Note: All reviews are based on a few single words and underlinings scribbled on the program, and some of them are now wholly illegible/unintelligible.
"Serious Fizz" - Four sparklers, we tried all but the most expensive and as predicted (I am becoming a shocking champagne snob), they got better as the price increased with the most expensive we tried, the Green Point Sparkling NV being deliciously buttery and the most champagne-esque.
"Fresh and Zingy" - 8 wines, mostly Semillon , unf. this table was mobbed and the next table was empty (Rieslings) so we tried not a one of these and later on plum forgot to go back - oops.
"The World of Riesling" - After missing out on the zing we sampled three of these (of nine - when you have a potential 70 wines to taste, you start slow). All were decent. The Chalker's Crossing was light and dry (€12-95), the Wakefield Estate , bigger more upfront (€12-99), and lastly the most expensive, the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (€32-99) a delicious minerally beast.
"Plump and Round" - not YHB but various odds and sods Whites. We were getting warmed up here and managed a creditable 5 out of 8. The cheapest wine of the night a Michelton Thomas Mitchel Marsanne, was perfectly pleasant, while the Tahbilk Marsanne was bigger and bolder and a snip at €11-95. After a sweet Yalumba Viognier (€13-99) and a sweeter d'Arenburg The Hermit Crab (€13-95) we sampled the most expensive wine of the section at €29-99, The Henschke Pinot Gris which a lightly fruited and very stylish finish to this part of the repast.
"Classic Chardonnay" - We tried the two very expensive chardonnays (out of three) and to be honest, while they were both very pleasant albeit New Worldy (IMHO) , I wouldn't lash out 50 notes on either the Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay (€49-99) or the Leewin Art Series Chardonnay (€54-00). John Wilson loves both and he's the professional but for this money I'd take a Montrachet. Here endeth the Whites.
"Pinot Corner" - Four Moderately priced Pinots and a dear one, we tried two moderate ones and, of course, the pricey one. The M&S tasmanin Pinot was OK, light but pleasant and priced well at (€12-49). The Yering Station, not so cheap at €18-50 but a decent step up from the M&S with a bit more depth of flavour. Lastly the De Bertoli, to be served chilled by all accounts, coming in at a cool €40-50. Very nice but good value?
"Glorious Grenache" - Again we had two of three here - the d'Arenberg Stump Jump, a delicious GSM and a steal at €11-95, followed by the St Hallett Gamekeeper's Reserve, very nice, very French and a bigger steal at €9-99.
"Cabernet and Bordeaux Blends" - some of these wines re-affimed by dislike for pure Oz Caberents. The style just isn't for me, too dry and tannic with wines such as the Grosset Gaia (€39-95) and the Parker Estate Cabernet (€28-00). The Clairaut Estate Cabernet Merlot (€31-00) however, was right up my street, "harmonious and fruity" according to my notes.
"Shiraz and Blends" - 21 wines here spread over two tables making this the biggest section on the night and perhaps a glimpse into Johns Wilson's personal preferences? We sampled 10 out of 21 which wasn't bad going . I have a confession to make at this point; the final 4 shiraz's tasted were tasted very early in the night. After the Rieslings, we noticed John Wilson and an attendee* having a crafty tipple of the Grange. Fearing that we might lose out on it if we kept moving around the tables in order, we shamelessly ran over to blag some of Australia's finest. The attendee turned out to be Lar from SourGrapes who was making a flying visit. It was nice to put a face to a name, cheers Lar.
Anyway, the wines. Tyrells Vat 9 Shiraz (€37-99) - not great, corked we reckoned. Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz (€23-99), lovely, subtle, scribble. Innocent Bystander Shiraz/Viognier (€14-99) - great value, very French. Mt Langi Ghiran Shiraz - too fruity for me and too dear at €50. Voyager Estate Shiraz (€27-50) - lovely, refined much better value than the Mt Langi. Tim Adams Shiraz, as recommended by our knowledgeable server, fantastic, balanced, super value.
The Last Four were - Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz, fine structure and body (€24), Henschke Mount Edelstone (€75) pricey but very nice. Penfolds St Henri (€56-49) - the new baby Grange, same grapes, different barrels, very refined and fine indeed. The Grange (drumroll), I have wanted to try this for years but have never had the spons. Firstly a big alcoholic wash and then a huge finish and lots of oak. An experience, but not worth €200 in my book.
"Sweet and Sticky" - We tried two out of four here on the way out the door, a little unsteadily if truth be told. Grant Burge 10 year old Tawny, very port-ish and BE loved it. Rutherglen Estates Muscat - Deliciously sweet dessert wine.
Many thanks to the Johns and to all concerned. The lesson to myself on the night is that on the white side my tastes tend to the Rieslings and the offbeat whites, Marsanne & Viognier. On the Red side I seem to favour medium priced reds (€15- €30), the cheaper reds I generally find too jammy and the more expensive reds seem not to be such good value, as there is plenty of quality in the mid-range.
Next up - either Birthday Wines II - The Stragglers or my reviews of the first two wines of Birthday Wines I - The Siblings which we have opened so far.