28 May 2024 Paul Thorne

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21 May 2024 Jonathan Casson

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

First time chef Jonathan Casson was our Chef of the Day showing his skills in the kitchen all done with one hand! Mediterranean influence on the cuisine today.

Canapés

Peter Kelso and yours truly assisted today with Peter preparing a rich flavourful tapenade on toast topped with cornichons and preserved lemon.

Up next were some ‘Acciughe Salate’. These are Sicilian anchovies, once caught head lopped off and packed in tins sealed with salt and EVOO. They are best rinsed in wine to remove the salt crust.

Today the fillets were prised off the spine, rolled and served on oven-baked toasts with crème fraîche.

Main

Perfect on this cool autumn day Jonathan presented lamb shanks served with a luscious red wine sauce, some pearl couscous and leek. The leek was baked in wine and butter and a good complement to the course. The lamb shanks were simmered for three hours, and fell off the bone, the pearl couscous perfectly cooked with the red wine sauce adding a great depth of flavour.

Many favourable comments on the meal today.

Big bread love from Iggy today.

Steve Sparkes presented Jonathan with his COTD apron and Jonathan responded by saying how much he enjoys the comradeship of our Society and the new friendships he’s formed since joining.

Cheese

Our Cheese master sourced some artisan cow's milk cheese from Cornwall, England ‘Cornish Kern’.

‘Kern’ is the Cornish word for ‘round’ and suitably describes the shape and flavour of this cheese. Created by Lynher Dairy, this modern British hard cheese is made in West Cornwall to an adapted gouda recipe using milk from nearby farms.

Each wheel has an attractive coat of thin black wax that allows the cheese to be matured for 16 months without losing too much moisture. The result is a dense, fudgy texture and complex flavour profile that is intensely savoury. The lingering caramel sweetness is accentuated by a proper dose of salt.

John Rourke spoke of the passing of member Terry McDowell. Terry was a member of our society for more than thirty years. John recalled meeting him at our Society after having been overseas for a number of years. He joined Terry’s table at WFS which he was hosting with his sailing crew. John went on to join the crew as well as many adventures in the kitchen with Terry.

Terry had a passion for food and wine, a good cook with an extensive cellar, he is well remembered and sadly missed.

Quote of the day:

‘One of the most generous things you can do for someone else is to cook them a meal’

Josh Niland

Wine

Today we had a new Chef Jonathan Casson, who treated us to a fine meal of lamb shanks. Delicious, looking forward to your next plan for us. See the food report for more detail.

With regard to the wines, we started with a Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Riesling from Central Vic 2018. I am an unabashed fan of this wine. 11.5% pale straw, clean and fresh with a terrific fruit/acid finish. A delight. You may remember we had a Drumborg Chardy last week, a much inferior wine to the Riesling today from the same vineyard. Last week’s wine was from 2016 which may explain a few things. Anyhow, the Riesling today was a winner.

The first red was the Stella Bella Cabernet from MR, WA. 2019, 14.3%. Very dense fruit almost black. Big fruit, with assertive tannin on the finish. This I think is a very good wine, but needs more time, another 4/5 years would be just about right.

The second red was from the same district, a Vasse Felix Cabernet from 2010, 14.5%. Equally dense with huge fruit, but well-balanced oak and tannin showed the advantage of extra bottle age. A rewarding clean firm finish, sufficient acid keeping it together after 14 years.

The next wine was a white, a Tyrrells Bin 63 Semillon/Chardonnay blend. I understand this is Bruce Tyrrell’s favourite Hunter white, Humm, not sure why. When this blend was first released in the late 70’s I think, I was eager to sample it, coming from a fine pedigree of Hunter white grapes. My impression at the time having consumed a few bottles over a period of time, was that it was a waste of a good Chardy and a good Sem.  In my view at the time, the offspring of these fine parents was an uninspiring ugly duckling, which was a disappointment to both parents. For that reason, I have not consumed a Bin 63 for 40 years or more. I always thought the wine was flabby and lacked a clean finish due to insufficient acid.

The wine today was from 2017, 12.5% a very good year, but that did not save it from being a wine without much character or attractive flavour, unlike its parents, when drunk alone. I really don’t think I have missed much over the years.  Anyhow that’s my opinion, fire at will!

Today's final wine was the Hewitson Mad Hatter Shiraz 14.5% 2013 from the Barossa. Despite the comical name this was a serious wine. I really liked it! Big Shiraz fruit, but good balance. Despite its age of 11 years, the wine has plenty of time ahead, a rewarding and enjoyable drink.

 

14 May Steve Sparkes

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Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

With the expectation of another great meal from the Food Master and Chef of the Day, today’s attendance was high for the “er, what’s up doc” lunch, well guessed by most members as being rabbit.  Steve was assisted with canapes by Gary Linnane and James Healey.

Canapés

Three canapés were served today.  Gary and James started us off with tuna and anchovy butter on a RITZ cracker. So simple yet so tasty.

 For the second, Steve assembled a rabbit rillette on the day upon a simple cracker with caramelised onion jam.  This was made a few days prior by the COTD using the trimmings from the rabbit carcass including ribs, front legs etc. It was cooked for several hours at a low temperature with pork belly and various secret herbs and spices. Thanks Colonel Sparkes.  After cooling, it was all finely shredded by hand, thoroughly mixed, and left in the fridge to mature for a couple of days.

The final canapé was smoked oysters and mussels on a cream cheese cracker.  It was a long time for most members since smoked oysters and mussels from a tin were consumed.  Gary showed us why that trend should end.  Delightful.

Comments were encouraging on the canapés, and they were a good match with the aperitif wines.

Main

Steve served us a ballotine of wild Australian rabbit sourced from Australian Meats in Adelaide.  This is a protein seldom seen by the members on Tuesdays, and there should be more of it.  Just to while away the hours, our CODY deboned no less than 14 rabbits!

The main portions of leg and saddle were laid out on a bed of prosciutto, painted with peppered Dijon mustard, and topped with spinach leaves.  A stuffing of ricotta, shallots, garlic and assorted fresh herbs was piped onto the base and then sprinkled with an Australian dukkha mix.  This was all rolled up very tightly into a roll with cling wrap and then vacuum sealed.  The rabbit had been brined for about 6 hours prior.  The ballotine were left to set overnight in the fridge.  On the morning of the lunch, the rabbit was cooked sous vide at 60 C for a couple of hours, transported and then held at 60 C in the kitchen.

