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Microsoft Wine Guide (1995) Review - ctrl-alt-rees Christmas Special 2022


Microsoft Wine Guide was part of the “Microsoft Home” range, which included (among many others) Microsoft Dogs, Microsoft Gardening, Microsoft Bookshelf and - perhaps most famously - Microsoft Encarta.

So join us as we take the guide for a festive spin - ably lead by our host Oz Clarke - and see what the world of 90s wine had to offer!


Oh hi there - I didn’t hear you come in. Welcome to the ctrl-alt-rees Christmas party! With my good friends Rachel and Sam and my lovely wife Kathryn, and you’ve arrived just in time for the presents.

[Music - The Pogues Feat. Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York]

So earlier this year I stumbled across a piece of software called Microsoft Wine Guide - it’s part of the Microsoft Home range of reference titles from the mid 90s that included Microsoft Dogs, Microsoft Gardening, Microsoft Bookshelf, and, perhaps most famously, Microsoft Encarta.

Anyway, I thought this particular title would make for an excellent thing for a review - what with it covering my favourite subject and all - and that’s what we initially set out to achieve when we all got together to host a traditional 90s Christmas - whatever that is - and record this video.

[Jauntiness intensifies]

On first firing it up we’re greeted by a jaunty little tune and the grinning mug of foremost British superstar wine expert of the 1990s Oz Clarke, and this isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of him either.

“Hi, I’m Oz Clarke, welcome to the Microsoft Wine Guide. I want to show you the glittering showcase of wines the world contains today - and it’s a world that’s open to all of us. It’s no longer necessary to be well travelled or rich or well connected to catch a glimpse of the glorious flavours wine is capable of. There’s never been a better time to be a wine drinker.”

Quite agreed, Oz.

Now, as you might expect from a Microsoft multimedia title from the mid 90s this is pretty comprehensive stuff, with an entire guided tasting for each style of wine (more on that later), and information on glasses, decanting, corkscrews, vine diseases, the various wine producing regions and a whole lot more - all accompanied by video and audio clips of the Ozman himself.

But the section we’re particularly interested in tonight is the wine selector, which can recommend the perfect wine pairing for a pretty wide selection of foods - in fact there are over 6000 wines in total.

Yep, we went out and bought the actual wines. But did we remember to actually review any of them and compare them to Oz’s own notes? No we did not - and I’m pretty sure I can hazard a guess as to why.


So after starting the night with that 90s classic Asti - what else - our first pairing was a Louis Guntrum Riesling.

“I wonder if there’s a Riesling?”

“Oh a Riesling!”

“That would be nice”

“I wonder if we’ve got one in the fridge? Why don’t we have a look!”

“Let’s have a look!”

“Let’s have a look.”

“It’s on the table…”

“Splendid! A fantastic 90s recommendation from Microsoft Wine Guide”


“Let’s see what it’s like!”

Described by the guide as “medium bodied, off-dry, fruit salad, quite sweet but clean finish” a perfect match then for our very 90s starter of prawn cocktail. Thanks Oz!

“The first thing you do when you’re tasting wine is to look at it - now hold the glass by the stem”

It was at this point that Rach discovered Chip’s Challenge…

“I am genuinely enjoying this - I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a game so much”

…a keytar appeared, some cats were fed, and we started pondering the most suitable pairing for our traditional Christmas main course.

“So Sam, have we got any good wines for a traditional Christmas dinner?”

“I think I’ve found the perfect wine!”

“The perfect wine!”

…and that wine was a Babich - that’s Babich - Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand - very progressive for the 90s - “red pepper and passionfruit with gooseberry herbal flavours, dry with fine acidity and a lingering finish.”

So after too many white wines we decided it was high time we tasted a red, and allowed Oz Clarke to whisk us away on a magical tasting tour of Burgundy in France.

“The Pinot Noir is at its most famous in Burgundy in France and that’s a cool wine area”

“Mmmm, beautiful cherry smell and a plum smell but something else as well”

“Swirl it!”

“Hold your glass lower down”



“Swirl it!”

“Move your whole-”

“Swirl it the other way!”

[Music - Kylie Minogue & Iggy Pop - Christmas Wrapping]

And what traditional Christmas meal is complete without a Christmas pudding, and yes, Oz had a recommendation for this one too. De Bortoli Noble one, a botrytized sweet wine from Australia, “deep bronzed gold with intense orange marmalade aromas and flavour, very rich, sweet with increasing complexity with age”.

And it was pretty much chaos by this point so you’ll forgive me for not getting a decent shot of the bottle yet again. But from what I remember it was a nice dessert wine.

“So thank you very much for joining us for the ctrl-alt-rees Christmas special, we’ve had a lot of fun putting this video together, I hope you’ve had a lot of fun watching it.”

“Some fantastic recommendations from Microsoft Wine Guide from 1995.”

“I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and new year, and thank you all so much for your support for the channel sincerely from the bottom of my heart - for the past couple of years - it’s really really appreciated.”

“Hopefully I’ll see you again in 2023! Cheers!”

[Music - Ennio Mano - We Wish You A Merry Christmas]

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