21 March 2023 Romain Stamm


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


In the kitchen, today was Ro Stamm assisted by Paul Irwin in our fourth ‘cook-off’ for Chef of the Year 2022.

The standard of food presented in our ‘cook-offs’ has been exceptional, and today was no exception.


Firstly, on spoons, we had pan-seared zucchini with oregano topped with whipped goats and parmesan cheese. I loved the flavour and texture in this canapé, one to keep in mind.

Then followed devils on horseback, prunes, prime bacon, pan-seared..yum.

Bountiful canapés today eagerly devoured by members


We had duck breast cooked somewhat differently from the last time Ro cooked.

It was massaged with fennel, coriander, salt and pepper then baked for forty minutes at 40 degrees then finished in the kitchen by pan searing.

The outcome was a beautifully cooked and presented dish. The breast cut in three slices showed pinkness of the flesh and had crispy skin. The duck was easy to cut and well handled with a delightful flavour with balanced seasoning. The duck was served with a very good potato mash with a lot of butter and cream and was well seasoned. In addition, snap peas were prepared, poached and served in quantity on the plate. The peas were well cooked and crispy, a great treat. To round out the meal, there was a light and elegant red wine and stock jus. However, there were comments on ‘jus volume variation' with members suggesting there could be more on their plates. It was a great flavour that complemented the duck.

As, our soon-to-be, Food Master commented ‘there were four ingredients in the plate and you have to get his right ..and today you did.’

Well done Ro.


For his last lunch as Cheese Master James Healey presented Tête de Moine as a request by our Chef of the Day.

Tete De Moine. This is a cow's milk cheese made in Switzerland. It comes in a 700gm round and is a hard cheese that matures for 7 – 9 months. Normally the cheese is served shaved but today we had wedges that were very enjoyable. The dominant character was that of nuttiness and had a slight complementary style to a Comte.

We had a mixed green salad served with a tarragon and a mustard-based vinaigrette that Ro makes at home often. The salad had good acid and the tarragon added another dimension to the overall flavour. The salad went very well with the cheese provided.

Bread today was from Bourke Street Bakery. Every baker does their sourdough with a difference and this bread was not as moist as we’ve seen with some of our other suppliers.

Quote of the day.

You know what they say about magnums, perfect for a party

… of two, especially if one person isn’t drinking


Dear Members, we were indeed fortunate today to enjoy a superb meal via the talents of our Chef De Jour Romain Stamm and our Winemaster Chilly Hargraves. Duck and Pinot, a marriage made in heaven. Tell me that you can do better in Sydney for $85 and I can tell you, you’re dreaming! As usual, I will leave the food comments for others. With regard to the wines, as you may have become aware, I usually find room to have a whinge about one wine at least, so you will not be surprised to read that I have found one to pour derision upon! More later. We kicked off with a delightful KT Riesling 2015, (2017 on the list was a typo) from the Clare. Readers will recall that we had the 2017 of this wine last week. I commented at the time that I found the 2017 a little flat on the palate and a tad disappointing. Not so the 2015 which we had today. More acid/fruit, more zest on the palate, and overall a delightful aperitif wine for the pass-arounds, which were excellent.

Next wine was the Guigal Cote du Rhone Blanc 2018. Normally, I am a fan of Guigal red wines. The wine today was I understand, a blend of Viognier, Rousanne and perhaps some Marsanne. There were some people in the room who say they enjoyed the wine, for reasons I cannot fathom, but I did not. Oily, greasy, unctuous, with no appealing flavour, generally not to my taste., The only time I have encountered a Viognier that I liked was it’s 5% share of the famous Clonkilla Shiraz. A great wine. My dislike of Viognier goes back many years. This is a true story, bear with me. At my former residence in Longueville, where wine would be delivered often, under the sometimes disapproving gaze of my wife, an anonymous donor dropped off an elegant wooden box of 6 bottles of 100% Viognier. I opened a bottle sometime later and could not finish even half a bottle. Dreadful. The message became clear to me, someone out there dislikes me! So here’s a tip. If you like Viognier, keep it to yourself. And saves fractured friendships. Do not under any circumstances give it to a friend, who will soon become an ex-friend!

The next four red wines were I thought all excellent in their own way. We had two Pinots, one from Australia, the 2013 Curley Flat from Macedon in Vic, and the 2012 Chambolle Musigny from Burgundy, my favourite of the two. The Australian wine came in at 13.5% and the French at 12.5%. I think the French wine was better balanced by that factor alone. The Curley Flat I found a little oaky, but most enjoyable. Some comments were to the effect that the wine would have been better 2/3 years ago, given that it is now a 10yo.  The same comments were made about the French wine, delightful, but perhaps, left in the cellar a bit to long. I know that we as a Society are addressing this issue. Anyhow, without question, these two wines were the perfect accompaniment to our main course.

To conclude our splendid lunch, we had with our cheese two Australian Shiraz, a Barossa Gibson Estate Dirtman 2012 coming in at a beefy 14.5% and a 2012 Wynns Coonawarra coming in at a more moderate 13.5%. The Gibson was a wine Robert Parker would have been proud of, a huge black thing, sucking all of the light out of the room, but today this style seems to have fallen out of favour, as illustrated by the room’s apparent preference for the more elegant Wynns.

We were all privileged to enjoy a wonderful meal and many thanks to all involved.

14 March 2023 Steve Liesbeskind


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


In the kitchen was Chef Steve Liebeskind with assistance from David Simmonds cooking the fourth COTY cook-off.


Today we had Steve’s homemade gravlax topped with a mixture of sour cream, horseradish, dill and lemon topped with fennel fronds on some sliced baguette as one of the canapés.

As I’ve said before I’m a big fan of this dish. It’s a perfect example of gravlax and was eagerly consumed by members.

In making gravlax there’s always some leftover fresh salmon so Steve created ceviche that was served on spoons. It was a mixture of red onion, coriander and fresh salmon pieces that had been mixed with an Asian sauce (spicy with citric acid). The salmon was cured by the sauce with the onion, coriander, lime zest and chilli adding flavour and texture to the ceviche.

The last canapé was some pastry cups filled with goats' cheese and topped with beetroot and caramelised onion chutney. There was a lot of flavour in the chutney.


Confit salmon with herb beurre blanc, tarragon, chives, parsley, fried capers and finger lime topped with crispy salmon skin.