Garnishes included a potato pave, roasted carrots and caulilini, along with some nuts and grapes for texture.  The gravy was made from the rest of the rabbit scraps and bones which were roasted with carrots, onion and celery and then simmered very slowly in good chicken stock for many hours to reduce and intensify.  It was finished with butter and some Kuzu flour to thicken.

All comments attested to the quality of the course and especially the very considerable work that went into preparing it, although some members thought it to be a little too salty. When it comes to seasoning, it is impossible to please everyone.

Bread was a sourdough from Bourke Street Bakery.

Cheese

The Cheese Master selected Riverine Blue from Berry’s Creek Gourmet Cheese, located in southern Gippsland.  This is a blue buffalo milk artisan cheese, the only one in Australia and claimed to be one of only such cheeses in the world.  The strikingly white, creamy milk comes from a modest herd of Riverine Buffalo that graze nearby. After the curds are set, they are placed in moulds to drain before spending two month’s ripening in specially built maturation rooms overlooking Wilson’s Promontory.  It has a complex savoury flavour, and the smooth, firm texture and blue-green ribbons provide pockets of delicious salty blue flavour within the porcelain paste.  Today’s chef accompanied the cheese with a mixed leaf salad dressed with olive oil and raspberry vinegar along with an apple and raisin relish (originally made for the rillette!).  Comments from the floor on the cheese course were very encouraging.

Wine

With Steve Sparkes cooking, the mob will always turn up. 41 for today, a very good number for a non-wine tasting lunch. Our high expectations were rewarded by a first-rate lunch in all respects from pass-arounds to the cheese. Well done Steve, you are a class act. See the food report for more detail.

We started off with a pair of Society favourites, the Tyrrells HVD Sem from 2014, followed by another HVD from 2006. Now at 10 yo the first wine was at 10.5%, pristine clean, gleaming pale straw. Terrific fruit on the palate, with hints of citrus. My only adverse comment was that I found the wine noticeably acidic on the finish, but otherwise a lovely wine, bravo vintage 2014!

The second wine was all of the above but without the high acid. This 18 yo Sem is a fitting monument to Tyrrells winemaking skills with this grape variety and to the Hunter Valley being able to produce such a magnificent white wine. I think the general feeling around the room was how fortunate we were in sharing these great wines, with the 2006 finishing just ahead in quality terms.

Poor old wine 3 came in, the Drumborg Chardy “batting after Bradman“ as the old saying goes. Here we had the proverbial Plain Jane following straight after the dazzling twins from the Hunter. Hard to readjust one’s tastebuds. I think the wine was quite sound, a drinkable commercial Chardy, very mouth filling, 12%, but possibly a bit fat and flabby. Not in the same league as the Drumborg Riesling. I have no problem with our Society putting on wines like this, it helps in the broad understanding of what are acceptable wines in comparison to high-quality wines.

Wine 4 was the NZ Pinot Greywacke 2015 13.5% from Marlborough. I really liked this wine. Medium weight, great Pinot flavours of cherry and raspberry. Clean finish. Most enjoyable.

Wine 5 was the 2013 Yabby Lake Chardy from Mornington 12%. Rich, opulent, seductive. In my view getting close to the great Giaconda. Subtle and exquisite fruit with a lingering finish. Cannot believe my glass went so quickly. I must have been short-shared! A wine to be consumed beside a stream on a warm day with a ripe peach with a friend.

The final wine for the day was another Society favourite the Tyrrells 2014 Stevens Shiraz.  Bruce Tyrrell considered Neil Stevens vineyard to be the best in the Hunter, and it was with great joy that Tyrrells acquired the vineyard some years ago. This vineyard contained some of the Hunter’s oldest vines. This particular wine came from the fabulous 2014 vintage and drank superbly. 13.8%, great balance between fruit, oak and tannin. Wonderful finish.  No hint of ageing, love to see it again in 5 years.

We also had two Italian wines spread around the room, which I have not reviewed, ours was a delightful 2016 Dolcetto which we have seen before, and the other was I think, a Barbera d’Alba 2017 which we also have had before.

We are fortunate to have enjoyed such a quality afternoon. The WFS is the place to be!

7 May 2024 Madan

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

We’re lucky to have such talent in our kitchen brigade at the Royal Exchange.

Today Madan was cooking Nepalese food for us assisted by Amosh.

Canapés

A Nepalese spice base of ginger, garlic and garam masala was featured in all the dishes today.

Strict portion control today!

First up, goat and lentil soup served in a cup. Madan had soaked red lentils overnight.

I’m always wary of goat but no bones today. The goat was cooked in a large pot of bite-size pieces with stock and fenugreek. Big herb flavour with lentils adding texture and some earthiness to the soup some heat lingering on the palate from black pepper.

Then, chicken sekuwa, skewered chicken BBQ marinated in a blend of Himalayan herbs and spices and then cooked on the hibachi.

The chicken was moist and cooked to the perfect degree of “doneness”

Finally, aloo chop, “aloo" means potato, and the word "chop" means small cutlet fritters or croquette. Coriander and potato coated in chickpea flour.…almost a potato mash that held together. A good mouthfeel and spice flavour.

Main

Jhool momo pork dumplings made overnight consisting of pork and spice base and onion. They sat in a sauce of pork stock made with tomato, ginger and garlic spice blend, again some heat from black pepper. The pork dumplings were juicy and flavourful, with the accompanying sauce adding a delicious tanginess to each bite.

Great presentation and balanced flavours and texture very favourably commented on and appreciated by members today.

It was a great effort with a lot of preparation and thought going into today's meal and much appreciated by all for the authentic and interesting Nepalese food.

No one left hungry today, thanks Madan.

Cheese

It was Chef’s selection today and it was Comte a hard cheese from France made with unpasteurised cow’s milk. This cheese was matured in the damp underground cellars of Marcel Petite at Fort Saint Antoine high in the mountains that border France and Switzerland in the Franche-Comte. It’s specially selected for Will to wear the prestigious red ‘crown’ of quality on the basis of its rich concentrated nutty texture, elegant caramel sweetness, and lingering kaleidoscope of flavours rather than on how long it was aged.

The cheese was accompanied by some small dried figs warmed in a brown sugar syrup with star anise and cinnamon stick. Much praise for this dish what a great match to the Comte.

We asked about a good Nepalese restaurant they would recommend and they suggested ‘Muglan’.

Wine 

The theme for today’s lunch was Nepalese based,  expertly prepared by our resident team at REX, Madan and Amosh.  See the Food report for details.

