Love of the French
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Justinian in James Halliday, Wendler on Wine, Wine

Distress that Australia's great wine commentator and educator celebrated his birthday with a selection of French wines ... Born in the wrong year ... Discrimination ... What's wrong with local wines for a well-deserved celebratory toast? ... Gabriel Wendler stirs up a storm in a wine glass ... Epistle to a Burgundian 

Halliday is the name of a bi-monthly wine magazine promoted by Australia's most distinguished wine commentator, James Halliday. It is readily available by subscription. 

In the February-March edition there appeared an article written by the great man describing numerous dinners held to honour his 80th birthday. The magazine article is appropriately titled "Fit for a King".

When I read it I was moved to write to the editor of Halliday and I would like to share it with Justinian's readers who have an interest in these things. 

It was not meant to be critical of the opulence of the dinners - although as someone once said, "everything in moderation including excess" - but rather to vent my curiosity concerning Halliday's irritating preference for French wine over Australian wine at such a milestone birthday celebration. 

Then again, Halliday has always been Burgundy centric. For example,  in his autobiography A Life in Wine (Hardie Grant Books 2012) he describes his introduction to the 1962 La Tache DRC as "the most important vinous milestone of my life - it marked the beginning of a love affair with Burgundy and DRC which remains undiminished".    

As to whether Halliday is too French wine centric - you be the judge.

The  Editor - Halliday Wine Magazine

A fascinating report by James Halliday concerning his episodic 80th birthday celebrations.

However, it was disappointing to note that apart from the predictable, excellent Seppeltsfield Para, some 50 wines served at the Halliday celebration dinners all were French, comprising Champagne, Bordeaux, red and white Burgundy, Sauterne and Cognac.

Is it not perturbing that the undisputed King of Australian wine appreciation, education and promotion celebrating his 80th birthday had one bottle of Australian wine included in an entirely French wine array?

In recognition of Halliday's birth year the selection of 1938 Bordeaux at the dinners must have been of academic interest only. I dare say Halliday's Bordeaux tasting notes are too generous. Halliday knows that during the decade of the 1930's the quality of Bordeaux was mediocre - 1934 the best of an utterly unremarkable decade. Burgundy was better, but not significantly so. Of course, I appreciate it is very difficult to procure Australian wine vintaged in 1938 - although perhaps resting in the museum cellars of Yalumba is a 1930's Riesling, made by Rudi Kronberger, that may have been available.

No doubt Halliday was mindful that had he been born a year earlier, he would have been treated to the great Ch d'Yquem of 1937 rather than the dull 1938 vintage served at one of the birthday dinners.

Hopefully, his next report concerning his birthday celebration dinner(s) will discriminate in favour of wine made in Australia thus avoiding insinuation of a feu de joie to French wine. 

Gabriel Wendler is a Sydney barrister and Justinian's wine correspondent 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (
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