George Brandis Spent $250 In A London Restaurant On Australian House Wines And Billed Taxpayers

Senator George Brandis, Attorney General & Minister for the Arts Getty / Quinn Rooney

When Arts Minister and Attorney-General George Brandis spent $1100 wining and dining “key UK senior arts representatives” at a dinner for four in a posh London restaurant earlier this year, he did his best to be patriotic, ordering three bottles of white by famed NSW family winemakers Tyrrell’s.

Taxpayers picked up the meal’s £627 tab, which included £228 – around $AU408 – on alcohol, but despite the seemingly high cost, no-one can accuse the senator of being profligate, since he essentially ordered an everyday drinking “house” wine. But even by London standards, you could argue he was had paying £43 – about $83 – a bottle for a Hunter Valley wine that costs $25 at a Brisbane pub.

Tyrrell’s Moore’s Creek semillon-sauvignon blanc is “on premise” only – not available to the public – and designed as a house wine for restaurants and pubs. The current vintage is 2014 and it’s made “ready for immediate consumption”. The senator and his three guests enjoyed the 2010 at Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar in the 129-year-old Corinthia Hotel on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place.

It’s “a lively, fresh wine, characterised by the grassy aromas of the sauvignon blanc with clean lemon citrus semillon flavours on the palate,” says Tyrrell’s, a major wine exporter, in its tasting notes. The grapes are sourced from the Hunter and Barossa valleys.

Tyrrell’s says the Moore’s Creek offers “a range of popular taste profiles that are designed to match a vast array of cuisines and food styles”.

A bottle of Moore’s Creek at Brisbane’s Hotel LA in Petrie Terrace would set the Queensland senator back just $25. The minister could take the key British arts representatives on a Captain Cook Cruise around Sydney Harbour and drink the same wine for $39.

Business Insider estimates the wine would cost an Australian restaurant around $10 a bottle. Massimo’s also has Tyrrell’s Old Winery Chardonnay, which sells locally at Dan Murphy’s for $11 – $10.50 by the half dozen – on its wine list for £45 ($86.50) while the only other Australian wine on the list is by 4-star Riverina producer Berton Estate, an Eden Valley chardonnay which sells at cellar door for $17, for £47 ($90).

The Tyrrell’s Old Winery range sells in London bottle shops for less than £7 – around $AU13.

Fairfax Media reported the details of taxpayer-funded dinner today, the result of a freedom of information request by the ALP, who branded the April 4 dinner’s cost as “obscene” coming at a time when treasurer Joe Hockey, called on everyone to do the “heavy lifting” to repair the budget deficit.

A spokesman for Senator Brandis told Fairfax Media “It’s usual practice for senior cabinet ministers to host dinners for important stakeholders within their portfolios.”

Along with three bottles of Tyrrell’s white wine, the group also enjoyed glasses of Laurent-Perrier champagne and a 500ml, £69 bottle of Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine from Tuscany’s famed Chianti region.

In a 2011 review of Massimo’s, The Independent’s Tracey MacLeod concluded:

In keeping with Massimo’s Monopoly board location you need Monopoly money to eat there. We stepped out into the night, in classic foreign-city fashion, knowing we’d probably never return. Not so much the restaurant of your dreams, after all, as the in-your-dreams restaurant.

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