In light of the spicy nature of the food, serious wine assessment was a challenge, at least for me.

The first wine before any pass-arounds was a Framingham Old Vine Riesling 2016 from Marlborough NZ.  Now 8 yo but tasting very fresh, clean acid, good fruit balance and finish. At a masked tasting, I would have picked it as a German Riesling, Kabinett probably.  An enjoyable wine.

The second wine was a Domane Wachau Steinriegl Riesling 2022 12.5%. By the time I sampled this wine I had had some of the delicious pass arounds and my palate was becoming affected. To my taste the wine was very dry, but with some fruit noticeable leading to a sweetish finish. I much preferred the first wine.

Moving onto the third wine, the S C Pannell 2020 Old McDonald Grenache 14% from McLaren Vale, home of our finest Grenache. I only had a small sample, but what I had suggested was a light red wine with abundant fruit and a sweet finish.

I would like to have had more to get a fuller appreciation, but with the spicy tucker that would probably would not have been possible. I am a great fan of our homegrown Grenache, it is pleasing to see it appear more often in our wine lists.

The fourth wine was a terrific 2016 Dolcetto from Massolino 14%. An excellent wine from the Piedmont region. A great food wine for a lunch, but the spicy tastes in my mouth did not really do justice to this excellent food wine. This is by no means a criticism of the food, which was delicious, but more a general comment on how hard it is to match spicy food with wine.

Wine 5 was the ever-reliable Society favourite Seppelt St Peters Grampians Shiraz 2007 13.5%.  I have reviewed this wine on many occasions over the last few months and those who read this literary word of art over time will be aware of how highly I rate this wine. Even now at 17 years old, it is still a magical Australian Shiraz. Fruit/oak/tannin/acid are all perfectly in place for a superb old Shiraz. The legendary Colin Preece chief winemaker at Seppelt from circa 1930 to 1963, created his style of Great Western Shiraz, this wine, was rebadged in later years to St Peters. Many Australian popular wines owe their existence to him, Moyston Claret, Chalambar Burgundy, Arawatta Riesling and Great Western “Champagne”. Many folks in the wine industry say Colin Preece and Maurice O’Shea are our greatest winemakers.

Now that the history lesson has concluded, I will now focus on our last wine, the Armenian Zorah 2021, 14%. I have never to my best memory drank an Armenian wine. Many years ago I worked with a girl from that country, but our relationship never progressed beyond professional, damm! She was pretty cute!! Anyhow back to the wine, the grape for this wine is the Areni possibly the oldest recognised grape variety in the world, dating back thousands of years ago. Virtually matured in the cradle of civilisation. Bringing us back however to the present, I was initially about to give this wine a dose of the merciless savagery I show to what I consider to be a poor wine. In this case far too sweet, flabby ie lacking in acid and fat ie too full-bodied.  Then within 5 minutes or so the wine changed composition and became dare I say, quite appealing, possibly repressed memories of my ex-work mate? Whatever it was, I came away with the taste of a pleasant wine, rich and flavoursome.

Very enjoyable. Many thanks to our Winemaster for introducing us to this historic wine. One of our Charters is to educate our members on things pertaining to wine and food.

30 April 2024 Roger Straiton

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Food review by Steve Sparkes and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

An excellent turnout of more than 50 members was treated to a wonderful lunch presented by Roger and Dennis. As we have come to expect at a wine lunch, and all lunches for that matter, our Wine Master presented an outstanding bracket of wines to match the food and for our enjoyment.

The canapes started with a cucumber round topped with a lovely creamy sauce and lightly smoked salmon.

The next was potted prawns on a handmade Melba toast. This was very rich, certainly not lacking for butter and had a fabulous mouthfeel.

Both were extremely tasty, generous and a great way to kick off the lunch…thank you Dennis.

Roger presented a very interesting and well thought out main course with a twist that both surprised and delighted members.

The meat was cooked to perfection. Roger used a Scandinavian recipe of twice-marinated fillet steak, being marinated once before it was cooked and again afterwards.  

It was served with a light vinaigrette and accompanied by steamed broccolini, an eggplant rotolo and a very tasty potato salad.

The twist, of course, was that the dish was served at room temperature and whilst this may not sound appealing to some, in my opinion, it worked a treat! It both looked and tasted great!

The cheese, a soft-ripened cheese, complemented the meal perfectly and was very well chosen by Mark.

It was served simply with some juicy dates and good bread and had most members guessing as to just what it was! It was:

Le Conquérant, Demi Pont l'Évêque by Will Studd.

Origin: Normandie, France

Milk: Cow's Milk

Type: Washed Rind

This pungent monastic PDO-washed rind cheese comes from the heart of the Pays d’Auge in Normandy, France. Traditionally made by monks, washed rind cheeses were used as meat substitutes during fasting periods and have strong aromas and savoury flavours. The word demi refers to its small size, which influences how quickly this traditional, soft surface-ripened cheese will ripen compared to its larger cousins.

Le Conquérant Demi Pont-l'Évêque is wrapped in wax paper and a poplar wooden box to form the ideal microenvironment for maturation. It is best enjoyed when the chalky centre has broken down to a soft fudgy texture with a deliciously mild creamy finish.

Well done Roger, a great lunch, it is terrific to be served a quality meal that varies somewhat from the expected norms occasionally!

Wine

A bumper crowd of 50+ were attracted like fish to a lure to the prospect of a mouth-watering filet of beef, cooked to perfection by our Chef du Jour Roger Stration, served with some silk purse division Cabernets from France, Italy and Australia. Yum! Beef was amazing! See Food Report.

With regard to the excellent lineup of wines, we kicked off with a pair of Chardonnays from across the Ditch, a Kumeu River 2022 13%, and a Craggy Range 2010 14%. The Kumeu River wine was quite acceptable, an entry level Chardonnay which was quite ok as long as you did not think too hard about it! The wine came and went without much fanfare. The second wine was however a delight. This vineyard is where my 2nd son and his late wife Anna were married amongst the vines on a memorable afternoon in January 2009. I accordingly have a strong emotional attachment to wines from this vineyard. Being as objective as possible, I thought this wine was truly excellent, with great depth of luscious ripe fruit, gentle oak and sufficient acid to ensure a lingering finish. Some comments from the room suggested that the wine was now too old at 14 yo, however, I would strongly disagree. There may have been some bottle variation in the room, however, my glass or two showed no adverse ageing, quite to the contrary, as I commented to others, how fresh and balanced the wine was for its age, with no browning, fresh and clean and full of life. So it goes.

