at amazing value. Here’s my pick of the best of the best:

Corte Giara Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2008 (RRP €16)

Gorgeous rich dark cherries and dark chocolate. Intensely scented and full of flavour.

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (RRP €67)

An amazing intensity and richness to this wine but with poise and balance. Cherries, coffee, spice, complexity. A heavyweight with poise. If this was a boxer, you’d call him Muhammed Ali. Though who can afford ringside seats these days?

Poggio San Polo Rosso di Montalcino (RRP €22)

Brunello’s baby brother, ultra smooth and silky, intense flavours of cherries and cinnamon.

Tenuta di Capezzana Barco Reale de Carmignano 2007 (RRP €18)

Made from Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo. This is beautfully perfumed with good acidity and a finely balanced . Rich and rewarding.

Tenuta Fontodi Chianti Classico 2007 (RRP €25)

From grapes grown in a perfect south facing amphitheatre near Panzano in central Chianti. A rich, full bodied Chianti.

Cantina di Montalcino Poggio del Sasso Sangiovese di Toscana (RRP €13)

This is a co-operative production where grapes are brought in from a number of growers to make the wine. Great rich mouthfeel. Humble pricetag and arguably the value find of the day.

Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino (RRP €53)

Rich, elegant, balanced, yet complex. Intense red fruits, spices with a savoury edge. Winemaking perfection

A South African White Burgundy (at half the price, €28)

The one white I tried was was on the back of a recommendation from the illustrious Martin Moran, MW. It was Crystallum 2008 Clay Shales Chardonnay. The same producer as the South African Pinot Noirs I tried and truly a wine to restore anyone’s faith in much maligned Chardonnay. These guys are neighbours of Hamilton Russell, also producers of exquisite Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Walker Bay seems to produce as close to top-end Burgundy as you can get anywhere.

Were you there today?

What were your favourites?