Loved the textures in this dish …..the crispy salt of the salmon skin sitting on the salmon, was perfectly cooked. It was sitting in a herby beurre blanc broth not overly buttery with some lively acid burst from finger lime. We were able to spoon the broth up as well as dunk some of the thick sourdough bread that accompanied the main to clean our plates.

The salmon was accompanied by asparagus and a puree of potato and parsnip. Good quality produce with heaps of butter was the order of events.

This is Steve’s signature dish and we saw why today he was selected for our coveted Chef of The Year award.

Many good comments on the dish today.


Cheesemaster James Healey presented the cheese today. This is one of Steve’s favourite cheeses and it came to the table running off the cheeseboard.


It comes in 1kg wheels, is around 6-8 weeks old and according to James, is an extremely well-priced cheese for the quality that is delivered.

This cheese is made by Fromagerie Guilloteau near Pelussin in the Rhone Valley. This cheese utilises ultra-filtration techniques and modern lactic fermentation techniques to boost the protein and calcium levels in the curd. Made with added cream and ripened for three weeks under a thin white mould rind covering the cheese and gradually develops a mild and rich texture that is savoury, building complexity. These modern lactic fermentation techniques boost the protein and calcium levels, it had a good sharp finish.

Accompanying the cheese course was a dressed salad of English spinach, iceberg lettuce, char-grilled red capsicum and roasted peanuts.


In my never-ending efforts to make my reports informative, at times amusing and hopefully, of some educative value, I strive hard to find that elusive, but essential requirement, inspiration! When searching for this, my mind wandered back 60 years to my school days studying Shakespeare. For some reason, the line “oh for the Muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention”,  the opening line of Henry V, has always stuck with me. So it would seem that even the Bard himself had to search deep for inspiration at times. Without trying to put myself in the same league, so do I. I digress.

The first wine yesterday was from the Watervale part of the Clare, a Wines by KT Riesling, 2017, a 10/10 vintage for Riesling in that region. As many of you would know by now, I am a great fan of Clare Riesling, but not this one. Better palates than mine would detect the problem, but to me, the wine lacked that lovely acidic crispness of good Riesling from that region. At 6 yo the wine would normally be drinking at its peak, however, I found the wine to finish with a flat effect. The wine went easily with the excellent pass-arounds by our talented Chef De Jour Steve Liebeskind, however, I was hoping for something a little better.

The next wine was the Lindemans Bin 1155, 2011 Hunter Semillon. Several comments around the Room indicated that 2011 was a poor year in the Hunter for whites, however my research, according to Halliday, regarded it as a fair year 7/10. Some other vintage charts regarded it higher. Anyhow, the bottom line was that I enjoyed the wine to some extent with fine delicate flavours, but lacking in the attractive qualities that a good aged Semillon can possess. The finish was of a fading wine, dare I say insipid. Fruit and acid falling away.

Our third white was the legendary Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2013. 13.5%. By all accounts an excellent vintage in the Hunter. I really enjoyed it. Maybe at 10 yo it would have been better if drunk 2/3 years ago, but to my taste, it was still excellent. Now it would seem, I am walking into Tiger Country. So I am putting on my Pith Helmut, my asbestos undies and picking up my trusty Remington 308 with a full magazine. Off I go.  I am sufficiently old enough to remember the first release of Vat 47 in 1971. In fact, my grandsons at Riverview think I am so old that I must have been personally acquainted with St Ignatius! I digress to inject some levity into the developing debate. Anyhow, I think it is fair to say that Vat 47 has always been highly regarded since its first release, with of course a price to match! The wine has won many awards over the years. I have always enjoyed the wine when on offer. So it is against this background that I note that at our last two lunches when the wine has been served, it has met with some unflattering remarks from persons whose opinions I respect. On the first occasion, I thought the comments perhaps related to the particular bottle, but on the second occasion, a different vintage, the same outcome. So what is going on here? Have I been guilty over the decades of worshipping a false idol?

I am aware that some in the wine industry do not regard Chardonnay as a suitable grape to grow in the Hunter. There are others who simply do not rate Australian Chardonnay, too big and blousy, too much alcohol and unbalanced, too sweet, over-oaked and so on. All at times valid criticisms. But I do not think that any of these faults existed in the Vat 47s we drank. I like to think that my comments about our wines are by and large shared by the room, as I often seek the opinions of others at the table.  With the last two Vat 47s, I thought they were quite sound and very drinkable, but others disagreed. Perhaps we should have an in-depth seminar on why some of us do not like Vat 47. I would imagine we have a fair stock of it in our cellar, so it could be an important exchange of views.

Moving right along, the first red wine was the By Farr PN 2016. Bottled under cork @ 13.5%. Now a 7yo. I would have preferred this wine to be served with less chill on the bottle. Sandwiched between the Chardy and the following big Coonawarra Reds, I felt the PN was lost and out of place. Perhaps it was the chill masking the PN flavours and aroma, but in the end, I found the wine underwhelming.

The final two wines for the lunch were two Society favourites, the ever-dependable Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet from 2008 and the Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz from the same year. Vintage 2008 seems to have been regarded in that region as quite reasonable, and despite both wines now being nearly 15 yo, they were holding up very well. The Cabernet was my pick, great fruit, well-integrated tannins, 14% but in nice balance. An excellent wine. The V& A Lane Shiraz was just behind, an attractive wine drinking beautifully, but just eclipsed in terms of flavour and overall appeal by the Cabernet. I have always felt Cabernet is more suited to that region than Shiraz. In the event, we must recognise Sue Hodder the principal winemaker for her achievements at Wynns for over 25 consecutive vintages, almost all universally good. That’s dedication.   

7 March 2023 Steve Sparkes

070323chef2070323 cana1070323cana2070323main070323salad1070323chef

Wine review by Stephen O'Halloran, Food Review by Nick Reynolds


Our Chef de Jour Steve Sparkes got our taste buds sharpened up with some seafood pass arounds which were excellent as we have come to expect from this talented man. The wines served were a French Vouvray and a Tasmanian Gruner Veltliner. Dealing with the French wine first it was a 2016 from Bernard Fouquet Dom Aubuisiers. The grape variety was Chenin Blanc of which I am a fan. Today the wine was drinking superbly. 12.5 %, crisp, clean and flavoursome. Quite elegant, but with plenty of zest. A lovely wine.  For those interested, the best producer in France of Vouvary is in my opinion Marc Bredif. I have tasted several of his wines 20/30 yo and still drinking well. Bulletproof!   The Chenin Blanc grape takes me back to the 70’s and 80’s when Moondah Brook CB was the go-to wine in any Chinese restaurant. Good Times.