Moving now into the red wines for our lunch the first was a Ch Talbot 2009 from St Julian in Bordeaux, a Grand Cru, a 4th Growth 13.5% This is a very old chateau, circa 1400 named after the last English Commander of Guyenne, John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. Military history treats Mr Talbot unkindly, remembering him more for his numerous defeats in battle, than his too few victories. What however cannot be denied is his wonderful legacy to wine lovers of the world, the glorious Ch Talbot. Consistently high quality, many Bordeaux experts argue that the wine should now be elevated well above its 1855 classification. My love for quality Bordeaux knows no bounds and this wine fully lived up to my expectations, Deep ruby red, gentle tannin, sweet chewy fruit, the usual other flavours of that region, leather, cedar and the hint of tobacco. A great wine. Many thanks to our Wine Master.

Our second red was an Italian, a “Super Tuscan“, an Argiano 2008 Solengo Toscana 14.5%. A Cabernet blend including amongst others, Merlot and Petit Verdot with a dash of Sangiovese I enjoyed this wine very much. Deeply inky dark with powerful tannins, perhaps a tad over oaked some commented. A very powerful wine, but a lovely food wine. Great finish.

Our third wine was a 2010 Ch Teyssier Pezat from Bordeaux 14%. This vineyard is about one meter outside the strict border for the St Emilion designated wine region. A Merlot with just a dash of Cabernet Franc. Much lighter in colour than the two preceding wines and in my view a step down in quality. By no means to be avoided, the wine was enjoyable, plummy merlot overtones, but just did not have the intensity of flavours of the Super Tuscan and the Talbot. But it has to be said, it was a hard duo to follow.

The fourth wine was another Super Tuscan the 2010 Tenuta dell Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove 13.5%, quite a mouthful, the name that is. Just in case you were wondering what exactly is a Super Tuscan, I will tell you, shortly and I hope simply. Back in the 1970’s a group of Tuscan wine producers, all becoming frustrated with Italy’s wine bureaucracy, decided to go offshore so as to speak, and started planting Bordeaux-origin grapes, such as Cabernet and Merlot amongst others. There was a great deal of fuss at the time, as heretofore only wines indigenous to Italy could be grown, such as Sangiovese. The eventual success of the new wines, basically Cabernet blends, becoming so popular, forced the hand of officialdom so that by the early 1990’s these maverick blends restricted to Tuscany, obtained official approval. So now you know.

This particular wine was a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Very dark in colour with intense fruit flavours. Silky smooth. Firm tannic finish with great length. Drinking at peak maturity but plenty of time ahead. The plummy Merlot influence was clear, being 45% of the blend. A splendid wine.

Our 5th and 6th wines brought us back to Australia for some homegrown Cabernet, from our two top Cabernet regions Coonawarra and Margaret River.

Wine 5 was the Lindeman’s St George, 2008, 100% Cabernet. A vineyard planted in 1967 has produced some memorable Coonawarra Cabernets over the years. The vintage of 2008 was regarded at the time as being a good, if not great year. A flavoursome wine deeply coloured, showing classic Cabernet overtones with strong oak and tannin, but I could not help but feel that at 16 yo the wine was beginning to show some age. The colour was still good, but with acid fading the finish was falling away. Still very drinkable, but not one for keeping.

The final wine for the day was the Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2013 Cabernet. A 9/10 vintage year in that region, and the wine was excellent. A straight Cabernet with just a dash of Malbec, 4%. I have always felt that Margaret River Cabernet in a good year is about as close as we get to the Bordeaux Cabernets we love. This wine was elegant with a superb balance of fruit/oak and gentle tannin. It had to my taste, strong Bordeaux like aromas, and a similar finish. A very different Cabernet to the St George, lighter in colour but more elegant and stylish. Plenty of time ahead to mature into something wonderful in 5 or 6 years.

The wine of the day for me was the Talbot, with the Leeuwin and the Solengo sharing equal second place.

23 April 2024 Bill Alexiou Hucker

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Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

Our President Bill was at the pans for our COTY cook-off and a Greek Feast it was.

I love Greek food, and as those who have been to Greece know, Greek food always tastes better in Greece, but Bill transported us to Greece with his lunch. No octopus and no Greek salad with this outstanding feast, Apollo Restaurant. Eat your heart out.

Bill was assisted in the kitchen by Mark Bradford. Mark was a late stand-in, as Rob Doll, the REX Chef, was away, and to challenge the kitchen further, the REX had a full house of 30 in the front rooms.

Canapes

We had three canapes. The first to be served was my favourite, a spanakopita, crispy, flaky triangles of spinach, feta, parmesan, cheddar, onion and eggs, in Bill’s buttery and light filo pastry.

Next was the Greek version of falafels, dried chickpeas (no tinned chickpeas here, Bill soaked the real stuff), with tomato, onion and mint, then baked in the oven, and finished off in deep fryer, and topped with yoghurt and pickled cucumber. The pickled cucumbers added complexity.

The third canape was a “Parmesan gelato” in puff pastry cups (parmesan, double cream and balsamic glaze), as Con the Fruiterer would say, “Beauuuutiful”.

All the canapes were well received.

Main

The moussaka, as Bill said, he tried to “pimp up” a traditional moussaka, no slices of tray baked moussaka today.

Bill served us individual moussaka, each having three layers of eggplant, with two layers of lamb shoulder (six hours slow cooked and pressed, then pulled), with a yoghurt bechamel, with grated halloumi and all topped with grated crispy potatoes.

The individual moussaka was plated with a warm tomato salsa of olive oil, cherry tomatoes, onion, celery and carrot.

After the voting forms were collected, members' comments were generous, and everyone appreciated the lifting of moussaka to a fine dining (well, almost) plate.

We all appreciated all the elements that went into today’s lunch, and Bill didn’t stop there, Goldie was given a moussaka with potato replacing the eggplant, and Bill used gluten free flour, so no one missed out on a fabulous Greek feast.

Cheese

Mark our Cheese Master presented a Greek Artisan Feta from Will Studd, the Aphrodite goat and sheep's milk barrel-aged feta from Central Greece.

Bill and Mark served the feta warm (10 minutes in the oven), served with great warm marinated mixed Greek olives, and EVOO and balsamic glaze (as Bill forgot the Greek honey ????).

Some of us bought the leftover feta, I liked the feta enough to buy some, but others thought it a little too salty, the Greek honey may have been a better balance, as the marinated olives (I loved them) were also salty.

I found the feta soft and creamy. A great way to finish our Greek feast.

