Archive for June, 2010

Pricing – it’s a lucky dip. McHenry Hohnen and Magpie Estate

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I sometimes just cannot work out the logic behind the pricing of some wines in Singapore. Case in point is the two brands listed below in Denise’s GSS (18% of retail) which is still running. At normal retail, the McHenry Hohnen wines look a solid $10-$12 above where I’d expect them to be based on their Australian retail price. With the discount, they just scrape inside my Bastard Box Index for value. The Magpie Estate by comparison looks an outright bargain. S$55.60 for a Parker 92 pointer that retails in Australia for A$55! Go figure.

Here’s the detail:

2008 / McHenry Hohnen / Rocky Road / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$50.68 – I only have one rating on this and that’s by James Halliday who gives it 95 points, and suggests drinking now to 2018. With a RRP of A$36, it just scrapes into the BBI value index.

2006/ McHenry Hohnen / 3 Amigos / Margaret River / Red (Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre) / S$42.48 – Interesting one this. Let’s get the pricing out of the way first. It retails in Australia for A$25, so I can’t figure why it should be S$51.80 at Singapore retail. With the discount bringing it down to S$42.48, it’s an OK price but only just. Variety is the spice of life and we have that here. Halliday rates the wine at 94 points and suggests drinking by 2011. Campbell Mattinson from Wine Front disagrees. Quote “I can drink this but not for over $20”. He gives it 84 points. Ouch!

Now let’s look at the Magpie Estate:

2004 / Magpie Estate / The Election / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$55.60 – No argument on this one, other than how long to keep it. Robert Parker gives it 92+ points, drinking 2012-2027, and Wine Front gives it 94 points, drinking 2010-2020. With a RRP of A$55, this is a steal.

2004 / Magpie Estate / The Gomersal / Barossa Valley / Grenache / S$55.60 – Ditto for this wine. Parker gives it 92 points, Wine Front give it 93 and both agree its drinking now to 2014. With a RRP of A$59 against S$55.60, let’s just hope it’s still in stock.

2005 / Magpie Estate / The Sack / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$36.74 – James Halliday’s not quite so excited by this giving it 89 points, but Robert Parker gives it 91. Again, they both agree that it’s drinking to about 2018. RRP A$30. Impress your friends. Tell them you got a 91 point Parker wine for $37 bucks!

What’s this? – An unrated recommendation from Bastard Box

It doesn’t (and won’t) happen often, but occasionally there’s a wine that I like enough to recommend to you even though it’s unrated, at least by my regular sources. I can’t find a rating by James Halliday, Jeremy Oliver, Campbell Mattinson, Gary Walsh, Ralph Kyte-Powell, or others. As far as I can tell, the winery only gets mentioned once in Halliday’s Wine Companion, and that’s a short entry about the beginning of Small Gully a decade ago. I stumbled on to this wine by seeing it reviewed by Gary Vaynerchuck on his video blog and he was enthusiastic (well, he’s always enthusiastic, but he was enthusiastically positive). His description of it being a mouth-filling fruit bomb has stuck with me ever since, because that’s exactly what it is. A full on fruit bomb that I suspect you’re either going to love or hate because this wine has alcohol. Oh yes, 15.9% of it.

Here’s the details:

2005 / Small Gully / Mr. Black’s Concoction / Barossa Valley / GSM

2006 / Small Gully / Mr. Black’s Concoction / Barossa Valley / Shiraz Viognier

Personally, I prefer the GSM over the shiraz viognier but get some of each and alternate.

You can get it through Wine Directions run by Arjen Blom ( and is currently listed at S$35 a bottle. I have no idea whether that’s a good comparative deal or not but it’s certainly acceptable to me.

Leeuwin Estate – did I mention cult wines?

Still going through Denise’s GSS price list (18% off normal) and had a look at Leeuwin Estate and Lenton Brae.