The second wine was a pest. I have had this grape variety before, always passable, but not today.  Something was wrong here, maybe a bad bottle. I did not like it.

For the main, a very nice Blue Eye Cod, we had another French white, a 2016 Domaine Oratoire St Martin from the Rhone district. A blend mainly of Roussanne and Marsanne. Quite drinkable, but not in my view enjoyable. A tad oxidised perhaps, or perhaps just my lack of familiarity with this blend. A big wine at 14%. Some in the room seemed to enjoy it. Viva La Difference!

The 4th wine on our list was the ever-reliable Best’s Bin 1 Shiraz from 2012. Drinking very well, lots of time ahead. Despite being 14.5 % the wine was well balanced with some lovely lifted spice and pepper overtones, typical of Grampians Shiraz. A very solid performer.

Wine No 5 was the Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2017.  13%. This vintage was rated by Tyrrells as being one of the better vintages of recent times and I found this wine most enjoyable. I heard some dissenting opinions around the room, which I had trouble understanding, perhaps some people just do not like Hunter Chardy! At my table, we all thought it was delightful. So it goes.

The final wine of the day was the Craggy Range Otago PN from 2009. This wine holds a very strong emotional attachment for me as it was in the Craggy Range vineyard that my 2nd Son Andrew and his wife Anna were married there in January 09 on the most perfect day possible. Warm sun, no wind, the marquee nestling between the rows of grapes beginning to ripen The majestic mountain range is almost near enough to touch. Many of those there that day declare it to be the best venue for a reception they have been to.

This brief interlude however does not have a happy ending.  Anna died 3 years ago from pancreatic cancer leaving Andrew with their two sons aged 9 and 7. The boys and their dad now live with us in Mosman. They now go to Riverview and are beginning to become more settled and happy.  

Back to the wine. This PN is now 14 yo and is in my view still drinking very well. 14%, great colour, with a nice integration of oak and tannin. Beautiful PN aromas. Thank you Chilly for putting this wine on. A treat, but don’t leave it too long for the next one.


Steve Sparkes has been a member of WFSNSW for only a brief period but during this time he has demonstrated to us that he always delivers high-quality, tasty, and visually-appealing dishes. 

Today his dish for the Chef of the Year Cook-Off was no exception.

For canapés, he started with Coffin Bay Pacific Oysters presented with a homemade Teriyaki sauce which was reduced slightly and served with chives

This was followed by a light seafood terrine that included prawn, crab and scallop with saffron and egg white  served on a cracker,

Lastly, he served wonton wrappers moulded in a muffin tin filled with prawns, crabs, chilli, coriander, ginger, garlic and toasted coconut with a tamarind-based dressing. I particularly enjoyed this for the melange of flavours and textures.

Each canapé was very tasty and, more importantly, able to be held and eaten whilst holding and drinking from a glass of wine.

For the main course, Steve sourced restaurant quality-blue-eye trevalla. Each piece was laser cut to 180 grams. The fish was cooked sous vide for 60 minutes at 53C. It was served on steamed basmati rice that was expertly prepared by the restaurant team.

The curry sauce was Sri-Lankan and inspired by Peter Kuravita from Flying Fish. Rather than cooking a fish curry, Steve chose instead to serve the curry sauce as an accompaniment to the fish. This was to allow members to choose how much they wanted. In a further nod to meeting member needs, Steve reported that the heat intensity was dialled down by about 75% from the original recipe.

Steve added a Coconut sambal and Squid Ink Tuile for texture and eye appeal. As a chef, I must note how much effort goes into making individual tuiles simply as an accompaniment. This is something that is normally done by someone in a kitchen brigade rather than a home cook. Steve also added a slice of lime to the plate so that the diner could adjust their dishes to their own tastes.

The cheese was Pyengana and served with a simple salad dressed with vinegar, mustard and olive oil, some home-made preserved kumquats and a, once again home-made tangy relish. The bread was a 'light sourdough' baguette from Bourke Street Bakery.

If Steve is cooking, I recommend that you book as you will always be served an excellent meal.

28 February 2023 Peter Kelso


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


Peter Kelso was in the kitchen today assisted by Denys Moore cooking for our first wine tasting lunch of the year.


Brandade of salt cod on pumpernickel

A perfect example of brandade with a lot of flavour and it worked well with the pumpernickel base.

Curry dip on celery pieces

I loved the crunch of the celery with the curry dip not overly spicy.


Peter produced a main of smoked blue mackerel fillets with a beurre blanc sauce, cubed baked potatoes and steamed lightly pickled zucchini. The smoky strong flavour of the fish was a perfect match to the wines served today.

Good comments on the food today.

Thank you, Peter.

Hal Epstein spoke about the state of our fishing industry at present suggesting we will see this type of fish become more prevalent with the depletion of stocks hence one of the reasons we see snapper coming from NZ.


James Healey selected a hard cow’s milk cheese from France,  ‘Fromagerie St Mamet Cantal Entre Deux AOP’

This natural rind cheese is one of the oldest cheeses still made in France. It has been traced back at least 2000 years when cheese from Gaul was popular as far away as Rome. Being a large cheese, the flavour is mild unless it is matured over a long period, although smaller versions known as Cantalet mature more quickly.

The cheeses are selected at least 14 months old when they have developed a moist and crumbly texture and buttery flavour with a little bite.

Peter accompanied the cheese with a salad of rocket and radicchio dressed with a vinaigrette and topped with sliced fresh figs.


The first of the aperitif wines was an Italian white Vernaccia di San Gimignano from 2021.  Most enjoyable, fresh and clean. 13%, well-balanced with well-rounded flavours. Just the sort of holiday wine you would enjoy sitting on a sunny balcony overlooking Lake Garda, just about to tuck into some cold antipasto. Ah, the memories!

The second wine was a Pinot Noir from Port Philip Estate 2012. 13%. Quite flavoursome, but light-bodied in structure and starting to show some signs of having been in the cellar for too long. Nonetheless enjoyable as an aperitif with the food served pre-lunch. 

We now move on to the star of the show, a vertical tasting of six Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon. A treat indeed for fans of Vat 1, of which I am sure there are many, myself included. During lunch, I commented that having all this precious wine in one sitting was perhaps, not the best usage of this expensive, much in-demand wine. Consuming six glasses of the same wine from different vintages really puts one’s palate to the test, especially getting towards the tail end.  My choice would have been to have a flight of three at one lunch mixed with some other wines, and then another three at a subsequent Lunch. I likened it to being given a box of expensive chocolates and eating them all in one hit, rather than saving a few for later on.   Anyhow, it would appear that my view was not shared by most of the room. So it goes.