The cheese is an authentic handmade Greek feta that has been carefully ripened in small, old beech wood barrels using traditional techniques that date back to the time when nomadic shepherds roamed the hills of northern Greece.

The barrels enable small amounts of oxygen to reach the salted curds as they ferment under whey, and the natural flora in the wooden staves helps to encourage a unique yeasty aroma.

Each barrel must be filled with curd by hand and after the cheese has been removed, it must be broken down stave by stave, washed and rebuilt by a skilled cooper.

After three months maturation in the barrel, the feta develops a soft milky texture and a seriously creamy peppery finish.

Wine

Lunch today was the last of our COTY functions for the year. Today’s lunch starred our President Bill Alexiou in the main role of Chef of the Day.  Not surprisingly Bill used his legendary skills with Greek food to produce an excellent moussaka.

The first wine of the day was a Bellone Bianco 2022 13%. I had not previously come face to face with this grape variety and I had to resort to Google, as my ever-reliable reference book by Jancis Robinson, failed to register the existence of this grape. Apparently, she had also not come face to face with it, so I am not alone. Anyhow, my research indicates that the variety is as old as Methuselah, with origins in the days of early Rome. Not exactly well known outside Italy, this wine is said to be the Italian answer to Chablis. Not too sure about that, but worthy of a mention. The wine was on first taste, very dry with high acidity. Fresh clean fruit flavours followed with a firm finish. A classic Italian food wine, perfect if you were tucking into an antipasto lunch on a warm Rome day, at an outdoor trattoria. Bellissimo!

[Note from our Winemaster:

Jancis does have the grape in her book Wine Grapes and calls it high producing. I know this maker restricts the yield, thus producing a more fine wine.

Wine writer and author Ian d'Agata writes this in one of his books:

“The wine has a telltale luscious texture and juicy acidity (wines without this creaminess or resiny mouthfeel are poorly made), and delightful honeyed, citrus, and tropical fruit aromas and flavours. Bellone’s large berries are very thin skinned but rich in pectin and polyphenols, so grapes need to be pressed slowly and vinification is reductive; despite its polyphenol content, Bellone wine’s oxidize easily. The variety is also blessed with high natural acidity (values of 8.5 grams per liter are not rare), which allows the production of good sparkling wines. When made from late-harvested grapes, the resulting sweet wine is thick, unctuous, amazingly complex, and never cloying because of its high acidity; I think it’s on par with the greatest sweet wines in the world. The stalk is twisted in September and the grapes are left on the vine until November, to lose about 50 percent of their water content. A good late-harvested or air-dried Bellone resembles high-quality Sauternes, with differences: more honey, sweet spice, and peach aromas and flavours, less saffron and tropical fruit. Without doubt, it is-or can be-one of Italy’s three or four greatest sweet wines.”]

Our second wine for the main course was a wine from Greece, as you would expect from the theme of the day.  The wine was a red, Alta Xinomavro from 2022, 12.5% A Greek red with moussaka, what could go wrong?  Plenty. A great idea, but let down by the product, This wine needed the intervention of that unlovable old lech Zeus to breathe some life into it! As I commented at lunch, the wine was a triumph of wine-making skills in producing a wine with absolutely no flavour! Not one of the usual signposts of a red wine. The most charitable comment I can make is that it was drinkable but without reward. 

The third wine was the Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet 2009 14%. Sue Hodder and her team at Wynns have been producing this wine for years with consistently excellent results. A Society favourite. Now at 15yo, the wine has reached peak maturity, but still plenty to offer. Great balance between dark fruits /oak and tannin.  Strong parting flavours.

The fourth wine was the Sinapius Gruner Veltliner, 2018, 13 %, from the Pipers Brook region of Tasmania. A well regarded winery. This grape has its roots firmly in the fields of Austria and other Eastern European countries. A wine that is gaining popularity worldwide. The wine to me, was dry but oily and thick in texture, not a combination I usually enjoy, however, the wine had sufficient acid to produce a clean, fruit-driven finish that kept on giving. Not exactly my cup of tea, however, that said, the wine was enjoyable, best drunk with ripe stone fruit.

The final wine of the afternoon was the Cuilleron Les Vignes d’a Cote Syrah 2014, 13%. A great way to finish the day.  Very typical of a Northern Rhone Syrah from a quality producer.  Excellent spicy fruit balanced by gentle tannins and mild oak. Drinking at peak maturity with time still ahead. Very moorish indeed. Hope we have more in the cellar!

16 April 2024 Bernard Leung

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Food review by Steve Sparkes

Well, what a wonderful lunch presented by our current COTY, Bernard Leung with assistance in the kitchen from Steve Liebeskind.

The President, Treasurer, Wine Master, Food Master, Cheese Master, Membership Recorder, our wonderful Centenarian Peter Manners, Roger Straiton and Ken Woolford along with the COTD hosted a dozen guests who all enjoyed a most excellent lunch which presented much more as a Dinner Party of the highest quality rather than our ‘standard’ lunch.

The food, from the first to last mouthfuls, was simply superb and accompanied by terrific wines that were masterfully matched to each course.

Steve Libeskind started us off with a delicious and innovative selection of canapes including:

  • Pork and veal terrine - with the inclusion of pistachios, red capsicum and Dijon mustard. The terrine served on puff pastry, was topped with beetroot chutney.
  • Fennel puree on puff pastry round - crowned with raw salmon and a fennel frond.
  • Salmon ceviche using Asian flavours - served on spoons featuring diced salmon, coriander, red onion, red capsicum, fish sauce, lime juice and chilli.

They were served in the above order and were absolutely delicious with one flavour profile building beautifully to the next. The ceviche was a perfect palate cleanser before the main.

And what a main it was and a great reminder, to those of us lucky enough to enjoy the dish, as to just why Bernard is the current COTY.

The dish presented was titled ‘Salmon on a Pea Broth’.

The pea Bbroth was based on Heston Blumenthal’s ham and pea soup using ham, onion, and carrots to create a stock. This was then blitzed with raw peas and passed through a fine chinois.

The salmon itself was cooked sous vide at 500C for an hour. The skin had been removed by pouring boiling water over it and peeling off after about 5 to 10 seconds.

The skin was then baked with salt and pepper at 1800C for 30 mins which resulted in a fabulous crispy skin that was used as a garnish.

The salmon was centred on a circle of broth and topped with a garnish of thinly shaved fennel, red onion and orange salad along with the crispy skin. Peas, ham and basil oil were used sparingly to finish the dish.

