The real world meets the virtual world, even in the realm of wine. One of the latest innovative wine brands to hit our shelves is a very clever idea called the Liberator – but it does not conform to anything you will have ever seen before in the wine world.
The brainchild of Master of Wine Richard Kelley, the Liberator is a plan to “liberate” those forgotten wine parcels which often get swallowed up into the big brands.
Kelley is a wine importer who works directly with winemakers bringing their wines to UK shelves. He is very frustrated by the current trend for making huge volumes of wines which suit the market, blended to a recipe requiring “sweeter” or “oakier” styles at a certain price point which taste as if they could have been made anywhere.
“I was confounded by the number of great wines which were resigned to a tragic fate of being blended away or sold off in bulk,” says Kelley.
With his Liberator cloak on, he hopes to hunt down, snap up and rescue these “precious vinous orphans”. He sets these lovely wines free before they end up in yet another supermarket own-label blend vat, by bottling them as special parcel wines.
Kelley, with the help of South African label designer Eddie Haumann and some bright young creative cartoonists and copywriters, has created an amusing series of Liberator Episodes highlighting each wine depicted in fun snappy strip cartoons which can be viewed at www.theliberatorwine.com.
The most amusing cartoon is about “the suit” who orders a special wine blend over the phone, hasn’t time to come and taste it – and then says he doesn’t need it after all.
The Liberator’s batches of wine, including Francophile Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, Baroque ’n Roll and Lone Ranger, feature in cartoon episodes highlighting each discovery. A snap shot of the cartoon and story is on each label too.
Now just before we go on – a word of warning. In my own haste to discover Kelley’s story about Rick The Liberator, I accidentally ended up on a website which has a similar name but sells other liberating products – not wine. So take care when logging on – you have been warned…
Creative marketing is all very well, but what I like about Kelley’s Liberator wines is that they really do taste good too.
You have to pay more than a supermarket own label wine, but they are characterful wines with a sense of place, sold through independent wine merchants.
The latest off the Liberator press are two excellent special edition releases (This Bird Has Flown and The Connoisseur) from Swartland and Stellenbosch in South Africa, both made by well-known winemakers.
This Bird Has Flown was apparently destined for a Scandinavian government monopoly wine parcel. The Norwegians suddenly decided that this batch of wine was “surplus to their requirements” so Kelley got a phone call from one of his winemaking contacts to ask if he wanted it instead for a special edition.
Rick the Liberator only works with South African wines, where he lived from 1995 to 2002 during an important period when the Cape’s wine industry was going through a renaissance post-apartheid.
Now back in the UK, he travels there several times a year, delivering vintage reports on the harvest, with his intimate knowledge of the Cape through his wide range of contacts.
“I don’t just take everything I am offered for the Liberator range,” says Kelley.
“I was out in the Cape in August and found nothing suitable, so there is no plan to produce a certain amount each year. It is just when a good parcel becomes available to me.”
Kelley does not own his own vineyards, but buys barrels of wine or special parcels which he may blend with other “liberated” wines, to get a really good finished result. It’s a fun, refreshing new take on the wine world.
WINE FREED BY THE LIBERATOR
THE LIBERATOR SPECIAL EDITION THIS BIRD HAS FLOWN 2009
(£11.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com) 14.5 per cent. Origin: Swartland, South Africa
This is the style that up-and-coming Swartland region in South Africa is really getting a name for. Fabulously exuberant, ripe whites with honeyed depth and amazing fruit concentration and power. This is a clever blend of four French grapes: chenin blanc, viognier, chardonnay and clairette blanche. Extremely well-made. STAR BUY
THE LIBERATOR SPECIAL EDITION THE CONNOISSEUR 2011
(£11.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com) 14.5 per cent. Origin: Stellenbosch, South Africa
There are only 325 cases of this blend of 60 per cent shiraz and 40 per cent grenache. Think Côtes du Rhône with a riper New World twist – bags full of character with big, chunky mouthfilling black fruits, hints of pepper, velvet smooth palate and a firm finish. Drinking well now, but could mellow further over the next three years.
Join Rose’s Classic Germany and Portugal wine class in Edinburgh, Wednesday 27 November, £40, firstname.lastname@example.org