The wines were:

1. 2003. Bottled under cork, the rest were screwcap.  Still drinking well but beginning to lose some acid. Now a 20 yo, a drink now proposition.

2. 2004. I was not keen on this wine, flat on the palate getting tired.

3. 2005. A gem. Tyrrells regard this wine as one of their best ever and Vat 1’s multi-award winner. The best wine in my view of the lineup. Fresh and clean, with no sign of ageing and a wonderful depth of flavour. A masterpiece.

4. 2013. A pretty good year in the Hunter for whites and at now 10yo this wine was drinking beautifully.  Well-balanced, superb fruit/acid. A delight.

5. 2014.  Regarded by many in the Hunter as one of the best vintages of the last few decades, this wine was truly excellent. A great Vat 1, with it, would seem a limitless future.

6. 2015. I must confess that by this stage I was suffering from Vat 1 overload. My ability to detect subtle nuances of flavour had diminished considerably. My impression was that the wine was very good but overshadowed by the 13 and 14 in terms of flavour and complexity.

In my view, these wines demonstrated how fortunate we are here in Australia to be able to lay a legitimate claim to one of the world’s great wines.   

21 February 2023 Mark Bradford


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

Mark Bradford was in the kitchen as Chef of the day for our second ‘cook off’ for Chef of The Year award. He was assisted by Denys Moore in reprising a Basque-themed meal.


Our canapés were ‘pintxos’, which literally translates as a thorn or spike and these are small snacks typically eaten in bars in Northern Spain.

First up we’re ‘gildas’. These Basque tapas are named for a passionate beauty played by Rita Hayworth. Red and green peppers on pintxo are wrapped with anchovy and capped with green Spanish olive.

Then followed baked dates deseeded and stuffed with basil (homegrown), almond slices and maple syrup wrapped with bacon which were then placed in the oven for five minutes (Datiles Rellenos or devils on horseback!)

The canapés were bountiful with complex flavours and perfectly matched the canapé wine on offer.

There were many favourable comments from the floor on the canapé offering.


Mark presented a meal today that showcased why he was chosen for the \Chef of The Year award cook-off. While some delay in plating and getting the meal to our tables, the meal appealed to all our senses, sight, aroma and lastly taste.

A lot of thought and preparation went into the meal with the presentation a key effort and would be similar to any fine diner in our city.

It was a Basque stew of rolled lamb shoulder trimmed, cubed and marinated overnight in Margan Hunter Semillon, garlic and rosemary. Braised then stewed for three hours with sweet paprika, roasted red capsicum strips, chopped deseeded tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, chicken stock and Tempranillo. Little drops of yoghurt enhanced the flavour of the dish.

Served beside the lamb was turmeric and onion basmati rice topped with a pea and mint puree. It was garnished with fresh mint from Mark’s garden.

The meat was perfectly cooked moist and tender with a good flavour and texture and the right balance of paprika and seasoning.

Well done Mark.


James Healey, in theme, provided a hard cow’s milk cheese from Menorca Spain ‘Merco Mahon Curado’.

Mahon’s rind is rubbed with olive oil and paprika which imparts a rusty-orange colour to the exterior. When mature the cheese maintains a milky flavour and characteristic tangy finish.

Mahon is the capital of the rocky island of Menorca, the most northerly of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. Cheese has been made on the island since 3000 BC. Today, two ancient breeds of dairy cattle, red Menorquin and black/white spotted Frison, graze on dense island grass and are milked on small family ‘fincas’ or farms which total 600 on Menorca.

Traditionally, this cheese was bound in cloth before pressing which is still done on a small scale on the island. A larger proportion of production is now made in a more efficient modern way which uses square moulds instead. The result is a consistent cheese that captures the true essence of the original. The rind is still rubbed with olive oil and paprika which imparts a rusty-orange colour to the exterior.

The wheels are then ripened for a minimum of 6 months on wooden shelves. When mature or ‘curado’, the cheese maintains a milky character and has developed a nutty flavour and characteristic tangy finish.

Mark accompanied the cheese course with Iggy’s bread, crackers and blackberry jam.


We went from one extreme to the other in our last two lunches, with a packed-out room on the 14th to a room with plenty of spare seats on the 21st.

The pre-lunch wine was a Pikes Clare Valley Riesling 2010. I love Clare Rieslings. At first glance, I thought that as a just on 13 yo, it may have seen better days, but to my surprise, the wine was in excellent condition and drinking extremely well. Good acid/fruit balance, 12.5% and no sign of ageing. Overall a delicious aperitif.

Moving onto the next white wine which was served with the main course, we greeted a La Minaia Gavi from Italy. Vintage 2021 @13%. Not having tasted this wine before, I was in totally unfamiliar territory. Before writing this report I was forced to conduct some research via Jancis Robinson on this wine. She advises that the grape used to make Gavi is the Cortese grape grown mainly in the Piemonte region. She describes the wine as a renowned Italian dry white wine produced initially to accompany seafood. At its best, she says the wine is fresh and clean and highly regarded. Well, that is what she said. Personally, I found the wine to be very mouth-filling, fat, a tad unctuous, and a little too sweet for my taste. Perhaps the wine would have been better if served as an aperitif or with a white meat dish, but with the strongly flavoured lamb, it was out of place. So it goes.

Wine three was the ever-reliable Wynns Black Label Coonawarra Cabernet from 2015. This wine is a Society favourite and always presents well. 13.8%, well balanced, not too much assertive oak. Massive black Cabernet hue, but no real nose, at least none I could detect. I found the wine finished with a slightly flat aftertaste, hence my comment at the time, that I thought the wine was unexciting! Perhaps my palate had been knocked around by the Gavi!

Wine four was a Craiglee Sunbury Shiraz from 2013 at 13.5%. This is the second Craiglee wine we have had in recent times. More please. The Craiglee vineyard in Victoria was established over a hundred years ago, but like many Australian vineyards over the last century, fell into disuse for many years, only recommencing winemaking operations during the 1970s. Since then it has developed a solid reputation for top-class Shiraz. This wine was no exception, a delightful full-bodied wine, with well-integrated fruit/tannins and oak. Most enjoyable.