Not only did it look good, the flavours were superb. The salmon cooked to perfection, silky smooth pea broth and a delightfully fresh salad to balance the richness of the salmon and peas.

Well done Bernard and Steve, I do suspect you may have to do it all again early next year!!

What followed next was both a surprise and delight to all of us. This was in the form of a cheese new to most.

Challerhocker (pronounced ‘Holler Hocker’) is an Artisan Swiss cheese from St Gallen.

Malty and sweet with a spicy finish, Challerhocker is a 21st-century Swiss cheese.

With a change in regulations during the 90s, the Master Appenzeller Cheesemaker, Walter Rass, created a new cheese using rich pure Jersey milk, and a secret blend of wines, herbs and spices.

He aged it for 8 months and named it ‘Challerhocker ‘meaning ‘sitting in a cellar’.

The washed rind produces a robust, tacky rind and contributes to the nutty aroma of the dense white paste.

The cheese was well received by all, I am sure we will see it again and many thanks to our Cheese Master Mark for finding this beauty!

Well done again to all involved, you have set a very high benchmark indeed!

9 April 2024 David Madson

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

Our Chef of The Day was David Madson with his team James Tinslay and Peter Fitzpatrick assisting with lunch today following our Society AGM.

Canapés

Given that our apéritif window was more than usual the team responded with plentiful canapés.

First up was smoked trout terrine consisting of smoked trout, pitted Sicilian olives, EVOO, lemon zest and basil served on toasts. Great texture and flavour with the lemon zest dominating the finish on the palate.

Then followed pork and prawn patties made with garlic, ginger, fish and soy sauce, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, spring onions and coriander. They were a balanced texture and flavour hit, served warm on spoons topped with mango chutney.

James Tinslay prepared perfectly cooked chicken skewers that were marinated in soy, honey, ginger and garlic.

There are many favourable comments on the canapés today.

Main course

David presented meatballs and pasta. In this case, the pasta is mafalda.

It is a challenge to cook pasta for the multitude and David succeeded with the pasta “al dente” and meatballs moist and flavoursome, the key to keeping it moist was ricotta mixed with the pork and veal. The ricotta is a good binding agent for meatballs. They were cooked in house today and served with passata.

A good hearty comfort meal for autumn and well executed.

Sourdough bread was from Cornucopia Naremburn.

Thank you, David.

Cheese

Mark Bradford presented the cheese today an Italian blue cow's milk cheese that most members correctly guessing its origin.

The most popular form of Gorgonzola in Italy is known as Dolce Gorgonzola, the term used for young or sweet cheese.

The Mauri family make cheese using local milk from the lush pastures around their dairy in Lombardy and mature it in their mountain caves. Typically made from a single milking, the white interior has thick green lines of mould and a soft creamy flavour. The crusty rind bulges as it matures and develops distinct yeasty flavours reminiscent of Taleggio.

Gorgonzola Dolce is soft, sweet, with a subtle creamy texture, and piquant finish.

David accompanied the cheese with a mixed salad of cos, radicchio, endive, finely sliced red onion and herbs. Dressed with red wine vinegar, we needed some greens a good finish to the hearty dishes served beforehand.

Wine

Lunch today followed the AGM for 2024. An orderly meeting, with the members congratulating the Committee on their stewardship of the Society over the last year. Money in the bank and plenty of wine in the cellar, who could ask for more?

My wine report on the lunch today will be a bit of a dog’s breakfast for the following reasons, First, many wines were served before and during lunch meaning that every table had different wines and two, I misplaced my tasting notes.  By way of explanation, I was so giddy and discombobulated by the joy of being re-elected to the Committee, I relaxed my usual restraint with the aperitif wines and found that I was congratulating myself by sampling plenty of the 27 or so wines put on the table, a blunder on my part. Our wine master was conducting a clear out of various odds and ends, A good idea. With regard to the red wines each table received something different, so I can only comment on the wines I had, going from memory alone.

The first white wine I had was the Collector Chardonnay 2021, which we had a few weeks ago. I liked it then and liked it again today, despite words of disapproval ringing in my ears from some of our experts who regarded the wine as a model for poor winemaking! So it goes!  The second wine I had was from Orlando, a Chardonnay. I recorded the details which are now forever lost with my notes. From recollection, the wine was quite passable for an economy class aperitif wine. I did not record any of the many white wines that followed.

On our table, I recorded three of the wines that were served, although there may have been a fourth, that I did not taste. The first two were Italian, A Massolino Barbera D’Alba 2016. followed by a Podere Poggio Chianti Classico from 2015, a Sangiovese.  Both wines were excellent, the Sangiovese being much more full-bodied, with a stronger finish. Together they were a perfect match with the Italian meatballs and pasta.

The third wine I tasted was one of my favourites, the Seppelt St Peters Shiraz from 2010 as I recall. We have been fortunate in the past by having this wine on a few occasions, always a treat. In my view, one of the top half-dozen Shiraz in Australia. Enough said!

That’s all folks, sorry about this report, it was just one of those days. I am away next week, but back the week after. I promise to keep my notes secure next time.

2 April 2024 Mark Bradford

 

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

A small but dedicated group of members were present for our post Easter lunch with Cheesemaster Mark Bradford on the hobs for the fifth “cook off’ for our chef of the year award.

Mark was assisted by Denys Moore.

Canapés

Keeping with the Italian theme we had ‘caprese’ skewers of tomato bocconcini, basil with a balsamic spray. Tomatoes are near the end of their season the skin was a little thick. Denys advised they were on special at Woollies!

Next up sardine pâté on Italian garlic toasts topped with carrot Portuguese sardines, olives, onion, chives and coriander, lime juice, mayo, olive oil, salt and pepper. They were a little runny it could have had something to bolster the texture like butter or white beans.

Main

This was the star of the lunch Mark reprising his brilliant version of Polpettonne.

Great presentation of a “meatloaf slice” with the colours reminding us of the Italian flag colours. It’s usually mixed pork and veal baked in a log, wrapped in pancetta with string and having a filling such as cheese. Mark wanted to try individual portions and was concerned about leakage of cheese during baking, so chose to blind bake impervious shortcrust pastry shells. These were lined with prosciutto (sides and base) and filled with a mix of Feather and Bone pork and veal mince, garlic, oregano, fresh rosemary, panko crumbs, egg and feta and cooked in batches for 40 minutes.

