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Tastings - Liberty, Bibendum and Washington/Oregon

Published:  09 February, 2009

Liberty Wines Annual Portfolio Tasting, London, 20 January 2009

My main focus at this tasting was on Liberty's diverse range of Italian wines. I thought Donnafugata's wines showed well, particularly the Sherazade 2007 (£7.07 ex VAT), a 50/50 blend of Nero d'Avola and Shiraz. There were hints of tarriness on nose, but the palate was all bright sour cherry and violet fruit, with fresh acidity and mineral notes. Given its light body and juicy acidity, this would make a great match for fresh spring flavours, such as new-season lamb.

A Mano's Prima Mano 2006 (£9.50 + VAT) is made from 70-year-old Primitivo vines grown within sight of the Puglian coast. Sure, it's concentrated and ripe - but it delivers far more than a fruit fest, and shows balance as well as velvety depth. A wine to see out the last of the winter game as well as braised beef dishes.

I was tempted to include Pieropan's Soaves in this round up, but what can I say about these wines that hasn't already been said? Instead, I'd like to draw your attention to G D Vajra's 2004 Barolo Le Albe (£21.65 + VAT). This is an approachable introduction to the world of Barolo, with tannins that are relatively supple and gentle, albeit still clearly present. While it lacks the power and finesse of the best Nebbiolos, it shows the lovely rose-tinged perfume so typical of this variety. Decant for youthful drinking.

Bibendum Tasting, London, 21 January 2009

Prosecco sales are starting to climb as Champagne sales decrease, so it makes sense to include a bottle on your list. Bisol's range offers two good mid-range Proseccos, Jeio NV (£8.42 + VAT) and the single-vineyard Crede NV (£11.51 + VAT). Both are just off dry, but whereas the former is all about vibrant pear and apple fruit, the latter shows more complexity, with additional layers of honey and flowers.

While we're on the subject of fizz, Ceretto's Moscato d'Asti Vignaioli di Santo Stefano 2008 (£10.42 + VAT) is one of the most delicate sparkling Moscatos I've tasted in a long time. Far from being cloying, this offered great balance between fruit, sugar and acidity, leaving the palate feeling cleansed and refreshed.

Oregon/Washington Wine Tasting, London, 22 January 2009

Domaine Drouhin put on a comparative tasting (contrasting Burgundy with the wines from Oregon) at the ICA on the morning of the Oregon/Washington tasting, and I was blown away by the elegance and minerality of its 2007 Arthur Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon (£11.20 + VAT, Fields, Morris & Verdin). Linear, almost austere in its purity, it would be easy to confuse this with good-quality Chablis. In fact, that's just what I did at the tasting.

Château Ste Michelle's Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Washington 2007 (rrp £7.35, Berkmann Wine Cellars) provides a nicely judged halfway point between the richness of an Alsatian-style wine and the neutrality of a Pinot Grigio. It's got good concentration of spicy peach-flavoured fruit, a round, full body and just enough acidity provide the requisite balance. It's a good commercial-quality wine and I'd probably enjoy it most with scallop and prawn dishes.

King Estate's Domaine Pinot Gris 2007 (rrp £15-18, UK distribution currently being negotiated, contact is an altogether richer, fuller style of wine, falling firmly into the Alsatian camp in terms of aspiration and style. The spice and fruit-driven nose promised much, and the wine delivered on the round, off-dry palate. Very long and very elegant, this has the density and complexity to stand up to the myriad flavours of a Thai chicken larb or a green prawn curry - although the producer's website suggests a creamy scallop, corn and garlic soup as a pairing, which sounds intriguing.