The final wine for the day was the very popular, but sadly very expensive Charlie Melton GSM from 2009, my favourite wine of the day. It had a lifted aroma of spiced fruits and a sophisticated intertwining of all three grapes producing a strongly flavoured wine but balanced with a lingering aftertaste. That’s what I call exciting. I was a bit surprised to hear our WineMaster express some negative comments, and I of course bow to his superior knowledge, with his expert palate possibly detecting some faults that bypassed me, however, that said, it was my pick of the litter.

14 February 2023 Bernard Leung


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


The room was full today for our first mixed lunch of the year with Bernard Leung in the kitchen today as Chef of the Day in our first “cook-off” for Chef of the Year 2022. He was assisted by member Alan Langridge who Bernie advised had spent four hours cutting vegetables in preparation for the lunch.

Today’s lunch had a Spanish/Moroccan theme and we started with a flavourful and textural gazpacho. It was made from de-seeded tomatoes, peeled cucumber, and capsicum with some red onion and a clove of raw garlic for some bite. Tablespoons of olive oil and sherry vinegar were added then ground cumin and blitzed in a blender along with a thick slice of soaked bread for a fuller thicker consistency. It was topped with some bread croutons and red, green and yellow peppers.

Next served were some perfectly made Serrano ham croquettes. Bernard explained he had to cook them twice as initially, they were too runny!

These consisted of Serrano ham diced into 5mm cubes, with béchamel sauce seasoned with nutmeg and grated Parmesan cheese. It was then rolled in egg and bread crumbs allowed to cool and then deep fried. They were served on top of aioli that secured them on the plate.

Very popular with our members today.

Our main course was quail with couscous and romesco sauce.

Tunnel-boned quail were marinated overnight in cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. They were then pan-fried to brown the outside, before finishing in the oven. This was served on a bed of couscous made with vegetable stock, and mixed with diced and de-seeded tomatoes, sultanas, cucumbers, chopped parsley and mint and finished with lemon juice and olive oil. The romesco sauce tomato, capsicums, and almonds oven roasted, and then blitzed with sugar, salt and red chilli. A good heat not overwhelming.

Extra bowls of sauce were served to our tables for those that liked a little more spice.

The quail was perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful. Not an easy task with 58 serves.

There were many favourable comments and the food presented was a worthy contender for COTY.

Well done Bernard.

Today's cheese presented by our Cheesemaster, James Healey, was Fromager D’Affinois Florette a white goat’s milk cheese from France.

It was soft, surface-ripened pure goats’ cheese made near Lyons, France.

This new cheese uses special microfiltration techniques that concentrate the rich solids in the goat’s milk ensuring a very smooth texture and delicious rounded creamy flavour.

Fromagerie Guilloteau are leaders in a modern process called “ultra filtration”. Ultra filtration is a technique co-created by Jean-Claude Guilloteau and occurs before the cheese making process. Pasteurised milk is forced through a series of membranes, extracting protein and removing water concentrating all other desirable components. This results in the production of consistent, nutritionally rich cheeses that have a silkier mouth feel and creamy subtle flavour.

Accompanying the cheese was a salad with a buttermilk vinegarette made from buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, white balsamic and honey and served with mixed leave salad and peaches.


A mixed lunch produced a bumper crowd of 50+ to kick off our second lunch of the new year. Two very smart Rieslings greeted us initially, a Holm Oak from the Tamar Valley in Tas 2015 and my old favourite a Seppelt Drumborg from 2016. I thought both were a treat.

The Holm Oak was a lot dryer than most Tassie Rieslings which usually have distinctive residual sugar /fruit overtones  The wine had an appealing flavour, was ageing well for an 8 yo and I really enjoyed it with the aperitifs. 

The second Riesling, the Drumborg, was by general acclaim a better wine and I have always thought that this Riesling is consistently amongst our top six Rieslings. This particular bottle was excellent 7 yo drinking probably at its peak but with no indication of fading. Let us hope that our Wine Master has plenty more in our cellar.

The next wine served on our table was the Yabby Lake Chardonnay 2015. A true delight. Complex flavours, restrained oak and delicate but very flavoursome. A beauty! 12.5 %. Drinking in my view at its optimum. Wish I had some.

The next cab off the rank at our table was the (wait for it) Malterdinger Spatburgunder, try to pronounce that!  2015 from Baden in Germany. Someone suggested it was a first cousin to Pinot Noir. Whatever its genealogy, the wine was enjoyable but a tad one-dimensional, sound but lacking in any varietal characteristic A nice wine that did not demand one’s attention.

The final two reds both from the vintage of 2012 were great choices by our Wine Master coming from arguably our best regions for Cabernet, Coonawarra and Margaret River. I think it is fair to say that by general comment around the room, the Leeuwin Estate was a clear favourite over the Mildara without any disrespect to the latter. The Leeuwin was superbly balanced and elegant, yet powerful and a wonderful Bordeaux style. By comparison, the Mildara was a bigger wine but lacked the elegance of the Leeuwin. As a matter of interest, the label on the Mildara made mentions the famous “Peppermint Pattie“ produced by the company in the 1963  vintage. I was fortunate to taste this wine from time to time many years ago and it was a truly remarkable wine. The overwhelming mint flavour was quite unique. The memory still lingers.

7 February 2023 James Hill

070223 bread070223cana1070223cana2070223cana3070223main070223cheese070223salad070223greek herb

Food notes by James Hill and wine review by James Tinslay

Our room was packed for our first lunch of the year with a Greek-themed menu that celebrated the season.


Prawns served on spoons with a tomato sauce.  Prawns are great at this time of the year and today a great example of good texture and flavour. They were medium-cooked tiger prawns served on a sauce made up of tomatoes, onions, white wine, dried Greek oregano, prawn heads and tails and parsley. This is normally a sauce to bake prawns in, today made separately and served at room temperature and used to add a flavour boost to the prawns 

Next up was some homemade hummus made with organic dried chickpeas and topped with Aleppo pepper and finished with a dash of olive oil. The hummus was made on Sunday to allow the flavours to integrate.

Last of the canapés was some whipped cod roe topped with avruga caviar and served on Jatz biscuits. Avruga caviar is a caviar substitute made from herring and other products. It does not contain fish roe however still has an aroma and flavour not dissimilar to caviar.


Solomós Lemonato (salmon baked in lemon)

Some robust flavours on the plate today. Australian salmon marinated in garlic, green olives, thinly sliced lemon, a mixture of dried oregano, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and olive oil. It was cooked at 180C for eight minutes and came to the table perfectly cooked thanks to the supervision of our chef Rob Doll.