It was topped with taleggio and cooked for a further 20 minutes. The individual meatloaf in its pastry shell was served on rings of mash, white and green. The white was a silky Paris mash of unpeeled washed potatoes put through a potato ricer, lots of cold butter added, as well as warm milk. The green ring was pea (frozen) and mint (fresh from Mark’s garden) puree. Sauteed garlic and French onions, peas brought to a simmer for two minutes then blitzed through a food processor with a small quantity of mint, salt and white pepper. This was then forced through a sieve to remove pulp. Looked great and tasted even better.

The dish needed red, and Mark created a topping of Roma tomatoes reduced slightly in sauteed garlic, treated with a stick blender and forced through a sieve to remove pulp. Warmed on the day with fresh torn basil leaves, and carrot shaves on the pie!

The bread today a sourdough baguette from Baker’s delight. Liked it.

Cheese

Plenty of cheese today with no-one guessing its style or origin. It was a cow's milk cheddar from Victoria.

A cheese we’re familiar with “Maffra red wax” young and creamy with good flavour.

Mark served this with dried apricots, figs and hazelnut nuts.

It was a mature Cheddar with a smooth texture and a distinctive sharp flavour.

The Maffra Cheese Company is in Gippsland where Ferial Zekiman and her team produce a delicious range of farmhouse cheeses using milk from her herd of Holstein-Friesian cows that graze on the lush green pastures surrounding the farm and dairy.

This creamy waxed cheddar has subtle fruity tones and a delicate nuttiness. 

Wine

After last week’s party for Peter Manners 100th birthday, we were all fully prepared for a modest function today. At our age you cannot have too much fun too soon! It could be medically dangerous! A little restraint is a good thing. Nonetheless, Mark Bradford put on for the 30 or so attendees, a splendid lunch, see the food report for more detail.

Our first wine was indeed a cracker. A Lindemans Reserve Hunter Sem Bin 150 2011, 12.5% This wine was a most interesting comparison to the Tyrrells Vat 1 from the same year we had last week. The Tyrrells was developed, deep straw colour, gleaming and clean, looking every bit an aged Hunter Sem of high quality. The Lindemans today was a totally different wine, but from the same year. Far lighter in colour and texture, with lots of acid, but well balanced with abundant fruit of lemon zest and citrus overtones. Very hard to accept that they were from the same district, same year, and same grape variety. No doubt the difference was in the wine making. The Tyrrells was easily identifiable as a Tyrrells wine, the Lindemans totally different. Go with the style you prefer. The Tyrrells from last week offered the classic aged Hunter Sem style. Enjoy with cheese or fruit. The Lindemans today offered a firm crisp finish, wonderful vibrant fruit with superb balance and a promise of many years ahead of beautiful drinking Enjoy with oysters. Hope we have more of this wine in our cellar. For a 13 yo Sem it looks more like a 5 yo! Time will tell!

Wine No 2 was a Dolcetto d’Alba from Massolino 2016, 14%. Normally not regarded as a serious wine, “the sweet little one“, as it translates into English, is the perfect wine to be chugged down with a pizza or spaghetti marinara without too much thought into what you were drinking, nothing wrong with that! Particularly if your attention was distracted by an attractive female sitting opposite playing footsies with your feet!  Where was I now ?? Oh, yes the wine. This Dolcetto was a terrific wine, deep colour, and loads of ripe fruit but in perfect harmony with the acid/tannin /oak. A delightful food wine, much better than I expected.

Wine No 3 was another Italian, more please, a Podere Poggio Chianti Classico from 2015 13.5%. A Sangiovese. Excellent. Same depth of colour as the previous wine, but a little bit finer in the mouthfeel dept. There was nothing between these two wines at the end of the day, and I think some at my table were sliding towards the Dolcetto as their favourite. A close call, both wines were the perfect match for a quality Italian meal. They would take your thoughts off playing footsies, at least for a while! Both wines were doing their job, complimenting the food, not dominating.

Wine No 4 was the Yalumba Menzies, the “Cigar“, named after the narrow strip of Terra Rossa soil in Coonawarra. The wine was from 2009 at 14%. This wine is now 15 yo and is still looking good. Classic Oz, huge Cabernet fruit, tannin, oak and alcohol, the winning blend for our wines in the past. I really enjoyed the wine, but at the same time I could understand that folk nowadays are seeking a lighter, less alcohol and tannin style with the accent on elegance. I do not blame them. Still, this wine is an Australian Classic, from the Old School, with plenty of time ahead of it.

The final wine was a Viognier 2014, 13% from the great winemaker Gary Farr, who has made some terrific wines in the past from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Why on earth would a top winemaker like Farr devalue the currency of his wines by introducing Viognier? in my view an uncouth grape, cloying and unctuous, although it does claim to be a cousin of Nebbiolo, a claim that would need to be fact-checked! Readers of this regular report would be aware that I do not have a high regard to this grape. But like a stray dog that keeps turning up on your doorstep, in recent times I seem to have to open my door to this unwelcome arrival far more often than is desirable. Witness today. Another one. We must have had 3 or 4 of these in the last few months. Anyhow to be fair, the wine today was to my taste, passable with the cheese. Palates more expert than mine speak highly of the wine, well that’s fine, they can have mine, I’ll have a Chardy thanks!

26 March 2024 Peter's 100th Escoffier CoTD

 

 

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Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

Today saw the much anticipated 100th birthday of the highly popular World War 2 vet, Mr Peter Manners. Happy Birthday Peter for 30 March! A full house on the day of 60 with members and Peter’s son, Andrew. The lunch was a fusion of Wine and Food Society and Escoffier expertise in the kitchen: Chris North and Bill Alexiou on canapes and Nick Reynolds and Ian Mackenzie on mains. As Peter was born in England, the theme was English fare.

Canapes

Our birthday man Peter is known as the King of Canapes, having introduced them in a “formal” way many years ago and being very much a part of a Society lunch. First up was a scallop on a spoon with curried cauliflower puree. We enjoyed “not pigs in a blanket”, dates stuffed with English cheddar and wrapped with English bacon. The third canape was somewhat unusual, “River Cam Pie”, twice cooked beef cheek (in French Onion Soup) in a pastry case topped with mushy pea purée. All excellent; a fitting tribute to the KoC.

Main

The main was Beef Wellington. Fillet steak cooked sous vide at 65 C for one and a half hours brushed with Dijon mustard, with a mushroom, shallot, garlic, and thyme duxelle wrapped in prosciutto. These were then wrapped in crêpes and then in Carême all-butter puff pastry with a puff pastry lattice. The Wellingtons were then brushed with an egg wash and baked so that the puff was well-browned. Each serve was accompanied by a Dutch carrot and two baked Kestrel potatoes. The dish was sauced with a heavily reduced, pressure-cooked, homemade beef stock. A delightful main course with the beef cooked to perfection.

