Archive for April, 2010

Shhh, don’t tell anyone

You’re possibly familiar with that ghastly (sorry, in my opinion) travel show where the host constantly chips in with “but wait, here’s a little secret”. Well, at the risk of being ghastly myself, here’s a little secret.

If you want to buy 5 star wines from Australia, i.e. rated 95 points or above, and you don’t want to pay a fortune for them, what variety should you buy? Well, that would be shiraz, wouldn’t it? Wrong.

The great under-recognised wine from down under is – riesling!

The raters love Australian riesling handing out 95+ points with gay abandon. Larry Cherubino from Western Australia, Halliday 97 points. Bay of Fires and Craigow from Tasmania, Grosset, Henschke and Pewsey Vale from Clare and Eden Valleys, all rated 96 points or more by Halliday, Oliver, Wine Spectator and others.

And not one of them over A$45, in fact many fit in the A$25-A$30 category. Gourmet Traveller Wine recently awarded Pewsey Vale Riesling 97 points, and listed it the top wine of its varietal tasting – RRP A$25.

I have a problem of course, and that is that my wife is not a great fan of riesling, no matter where it comes from, so if you’re a riesling fan, call around and we can solve the problems of the world.

I had a quick look at what you can get in Singapore, and here’s what I turned up:

2008 / Grosset / Polish Hill / Clare Valley / Riesling – Wine Spectator rates this at 90 points (4.5 star) and US$44, drinking 2010-2015. Halliday has it at 96 points (5 star) A$44 and drinking 2018-2028. Price in Singapore? Listed at S$45 at either of Wine Exchange or Island Wines. A comparative bargain!

2008 / Grosset / Watervale / Clare Valley/ Riesling – Spectator rates at 90 points again (4.5 star), US$31 and drink 2010-14. Halliday rates at 96 points again, A$36 and drinking 2010-2020. Wine Exchange has this listed at S$40 so no doubting the comparative value.

2008 / Kilikanoon / Mort’s Block / Clare Valley / Riesling – Halliday rates at 95 points (5 star), A$35 and drinking 2010-2020. Wine Exchange has it listed at S$30. Shhhh.

2008 / Frankland Estate / Isolation Ridge / Frankland River / Riesling – Epicure (Ralph Kyte-Powell) rates this wine at 5 stars, whilst Halliday and Gourmet Traveller Wine rate it at 4.5, all of them showing a price of A$28. Crystal Wines have it listed at S$45.60 member price, so whilst not the comparative bargain of the Grosset or Kilikanoon, it still scrapes into my tolerable PPB (price pain barrier).
I’ll keep an eye open for more value top-rating rieslings in Singapore, but in the meantime, happy drinking.


Had a look at Crystal Wines offerings on Alkoomi Wines. I have to admit I’m a regular buyer of wine from Crystal. These offerings don’t excite me, but you be the judge.

2004 / Alkoomi / Frankland River / cabernet / S$50, member S$47.50 – Jeremy Oliver rates this wine at 87 points (4 star) drinking 2012-2016. My research shows it retails in Australia at around A$22 so at S$47.50, it’s beyond my comparative PPB (price pain barrier).

2003 / Alkoomi / Frankland River / shiraz viognier / S$50, member S$47.50 – Jeremy Oliver rates this at 91 points (4.5 star) drinking 2008-2011. Similar RRP in Australia so same PPB.

A word on vintages

It’s a curious thing about buying wine in Singapore that vintages, at least according to some retailers, don’t matter.

That big supermarket chain always comes to mind. Whenever I get their flyer on their wine specials, I chuckle at what they really know (or don’t know) about wine. There’s never any vintage quoted. Oh well, I hear you say, are vintages that important with Australian wine? Too right they are!

Case in point. Jeremy Oliver rates the 2004 Parker Terra Rossa cabernet at 90 points (4.5 star) drinking 2012-2016. He rates the following year at 82 points (3.5 star) drinking 2010-2013. Now, I may not always agree with Jeremy’s ratings but I do like to know what year I’m buying.

My simple solution is not to buy from stores that don’t know, or care about a 2004 versus a 2005 (honest mistakes and omissions aside).

But there’s a worse habit I’ve come across on more than one occasion, and that’s ordering wine of one vintage and being delivered wine of a different vintage. Unacceptable, totally unacceptable. So my advice is to always, always, always check that you got what you ordered. If it’s a different vintage from that which you ordered, and no-one’s asked you to OK that, then send it back. If you feel guilty about that (and you shouldn’t) at the very least ask Bastard Box if there’s a difference in quality between the years (

GST or not to GST?