It was accompanied by orzo and spring onions, agrodolce, radicchio and a dollop of skordalia. The radicchio was cooked with EVOO and merlot vinegar, the cooking softened the bitterness and the vinaigrette adding a touch of sweetness.

Skordalia is purée of bread, almond meal, egg yolk, garlic and lemon juice and today the garlic wasn’t overly dominant.

Orzo, also known as risoni, is a form of short-cut pasta shaped like a large grain of rice. It is made from durum wheat. Once cooked it is added to spring onions that were cooked with EVOO salt and pepper till wilted.

Our Italian-speaking member Julian lead us in the proper pronunciation of radicchio (hard c).


Cheese today, sourced by the chef of the day, was Kefalograviera a popular Greek cheese made from sheep's and goat's milk. Kefalograviera's flavour is slightly salty.

Source: sheep and goat’s milk.
Origin: Greece,
Texture: firm,
Colour: pale yellow.

The room was divided on the enjoyment of the cheese, some saying they wished the XCheesemaster was here so they could tell him it wasn’t liked.

It was served with a cucumber and tomato salad. The tomato salad was made with coriander seeds, fennel seeds, paprika, dried chilli and lashings of olive oil. 

Bread today was Iggys perfect to sop up the salad dressing.


Canapé wines

  • 2019 Robert Stein Dry Riesling (Mudgee)
  • 2011 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Riesling (Hawkes Bay)

Both of these Rieslings were enjoyed by all. However, there the similarities end. The Mudgee wine was already showing some development at four years of age with clear Riesling fruit with lemon and lime tones noted. The New Zealand wine at ten years of age was still in wonderful condition with bright fruit, despite its maturity. At first, the palate tricks you into believing it may be over-sweet but that feeling fades away when it apparently is just real Riesling fruit.

Main course wines

  • 2017 Collector Wines Tiger Tiger Chardonnay (Tumbarumba)
  • 2014 Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills)

The two wines to accompany the salmon were well selected and both of them were rich and soft. The Tumbarumba fruit was full and rich and accompanied by some zesty overtones that made it a well-balanced wine at its peak. The M3 Chardonnay being a few years older was a little softer and richer with a huge mouthfeel. Some found it lightly reductive but given I find the struck match characteristic an unenjoyable and unnecessary part of a Chardonnay whilst others don’t, there was never going to be a consensus.

Cheese wines

  • 2011 David Reynaud Crozes-Hermitage (Northern Rhone)
  • 2009 Cherubino Shiraz (Frankland Rivwer)

These two wines had the room split on the preference and even the drinkability of the Crozes-Hermitage. I have not liked this Reynaud wine in the past, and this week my feelings were no different. However, at least half the room disagreed with this view. I found the wine over-extracted with a strange metallic edge. It was just weird. The wine showed vibrant black fruits of blackcurrant and blackberries with spicy overtones. Many enjoyed it including our well-credentialled winemakers. The Cherubino was a very good Australian Shiraz with well over ten years of age. It was elegant and smooth, a modern Australian wine, and much liked by all who spoke although some thought it may have been better a few years ago. Fruit versus age, the constant divide.

13 December 2022 Bill and Sam Alexiou

131222chef131222cana1131222cana2131222entree1131222main1131222main2131222room4131222chef1131222entree131222ross 50 y131222room1131222room2131222room3131222room5131222room6131222room

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


Not to be outdone by the iconic Bill and Toni in Stanley Street, our own Bill and Sam sent the Society on its way for the final meal of 2022 with an offering fit for a king.  Being wary of Greeks bearing gifts, our lunch was more Italian themed than Greek, but what the hell, great Mediterranean flavours, aromas, textures, and colours. 


The three canapes were in abundance. The first was a beetroot relish, made with the addition of yoghurt, cumin and lemon juice. The second was tuna tonnato, made with tuna, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil and mayonnaise. Members would recall with fondness this cold combination served as a main with veal and tuna mayonnaise; a Piedmontese delicacy. The third canape was a tomato, basil and garlic bruschetta.  Great comments from the 50-odd members on the day. 

First Course

The first course was a vegetarian antipasto with pickled vegetables, Scillian olives, zucchini and a corn frittata. This provided an excellent palate cleanser from the canapes. 

Second Course

Crafted by Sam, we were presented with a slow-cooked pork rib ragu served on pasta with ricotta cheese. Lovely colours and textures, and just enough in terms of quantity. 

Third Course

And just in case we hadn’t eaten enough, we were presented with a wonderfully juicy and pink steak Fiorentina with rocket and spinach salad. 


Our Christmas favourite and at most other times too was selected by Dr James Healey: Holy Goat La Luna from Sutton Grange Organic Farm outside of Melbourne.  A wonderful goat’s cheese and excellent flagship for the quality of the cheeses now being made in Oz. James has given us an excellent education, now over many years, on wonderful Australian cheeses. Bill accompanied the cheese with cured meats which were a great match. 


Not being able to keep entirely away from things Greek, the Alexous served us with Mastiha, derived from the mastic resin grown only on the Greek island of Chios.  Doing likewise with resin from the Sydney blue gum is not recommended. 


A wonderful lunch with many Society members in attendance. We look forward to 2023. 


Lots of people, lots of laughs and lots of different wines! A real Xmas Scramble! The traditional WFS last lunch of the year knees up! Many thanks to our Chef Bill Alexiou-Hucker and son Samfor a sensational spread.

This is my wine report which will be a bit truncated as I noticed my last report on the wines on 29th Nov suffered some heavy editing in the last few paragraphs. The gist of those final comments was to the effect that the French Bordeaux blends are a cut above our best Cabernets, even Bin 707.  For the sake of my wine reporting integrity, I needed this to be recorded.

As alluded to, there were many wines on the tables, both reds and whites. I can only comment on those that passed my lips. First was the Tyrrells Belford Chardonnay 2015. I have not seen much of this wine in recent times at the WFS, our predilections fancying the Semillon. To my taste, the Chardy was a bit flat, 7 years of age beginning to take its toll on the fruit/acid structure. By no means a poor wine, just a little disappointing. The next wine I tried was the Yalumba Pewsey Vale Riesling 2012. As always with this never fail wine, excellent. At 10 yo a classic Oz Riesling drinking at its peak. Say no more.

