Earlier this year, the biggest portfolio tasting on the Irish wine trade calendar – Liberty Wines Ireland – was, for a change, held at The Westbury Hotel. I didn’t have anywhere near as much time as I’d have liked – given that there were close to 350 bottles open – but such is the quality on show that even a limited tasting throws up lots of wines that demand a recommendation.
To keep your attention I have broken the list up into several posts. This first post covers French whites and reds, including Les Hauts de Milly which is new to Liberty.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2018 (13.5%, RRP €24.99 at Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; www.wineonline.ie)
The new vintage is fantastic straight out of the blocks, unlike some Sauvignons which need a little time to settle down and find their poise. This Quincy just has so much flavour; it’s an amazing Sauvignon Blanc with luscious green and yellow fruit that is a delight to drink, and tastier than many from famous neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
Les Hauts de Milly Chablis 1er Cru “Côte de Léchet” 2016 (13.0%, RRP €39.99 at Egans Wines, Portlaoise and good independents nationwide)
Les Hauts de Milly is a new addition to the Liberty stable, and what a coup! They have 27 hectares in Chablis (from Didier Defaix’s side of the family) and Rully (from his wife Hélène Jaeger-Defaix’s side). Due to an extremely challenging harvest in Chablis in 2016 they lost their organic certification but are endeavouring to regain it.
This Premier Cru Chablis is made with grapes from 25 separate parcels in the Côte de Léchet vineyard. It spent eight months of its maturation in a mix of stainless steel (75%) and one to six year old 228 litre oak barrels (25%). With a mineral streak, plenty of acidity and citrus, it is recognisably Chablis, but such is the quality here that it transcends its northern origins and is truly a great white Burgundy.
Les Hauts de Milly Rully 1er Cru “Mont Palais” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €39.99 at good independents nationwide)
Now to the other side of the family, with a Côte Chalonnaise from two plots within a single hectare Premier Cru vineyard, the Mont Palais. The soils are clay and limestone, giving power and finesse respectively. As was the case in much of Europe, 2015 was an excellent vintage in Burgundy and the warmth of the weather is reflected in tangy tropical notes. Four years on from vintage it is absolutely singing, a very well put together wine.
Ch Larose Perganson Haut-Médoc 2014 (13.5%, RRP €35.99 at 64 Wine; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Hole in The Wall; Jus De Vine; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Vintry; www.wineonline.ie)
The Larose Perganson 2010 was drinking beautifully last year, but as stocks of that vintage are depleted, the current 2014 is worth a try. While 2014 wasn’t as stellar a year in Bordeaux as 2010 (as previously noted here) it was still very good. As in the norm for Haut-Médoc reds, the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (58%) and Merlot (40%) with just a little Petit Verdot (2%) for seasoning. The body is only medium – no 15.0% fruit and oak monster here – but it has lots of nice, classic black fruit flavours, with a smoky edge. The second wine Les Hauts de Perganson is around two thirds the price but for me it’s definitely worth paying the extra for the Fully Monty.
François et Fils Côte-Rôtie 2016 (13.0%, RRP €61.99 at 64 Wine; Thomas’s of Foxrock; www.wineonline.ie)
And so we meet again, a fine ambassador for the Rhône’s most northerly appellation. Interestingly the François are primarily dairy farmers and cheese makers, with just four hectares of vines in Côte Rôtie. The wine is silky (100%) Syrah, with aromas so lifted they are heavenly. Sweet blackberries are tamed by fine tannins and a savoury edge. A superior wine which lives up to its price tag.
Domaine Barge Côte-Rôtie “Côte Brune” 2015 (13.5%, RRP €78.99 at good independents nationwide)
Boom! (1) 2015 was a whopper in the Rhône, so even the more subtle AOCs received plenty of heat and sunshine, translating into powerful wines like this. Big black fruit is matched by a big structure – tannin and particularly acidity – which stop it running away with itself. 5% Viognier helps to round the edges even further and adds floral aromas. This is a hedonist’s delight at the moment, but will age gracefully for the next decade or so.
Liberty Portfolio Tasting 2019
- Part 1 – France, Whites & Reds
- Part 2 – Other whites
- Part 3 – Old World Reds
- Part 4 – New World Reds
(1) An excerpt from Private S. Baldrick’s poem, “The German Guns”