Started to have a look through Rubicon Wines ( recent specials for sauvignon blanc and my eye caught some wording on the bottom of the page “price before GST”. Hmm.

A quick check of the IRAS website which says “All prices published on a price list must be inclusive of GST” and “the following are not acceptable – prices stated are subject to GST / prices stated are exclusive of GST / prices stated are before GST “

Life’s too short to be bothered with this stuff, so I’ll wait until Rubicon get their prices GST inclusive before reviewing again, otherwise fair comparisons are just too cumbersome.

You be the judge

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand wine pricing in Singapore (and that’s why exists!) but sometimes I get truly flummoxed.

I got a recent promo from Vineyards Direct offering a mixed dozen of 4 each of 2007 shiraz, 2005 cabernet and 2006 merlot all by Penny’s Hill from McLaren Vale at a price of S$576 by the dozen or indicating S$54 each not by the dozen.

I only have specific data on the 2007 Penny’s Hill shiraz which Halliday rates at 90 points (4.5 star) drinking 2010-2020. Fine, but the RRP is shown as A$27 (S$34). My little bit of scouring the internet revealed that the cabernet and the merlot sell in Australia retail at around A$22-A$24. You can apparently get a dozen of the Penny’s Hill shiraz in London for GBP 179 or the equivalent of S$377. So why is Vineyard Direct special price S$576?

You wouldn’t think that Australia was currently “long” (overproduced) 100 million cases of wine, would you?

Kiwi sav blancs

Wine Exchange Asia’s e-mail lobbed in my in-tray today, and knowing that many of you like your Kiwi sav blancs, I thought I’d do a quick check on the two of their specials. Here’s what I found:

2008 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$34.50 by the bottle, S$33 by the case – Gourmet Traveller Wine rates this wine at 92 points (4.5 star) with a RRP in Australia of A$36. S$33 by the case is looking pretty good isn’t it?

2008 / Jackson Estate / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30 – Wine Spectator rated this wine 4.5 stars and said it retailed for USD18. I don’t know what that translates to in terms of real value, but a 4.5 star Kiwi sav blanc for S$30 bucks? Worth a try I’d say.

Sauvignon blanc should be drunk young so I’d think that a 2008 is about as old as you’d want to go, and I’d drink it straight away. Preferably at my place. This week.

Denise’s 2 to Go

Had a look at Denise’s “Two to Go” April specials and found a couple on which I have data. They seem to fall into the category of “what can you get for $25-30 bucks in Singapore” and to that end, there seems to be reasonable value. As usual, you be the judge:

2008 Golding / The Local / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / 2 for S$59 – I have this down as rated 89 points by Halliday (4 star), drink 2010 and a RRP of A$20, so if you’re looking for a good, rather than great Aussie white, then maybe price/quality looks OK.

2007 Heartland / Langhorne Creek / Viognier Pinot Gris / 2 for S$49 – Epicure rated this wine as a 5 star, but Halliday has it at 89 points (4 star), drink 2010 and RRP of A$20, so again at S$24.50 could be worth a punt.

2007 Leeuwin Estate / Prelude / Margaret River / Chardonnay / 2 for S$86 – Wine Spectator rates this at 4.5 stars selling at US$29. Halliday rates it also 4.5 star (94 points), drink 2010-2015, and selling at A$33 so the price in Singapore of S$43 looks acceptable.

James Halliday 100 – Charles Melton Rose

Thought I’d have a look at James Halliday Top 100 Wines (put out in November last year) and see what we could get in Singapore.

First wine off the rack is:

2009 / Charles Melton / Rose of Virginia / Barossa Valley / Rose

Halliday rates this wine at 96 points so in his opinion, a true 5 star wine. Definitely drink now. If you like a bit of variety and don’t mind the occasional rose, then this one looks the goods. Tracked it down to Crystal Wines where they have it listed for S$40.85 versus RRP in Australia of A$23. That would normally put it way past my PPT (price pain threshold) but I guess we’ve got used to paying in the $40 range for a lot of things. If you can find it elsewhere cheaper, let me know, but in the meantime we’ve bought 6 bottles to quaff on those warmer nights when a red is a bit too much.

What is Bastard Box?