My empty glass soon found its way to the next white I tried a Roussane from the Rhone district.  A cousin of the Marsanne grape, which gained fame when served to the late ER 2 during her maiden voyage to Aust in 1953. A curious selection I have always thought! I recall it was a Chateau Tahbilk.  Nonetheless, the Roussane had a beguiling aroma, hints of honey, thick and mouth-filling, but not unctuous or cloying. A nice wine if you could climb the mountain of distinction between this style with our Oz whites.

In the Red Dept, we saw a number of wines scattered around the room. In the published list there was a 2006 St Hugo, a 2012 Chalambar and a Tyrrells Vat 9 from 2011. Also deposited on our table was a 2014 Ch Rochemorin from Bordeaux and a Bowen Estate Cab from 2008. There were I understand some other wines served but I was not able to either taste or record. It was a busy afternoon!

The St Hugo was to my taste an excellent wine. 14.4 % and now 16 years of age. A fine blend of tannins/fruit and acid all holding the together and no obvious excessive oak. An impressive wine.

The Rochemorin. A non-rated wine from the Pessac Leognan region of Bordeaux 13 %. A Merlot/Cab blend, predominately Merlot. A consistent producer with a reasonable price tag. The wine on our table must have been just out of the fridge as it was quite chilled. The initial impression was, good colour, but the chill on the bottle masked other assessments. Returning to the wine half an hour later revealed a pleasant Bordeaux with plummy Merlot overtones. Overall, a nice wine with no obvious faults.

The Chalambar from 2012. A wine we see here quite often and I am glad we do. As with the Pewsey Vale, a solid reliable performer which never lets you down. Big fruit, loads of flavour a very pickable wine style from Seppelts in the Grampians region. I compared this wine to the Vat 9 {see below} and in my view, there was not much between them. Think about the fact that you can just about buy three bottles of the Chalambar to one Vat 9! An excellent value quality wine if I ever saw one.

The Bowen Estate 2008 Cabernet from Coonawarra was 15%. Despite the heavy alcohol factor, I found the wine to be well-balanced, and very flavoursome. A big wine no doubt, not any elegance here, but overall an enjoyable drink. Holding well together for a 14 yo.

The final wine for our table was the Tyrrells Vat 9 from 2011. Tyrrells said {in 2021} that this wine is fully matured and should be drunk now. I think they are correct. Whilst I enjoyed the wine, I was a little underwhelmed, it was not noticeably a step up from the Chalambar. Both wines were high-quality Shiraz, but the comparison was interesting. You do not the opportunity to make these contemporaneous comparisons anywhere else but at the WFS and only for $85 with wonderful food and superb cheese thrown in. Your membership fee is the best investment you ever made.

This is my final Wine Report for the year. Many thanks to members who have been so kind to express to me at our lunches their enjoyment when reading my material. It is I can assure you taken on board with much gratitude. I do try to make the reports a bit of fun to read, whilst throwing in some hopefully interesting stuff.   SO’H.

6 December James Hill and Kham Signavong


Food and wine review by James Hill

Marquee chef Kham Signavong was our guest chef of the day for our last mixed lunch of the year.

Kham is known to many members as the chef and owner of Arun Thai restaurants both in Sydney and Hong Kong and the author of two books on cooking Thai food.


Betel leaves with smoked trout

Snowy mountains smoked rainbow trout was mixed and marinated with Thai salad and sauce. It was spooned onto betel leaf and then topped with fried shallots.

Spicy prawn salad

The prawns were marinated in the same salad and sauce this time adding some finely chopped lychee to enhance and sweeten the flavour.

All the elements we expect to see in Thai cooking are represented here sweet, salty, and sour, and the fried shallots give a nice crunchy texture to the smoked trout.

The salad was made up of coriander, shallots, lemongrass, mint, finely julienned kaffir lime leaves and red chilli. The sauce had equal quantities of fish sauce and lime juice mixed with palm sugar.

Main course

Kham only arrived back in town from Bangkok the night before our lunch so we had to improvise with some of the ingredients for lunch today.

The main course was a red curry of twice-cooked duck, pork and lychee served with some al dente Jasmine Thai rice.

Kham had sent the recipes and REX Head Chef Rob Doll cooked 2.5kg of pork belly for us. It was cooked with star anis, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and whole black pepper. The pork was perfectly cooked, moist with crispy crackling on top.

We sourced some ready-cooked, deboned ducks from Tai Wong butcher in Haymarket. Kham made his sauce of coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, long red and green chilli, birds eye chilli and Thai basil. An alchemist at work.

The duck was poached in the red curry sauce and then served in bowls with a generous ladle of sauce over the duck and pork.

The red curry sauce had an amazing depth of flavour and lingered long on the palate. There was heat evident but not enough to overwhelm the integrated flavours of the dish.

The dish went very well with wine matches today.

There was a lot of comment and praise for lunch today highlighting the authentic taste and quality of the food presented.

Thank you, Kham.


Cheesemaster James Healey Presented a washed-rind cow's milk cheese from Italy. It was the Mauri Taleggio almost in theme with lunch today, it had a creamy, salty flavour. It was served at the right temperature and came to the table melting on the cheeseboard. Accompanying the cheese was a bowl of dried apricots and fresh walnuts.

The microclimate in the natural caves where these cheeses are matured, high in the Alps, encourages the development of a unique flora on the outer rind. Washed and brushed several times over a month, the cheese develops a thin bloom flecked with blue penicillium moulds.

Beneath the rind, the ivory-chalky texture of the cheese begins to change slowly as it ripens, becoming buttery and soft. The creamy texture, when balanced with the delicious yeasty taste provided by the rind, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets.

Mauri Taleggio is considered one of the finest DOP cheeses made in Italy.


Canapé  wines

  • 2013 Leo Buring Léopold Riesling Tasmania

Made in Germanic/Alsatian style high acidity showing. Some residual sugar complemented the wine, drinking at its best.

  • 2014 Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillon Hunter Valley

Showing texture, and a good flavour profile.

Main course wines

  • 2015 Tyrrell’s Belford Chardonnay Hunter Valley

Bedecked with a lot of gold showing a lot of barrel ferment characters. Secondary notes came through on the wine but lacked a little structure and mouthfeel. Promised quite a bit on the nose but fell away a little.

  • 2012 Freycinet Vineyards Pinot Noir Tasmania

At 10 years of age, quite old for an Australian Pinot Noi, but thought it hung on and got better within the main course. An oaky style. Good mouthfeel.

