Q&A with David Gleave


Born and educated in Toronto, David Gleave became an MW in 1986 and founded Liberty Wines in March 1997, starting with a team of four including Tim Tweedy and Luciann Flynn. He stepped down as MD in 2022 and is now the chairman of the company.


What’s the first wine you bought?
In my first role as a buyer for an importer, the first producer I brought in was Isole e Olena, and the first wines we bought were the 1983 Chianti Classico and 1982 Cepparello. Not a bad place to start but more by luck than judgement, I’d say.

What job would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine trade?
I stumbled into wine after the year I took off university to travel became five years. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

How do you relax?
I hop on my bike if I can. As I need to focus solely on the road and traffic, it means I shut out most other things from my mind.

What’s the best book you’ve recently read?
Mussolini in Myth and Memory: The First Totalitarian Dictator by Paul Corner. Given recent political developments, and not only in Italy, I thought it important to understand how Mussolini came to power. With Giorgia Meloni in power in Italy and with right wing populists strident in the UK and the US, we need to understand what happened in the past if we are to have any idea of how to deal with the future.

Who’s your favourite music artist?
That is a bit like being asked what your favourite wine is – impossible to answer. I can only reduce it to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Miles Davis.

Give us a Netflix recommendation.
The Offer. It is a fictionalised account of the making of The Godfather and is a brilliant look at a great cultural creation.

Do you have any sporting loyalties?
Crystal Palace by adoption, the Toronto Maple Leafs by birth.

Who’s your favourite wine critic?
Hugh Johnson’s wonderful prose turned me onto wine, while Jancis Robinson has written the books to which I refer most. Andrew Jefford’s new book, Drinking With The Valkyries, is an awe-inspiring collection of some of the best prose ever written on wine. But Matt Walls, Julia Harding and Neal Martin, among many others, are the leading lights of the successive generation, and are inspiring a vibrant younger generation.

What’s your most treasured possession?
My bicycle – a Pinarello Dogma I bought second hand in Italy almost 10 years ago.

What’s your proudest moment?
In retrospect, the decision Luciann and I took in late 1996 to start Liberty Wines in 1997. At the time, it was a bit of a white-knuckle ride, but with the benefit of hindsight it makes me very proud to look at what I was involved in creating.

What’s your biggest regret?
That I don’t speak more languages, and that my Italian isn’t better. Languages are the key to understanding countries, so I miss out on a lot by not speaking more.

Who’s your hero?
The person I learned the most from since I started out in wine, and who has had the greatest influence on my career, is Nick Belfrage, who recently died. He taught me the importance of both words that define our industry, the wine business.

Any hidden talents?
I’m a London taxi driver manqué. I used to love discovering all the cut-throughs – until they were closed off.

What’s your favourite place in the UK?

If we could grant you one wish, what would it be?
If I could wave a magic wand and turn the clock back to early June 2016 when we were members of the EU, I’d do it. Leaving the EU has made us poorer in economic, social and cultural terms, so I’d grasp with alacrity any wish that gave me the power to overturn that decision.

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