Bastard Box is a trademark registered wine from the Upper Goulburn wine growing area in Victoria, Australia. It’s about 2 hours NE of Melbourne and about an hour further on from the Yarra Valley.

The name Bastard Box came about because the trees growing on the property were referred to by the early settlers as just that – bastard box, box being a common name for a type of gum tree. The settlers said the wood was “a bastard to burn” (true) and “a bastard to work with”. The name also happens to fit nicely with my nickname “Box” and well….the rest is history.

Like all great wineries, we’ve started with a label and a name. No wine, just a label and a name. Oh, did I mention we only have 120 vines. Well, last time I looked we had 120, but the wombats might have got to some in the meantime. I’ll keep you posted on our progress towards our first vintage.

Whilst we’re waiting for the vines to bear fruit, I’m using this blog to help people who live in Singapore (like us) make better choices when buying Australian or New Zealand wine in Singapore. “Sticker shock” is an understatement when first venturing into wine stores in Singapore, but with research and help, you CAN buy decent down under wines in Singapore at a decent price. You just have to do your homework.

And that’s where BastardBoxWine comes in.

On a purely random basis, I have a look at what’s being offered and sort out the wheat from the chaff. I’m 100% independent (well, I do rely on my wife to throw some cash my way from time to time), meaning no affiliations with any of the distributors or retailers. The ratings I quote come from reputable sources (James Halliday, Jeremy Oliver etc) so the opinions are not mine, but the data base is.

Best of all, it’s free.

So, if you’re tired of wandering into that Singapore supermarket and paying $30 for a wine that sells at Dan Murphys in Australia for less than $10, tune in to BastardBoxWines on a regular basis and see how you can buy decent wines at a reasonable price, and hopefully lift the quality of your drinking without breaking the bank.


Bastard Box

Viognier in Singapore

2nd April 2010-04-02

A friends birthday coming up and I know that she prefers white wine, and has a soft spot for Yarra Yering Viognier at $126 a bottle. Well she’s a good friend but not at $126 for a “between big years” birthday, so what to get that’s a top drop and available in Singapore?

My first port of call (of course) was my data base and I turned up the following top notch Australian viogniers:

Baillieu Myer 2005 Elgee Park Family Reserve Mornington Peninsula Viognier 38 GTW 5 7/08
By Farr 2005 Geelong Viognier 50 GTW 5 7/08
Heggies Vineyard 2005 Eden Valley Viognier <29 JO 5 2008

Tallis 2006 Dookie Hills Central Victoria Viognier 18 Winestate 5 4/08
Yalumba 2006 The Virgilius Barossa Valley Viognier 44 Epicure 5 2/08
Yalumba 2006 The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier TBA Epicure 5 12/08
Yalumba 2004 The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 45 GTW 5
Yalumba 2008 The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 50 96 JH 5 11/09 2010 2011

I thought I could probably discount the Bailleu Myer in Singapore and stand more hope with Yalumba or By Farr so I headed off in that direction, but without any luck. Hmmm. Let’s see if the Kiwis have anything to offer.


Clayridge 2008 Marlborough Viognier NZD 26 95 GTW 5 5/09 2009 2013
Clos de Ste Anne 2006 Les Arbres Gisborne Viognier NZD 53 Winestate 5 4/08
Millton 2007 Riverpoint Vineyard Gisborne Viognier NZD 29 Winestate 5 8/08
Staete Landt 2007 Marlborough Viognier NZD 36 GTW 5 11/08
Trinity Hill 2006 Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Viognier 29 Winestate 5 12/08
Trinity Hill 2007 375ml Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Noble Viognier 29 Winestate 5 12/08
Trinity Hill 2006 Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Viognier NZD 30 Winestate 5 4/07
Trinity Hill 2006 Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Viognier NZD 30 Winestate 5
TW Estate 2007 Gisborne Viognier NZD 22 Winestate 5 8/08
Villa Maria 2007 Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Hawkes Bay Viognier 39 Winestate 5 12/08

Bugger! Bombed out again. Couldn’t fine any of these available in Singapore. Some of the brands yes, but viognier, no. Looks like I’ll have to try and convince her to have something other than viognier. Stay tuned.

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Wine quotations

"A good bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur

“The unexacting palates of the masses…are content to ask no question [on origin] so long as a florin or half-a-crown will purchase a roomy flagon of strong , full-bodied, fruity wine” – CE Hawker writing in 1907