Cheese

The Cheese Master selected Colston Basset Stilton for the day, from Nottinghamshire. It was served with honey-glazed walnuts and dates, and was a good match with the sweet sherry selected for the course.

Colston Bassett is one of the smallest producers of Stilton and has been doing so since 1913. Their cheeses are rich, complex, and long-lasting in flavour.

A limited quantity of Stilton is made at the dairy to a traditional recipe exclusively for Neal’s Yard Dairy using animal rennet, which creates a delicate, friable texture and long, complex flavour. Curds are hand ladled into cylindrical moulds; a time-consuming and painstaking process, but one that helps to preserve the structure of the curd and deliver a smooth, rich, textured cheese.

The piercing takes place later in the maturation process in order to strike the right balance between creamy, flavoursome paste and blue mould.

During maturation, the crusty rind forms naturally, encouraged by rubbing and brushing, and after spiking, blueing radiates from the centre. This is a buttery, silky cheese with an elegant sweetness.

Colston Bassett is one of the smallest producers of Stilton and has been doing so since 1913. Their cheeses are rich, complex and long-lasting in flavour.

A limited quantity of Stilton is made at the dairy to a traditional recipe exclusively.

Dessert

What would a birthday celebration of such significance be without a birthday cake? The light fruit cake, topped with 100 candles, was made from a Larousse patisserie and baking recipe with Pedro Ximenez-soaked golden raisins, mixed peel, mixed glacé cherries and dried cranberries. Birthday boy Peter Manners provided Nick Reynolds with the cake pan that Peter used in 2016 to make Wal Edwards' 100th birthday cake.

A most memorable lunch and a great milestone for Peter.

Wine

Wow! What a day, Peter, can you have another birthday lunch again next year?  Where to begin? At the beginning I guess, is the best place.

Our WFS team in the kitchen together with the Escoffier crew put together a superb lunch, with great pass-arounds and a magnificent main and cheese. See the food review for details.

About the wines, all eagerly awaited, we commenced with a Bubb + Pooley Chardonnay from the Coal River region of Tas, 2022, 13%. I have enjoyed Pooley Chardonnays before, always outstanding, but I am afraid to say this wine was not in the same class.  Quality fruit and well balanced with a crisp finish, but very restrained and tight, like the Brian Croser early Petaluma Chardonnays. The problem for me was that the wine did not have much flavour! There was little to offer on the front palate or back palate. It left the mouth without saying goodbye! No doubt some of our experts will tell me I should have enjoyed the wine more than I did, but I can only assess the wine on how it presented to me. A tad disappointing, perhaps I was expecting too much.

We then moved on to the main attraction three superb red wines, a Bordeaux, a Hunter Shiraz and a Barossa Shiraz. This was an occasion for high excitement, which delivered in spades.

The first wine of this group was the Ch Clos Du Marquis from St Julian, 2010 13.5%, a blend of Cabernet 72%, Merlot 27% and a dash of Cab Franc. The Commune of St Julian boasts of more Classified Growths than any other Commune in Bordeaux. To use a real estate analogy, St Julian is the Point Piper of Bordeaux. The Marquis is the next-door neighbour of the prestigious Ch Leoville-Las-Cases. The wine was to me a very typical quality Bordeaux. The nose, the mouthfeel and the sheer quality of the fruit/oak/tannin mix just stay with you well after the wine has been drunk. In my view, no other wine in the world has that quality. The deep colour and the power of the fruit, but perfectly balanced, finishing with an elegant silky finish is a joy forever. That Bordeaux aroma leaves me in a trance-like state. To try to describe that aroma is a good occasion to fall back on the French expression, “je ne sais quoi“ says it all for those of us who run out of adjectives. I have always thought a Bordeaux like this never leaves the memory, the French have a perfume from the House of Worth “Je Reviens“, which translates into “I will return“. That aroma always does for me.

The second wine in this group was the Tyrrells Johnno’s Shiraz 2014, 14%. The problem with this wine is that it was “batting after Bradman“ as the old saying goes. A hard tag to shake off. But casting that hex aside the wine was beautiful. Medium body, noticeably lighter in colour than the previous wine, but excellent spicy fruit, firm tannic finish with great aftertaste, A lovely wine, with years ahead of enjoyable drinking. Yet another testimony to the fantastic vintage of 2014 in the Hunter.

The third wine of the bracket was the 2010 Penfolds St Henri. More praise to our wine masters past and present for delivering to us today, in perfect condition, a wine I would regard as one of the best Australian red wines made in the last 30 years. This wine is exceptional. I had the good fortune to share a bottle with friends 12 months ago and we all agreed it was outstanding, a quantum leap from St Henri’s of the past which had suffered a decline in quality for a decade or so. The vintage year 2010 was an exceptional vintage for the Barossa which this wine demonstrates. The wine had an alcohol level of 14.5%, but the quality of the fruit and outstanding wine-making ensured that a balance between fruit/acid, tannin and oak produced a superb wine with a chewy, almost sweet fruit aftertaste. It lingered. A glorious wine. I can see it still giving a thrill to those lucky enough to sample it in 20 years. What impresses me about the wine, is that despite its hugeness, it is almost elegant and supple, what higher praise could one afford for a wine?

The final bracket for the cheese was a magnificent old Hunter Sem, the Tyrrells Vat 1 2011, coupled with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry from Spain.  

The Tyrrells was graceful and fully developed wine, which now at 13 yo would be classified as a Trophy standard aged Semillon. There is no other wine in the world like it. Golden deep straw colour, gleaming and clear with a faint aroma of honey and toast overtones. Plenty of acid so the future looks as bright as this wine is at present. Powerful fruit flavours, still fresh and clean, a great match with the Stilton.

The final wine was the Sherry, a Pedro Ximenez. Deep brown, with an aroma of mixed stewed fruits, nuts and raisins. Very sweet and opulent, cuts through the strong flavoured Stilton, leaving a very enjoyable aftertaste.

And so we reached the end of the afternoon, a memorable occasion.  My pick for the wine of the day was the Marquis, I just cannot get past that French connection.

A final thank you to all who put their shoulder to the wheel to make it happen. Our Food Master, our Wine Master, our Cheese Master, the Escoffier team and the REX kitchen.

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