Cheese wines

  • 2008 Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra

Big rich, jammy style of wine, lost Cabernet fruit. Gone more into overdeveloped character. 2008 was a hot year and not enough fruit to show through tannins.

  • 2002 Majella Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra

Very interesting vintage in Coonawarra and it was lovely showing red currant and cassis notes and a bit of mint. Massive amount of oak, and a lot of vanilla. Showed to be the better of the two wines.

29 November 2022 CoTD Keith Steele


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

The room was packed for our last wine tasting of the year, Keith Steele was in the kitchen as Chef of The Day assisted by Shane Redmond and James Tinslay on canapés.


As we have seen in the past the canapés were bountiful today and much appreciated and enjoyed by 50 members attending our lunch.

First up with James Tinslay showing his prowess with pastry, mozzarella twirls and a homemade tomato red pepper sauce.

Puff pastry twists. In between two sheets of the pastry layer a tomato sauce (processed tomatoes with the usual Italian herbs) with lots of mozzarella cheese, some oregano leaves, finely chopped pepperoni and finely chopped red capsicum.

Cut with a pizza cutter, twist and bake on high heat after an egg wash.

New member Shane Redmond was up next with some home-cured salmon with whiskey from Lark Hill winery topped with crème fraîche and dill fronds and perfectly executed homemade blinis.

Lastly, we had the terrine a Damian Pignolet recipe simple country terrine of fresh herbs, pork shoulder, chicken, chicken livers and pork back fat wrapped in bacon. With the numbers booked in today, Keith thought he didn’t have sufficient so he bought some duck terrine from his local butcher. Both had great flavour and texture and were simply served with a Dijon mustard spread on fresh white baguette with sliced gherkins on top.

Main course

Today’s main course went perfectly with the wine theme selected by our Cellar master today the sweetness of the beef cheeks and Pedro Ximenez was just perfect for the tannin expression of the wine presented today.

It’s a Frank Camorra recipe from Movida ‘Beef cheeks with Pedro Ximenez Jerez’.

The beef cheeks are simmered with the sherry and red wine plus carrots, garlic and onion Cook for 3 to 4 hours until they reach the right consistency.

Comments from the floor that was so well done that you could’ve just cut them with a spoon rather than using a knife they were so good. They were served on a bed of silky cauliflower cream, some suggesting more cream and butter than cauliflower. The cauliflower cream went very well under the beef cheek with the sauce lovely, rich unctuous and full of flavour. We had some sugar snap peas on the side and plenty of bread to mop up.

Frank Liebeskind said the other Frank would be very proud of what was presented on the plate today.

There were many favourable comments from the floor on all food presented today. Well done team.


Our Cheesemaster James Healey presented Society's favourite today ‘Beaufort’ many in the room guessed the cheese and it came to the table in perfect condition. Again a great match for our Cabernet-dominated wines.

Beaufort is hard cow's milk cheese from France.

A naturally rinded cheese from European Alps is traditionally made in 45kg wheels and is the largest cheese made in the world. The cheese is made from late spring or summer milk when the best milk comes from cows that have ascended into the rich mountain passes.

The close-concentrating creamy texture, nutty, slightly sweet lingering flavours are typical of this rare cheese which also has excellent melting qualities.


On the 29th of November 2022, we were treated to something special winewise. I have no doubt that the wines served were at least equal to or better than anything in the world put on a luncheon table today. Makes your modest investment in membership of the WFS look like a very sound investment indeed.

Anyhow, moving straight to the wines, we started off with a great Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2013 at 12.4%. Now 9 yo, drinking at its peak. Clean, wonderful balance, no sign of fading. The second aperitif wine was a Mader Gewurztraminer from Alsace, 13.5% from the vintage of 2020. Nothing wrong at all with the wine if you like that style. Very mouth-filling and noticeable residual sugar. By no means unpleasant, just not my cup of tea.

The luncheon wines. Now the real fun starts! At the outset, my comments relate to the wines as tasted at our table. I heard that on a few tables some of the wines were poor due to bad corks. The old saying that “there is no such thing as a great wine, only a great bottle of wine“, rings loud.

First was a Ch Meyney from St Estephe 2010 vintage 14.5%.  A non-classified Bordeaux wine, but has a good reputation and splendid value for money. This wine was well received by the room, was in good shape and drank well.

Second was the Lindemans 2008 Pyrus blend. I have always enjoyed this wine when fortunate enough to share a bottle. 14%. Cab/Merlot/Malbec. Big sweet fruit, but beginning to show some tiredness. When compared to the Bordeaux blends it lacked balance and elegance. Probably ranked at the bottom of the list. The competition was very hot.

Next on the list was the Ch Du Tertre, a 5th growth from Margaux 13%. I really liked this wine initially, but it faded a bit after an hour or so in the glass. Still a very enjoyable wine with lots of Bordeaux flavours. Drank well.

Wine number 4 was the Ponet-Canet 2002, a 5th growth from Pauliiac 13%. A very fine wine indeed. A large estate of some 80 hectares, producing silky Cab blends for many years with increasing quality year after year. Very popular worldwide, an estate that should be ranked much higher than its 5th Growth status. In the same league as Lynch Bages another 5th growth which deserves promotion. Such prospects appear remote as the French have only ever made one change to the 1855 classifications, by promoting Ch Mouton Rothschild from 2nd to 1st in 1973. They don’t rush things the French! I think this and the following wine were the picks of the litter. In a word superb. Worthy of its growing reputation.

Wine 5 was the epitome of the classic Bordeaux, Ch Leoville Barton. 2002 vintage 12.5%. from St Julien. An esteemed 2nd growth needing no introduction.  A consistent wine, delivering all those classic Bordeaux aromas we have come to know and love. Via the generous nature of some rich mates, I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions and it never fails. Totally reliable.

The final wine was the Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet 1998 13.5%. This has always been in my view a magnificent wine. Perhaps I have just been lucky in getting great bottles! (See Par 3 above) In fact, when compared to a Grange at the same sitting, I have gone for the 707. The wine today had massive fruit and loads of oak. Trouble was that the wine was so big it was unbalanced and just too powerful with the overbearing oak. No elegance here. Sad to say, but I marked this wine down to second last on the list, just ahead of the Pyrus.

The tasting today to me showed the stark comparison between our finest and the best from France in the Cabernet blends. I may be a little unkind to the 707 as it was 4 years senior to the oldest of the French. In any event a terrific afternoon. Many thanks to Chilly.