The Wizard of Wine Oz Clarke Extravaganza 2015!

Oz Clarke Masterclass at The Assembly Rooms November 2015

After a quick dash through the busy city centre streets of Newcastle, winding our way around shoppers now intent on doing their Christmas shopping with a real sense of purpose, we arrived at The Assembly Rooms with time on our hands to get everything ready for the final event of the day and of Oz’s visit, our How to Taste Wine Masterclass with Oz Clarke.

We could not think of anything better to while away a few hours around mid-day on a Saturday. Forget that shopping, a wine tasting with wine guru Oz Clarke is more like it!

Our guests promptly arrived and were greeted with a sparkling glass of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2010 – fresh red apples jump out amongst fresh baked pastries, this was certainly the way to go! One of England’s finest, and most certainly the estate that pioneered the way for today’s blossoming English (and Welsh) wine industries.

SONY DSCWe had the privilege of being invited to Nyetimber this summer – you can read all about our adventure here

Tapas was served to each of our guests tables so that they could pick at an array of cheeses, meats and other assortments whilst Oz took them through the fab wines that we had lined up.

He began proceedings by demonstrating actually how to begin tasting the wines by using a refined version of what is known to us wine geeks as The Systematic Approach To Tasting. Basically: look, sniff, slosh, slurp and ask: “Do I like this?”

Oz went into some detail about our blossoming English wine industry and how Nyetimber has been a real pioneer. This led nicely onto informing our guests of how sparkling wine is made, and how English wine is made in the very same manner,  using the very same grape varieties and that it was the English who played their part in sparkling wine’s creation in the first place!

In fact, Oz suggested that the climate in the South of England is now better suited to the production of sparkling wine than that of Champagne, and this has led to one or two Champaignois taking the ferry over to Blighty in order to check out potential sites! Things really do seem to have come full-circle!

A Sauvignon Blanc followed, less full-on than the Brancott that we had at last night’s Oz dinner, but still maintained that characteristic fresh green pepper and herbaceous zing. Made by Whitehaven of Marlborough, this family-run operation,  named this wine Mansion House Bay after the cove on Kawau Island just off Auckland where Governor Gorge Grey used to entertain in stately splendour.

Next it was time to compare a Chardonnay, one from the old world, in this case France and the other from the New world, this being Australia.

Oz spoke of how Chardonnay can have a bad tag-line but often folk do not realise that it is the very grape that is used in much of Champagne’s wines and is the only grape variety that is to be found in Chablis, and not to mention most of the fine white Burgundies that are to be had!

Our guests enjoyed comparing the fresh racey Domaine Pico Race Chablis 2014, which had some nutty almond notes due to the time it had spent on its lees (this being dead yeast and other particles leftover in the wine after fermentation, which had purposely been left in the wine for a duration to allow it to develop additional characteristics), alongside d’Arenberg’s The Lucky Lizard 2013.

The latter had more of a rounded feel with less acidity, ripe apple fruit and creamy buttery highlights, and with a touch of oak. 15% of this wine underwent fermentation in French oak barrels, giving it a silky mouthfeel.

Oz explained how Aussie wines have had to adjust themselves to a changing market and consumer trends. Whereas once upon a time, we couldn’t get enough of full-on big oaky wines, the trend nowadays is for something with a bit more elegance albeit without losing that Aussie charm.

Oz Clarke Masterclass Nov 2015

Moving onto our reds, Oz went on to talk about how red wine is made (it’s not just about using red grapes of course!).

We decided to woo our guests with Craggy Range‘s Te Muna Road Pinot Noir. This is a seriously good pinot from Martinborough on the North Island of New Zealand.

Craggy Range were one of the first in the Southern Hemisphere to adopt making single vineyard wines. Hence this wine being aptly named after their Te Muna Vineyard, which contains only Pinot Noir vines. However, the vineyard is sub-divided with up to eight different varietal clones (giving slightly different Pinot Noir nuances), which are then vinified separately prior to careful blending and aged for 9 months in French oak to make this fine wine.

Now it was comparison number two. This time the variety being non-other than the Syrah/Shiraz grape. Again an Old World/New World analogy was used to illustrate perfectly how a single variety can present different characteristics depending on the where it is grown and how the wine is made.

Here we had Domaine Gilles Robin Crozes Hermitage “Papillon” 2014 from the Northern Rhone that displayed black fruits, bramble and cherry spice with a round palate and firm structure matched with a McHenry Hohnen Shiraz 2013 from Margaret River in Western Australia. The latter had rich aromas of of currant muffin, plum, blackberry and smoked ham-hock, tied together with firm but smooth ripe tannins.

David Hohnen is well known in wine circles for once being a part of Cape Mentelle Vineyards (now owned by Champagne house Veuve Cliquot), and  it was he and his family who went on to create Cloudy Bay in New Zealand.

The grand finale to our masterclass and Oz’s epic stay in Newcastle was treating our guests to a glass (or two) of Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes. With neighbours such as Chateau d’Yquem right next door, who could not be impressed by this lush dessert wine and a surprise to many, as dessert wines often get overlooked nowadays though they shouldn’t! Especially not a stunner as this one!

Oz had just enough time to mingle with our guests, sign a few more books and have the odd picture taken before heading of to Central Station and his train to the big smoke.

Wow! What a weekend it has been! Thank you Mr Oz Clarke for entertaining, wining and dining us.

It has been great to hear all the positive feedback from those who attended our events over the weekend and those that helped to set social media alight for us with their wonderful comments and pictures! Thank you!

We would also like to thank our gorgeous partners and sponsors for this event:


Louis Latour Agencies



We would also like to give a big THANK YOU to the Assembly Rooms for their hospitality and making us and our guests feel welcome over the weekend!

Guest Wines are next out and about at Campbells of Leyburn in North Yorkshire – stop by if your in the local vicinity and say hello. We shall have some great English wines for you to taste – a fantastic Christmas present we think!