With Leeuwin Estate, put Art Series in front of the grape and you can put big dollar signs in front of the price. Lovely wines, (the chardonnay regularly gets 97 points) but I can’t make them fit into my BBI, not even close, so forget the Art Series as a possible bargain and have a look instead at:

2008 / Leeuwin Estate / Siblings / Margaret River / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$41.66 – Halliday and Oliver both agree (wow!) at 94 points and drinking now. With a RRP of A$24, it just slips inside my BBI for value.

On a pure value comparison, the Lenton Brae wins out. The prices of these two wines are a good 10% below where I’d expect them to be.

2008 / Lenton Brae / Southside / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$35.92 – A 90 pointer according to Gourmet Traveller Wine, drinking to 2013 and RRP A$24 in Australia.

2007 / Lenton Brae / Wilyabrup / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$56.41 – Usual lowest to highest – Jeremy Oliver gives it 89 points, Gourmet Traveller Wine gives it 91 points, and James Halliday gives it 95 points. All agree it’s drinking to about 2015/2016, and with a RRP of A$45, this is good buying.

Turkey Flat specials – and a distinct difference of opinion

Wine Exchange Asia ( are running a special on Turkey Flat right now, in particular promoting the 2010 Rose, which Robert Rees quite rightly says hasn’t been rated yet, and quite rightly says that previous vintages have been stunners. But with no rating yet, Bastard Box can’t comment other than to say that the price at S$29 (S$27 by the case) looks good, and I’m a big fan of Turkey Flat Rose having just bought up the last stock of their 2008.

Here’s my review of other Turkey Flat offerings at Wine Exchange Asia:

2009 / Turkey Flat / Butchers Block / Barossa Valley / White / S$35, S$32 by the case – Epicure liked this wine giving it 4.5 stars (90-94 points) and Wine Front gave it 89 points, with drinking to about 2012. With a RRP of A$24, the S$35 price comes well under my BBI and represents solid value.

2006 / Turkey Flat / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$49 – This wine really threw me, partly because of the mixed bag of ratings, and partly because of Wine Exhange Asia’s pricing. Let’s deal with the ratings first and we’ll start with the lowest and work up to the highest. Jeremy Oliver gives it 89 points, drinking 2011-2014. Wine Front gives it 91 points drinking 2009-2015. Robert Parker gives it 91 points drinking 2012-2026, and finally James Halliday gives it 96 points drinking to 2026. That’s a real mixed bag ain’t it? I guess you’ll have to be your own judge.

I have it listed with a RRP of A$45 so when I saw the Singapore price of S$49 I thought, hang on, I’ve made a mistake in my data. I checked my favourite Australian distributor’s website and sure enough, it WAS listed at A$45 but they’ve sold out. I reckon this wine could legitimately sell in Singapore at S$60 odd and still be comparative value with Australian retail. At S$49, it’s a bargain if you believe Parker or Halliday, and makes of mockery of the inflated prices for so-called cult wines. Good on’ya Robert!

Kaesler at Denise’s GSS sale

Had a look at the offerings on Kaesler and there’s really only one stand-out value wine and, no surprise to Bastard Box readers, it’s the riesling, but this one’s late harvest.

2009 / Kaesler / Rizza / Barossa Valley / Late Harvest Riesling / S$28.54 – Gary Walsh from Wine Front rates this wine at 90 points (4.5 star), drinking to 2011 and it has a RRP of A$17.

Two other wines are of interest, but they don’t quite make the cut as far as the Bastard Box Index of value goes, although they’re close.

2006 / Kaesler / Stonehorse / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$45.76 – It’s a case of who hasn’t rated this one. WineEstate gives it 4 stars, but everyone else disagrees. Gourmet Traveller Wine gives it 90 points, James Halliday gives it 93, Gary Walsh gives it 90, but wait a minute, Robert Parker gives it 91. They generally agree that it’s drinking to about 2015 although Parker thinks 2020. With A RRP of A$25, it’s priced about S$6 higher than my BBI price, so if you think you can live with an extra six bucks for a 91 pointer Parker, then go for it.

2007 / Kaesler / The Bogan / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$69.54 – This wine has a bit of a following in Singapore and maybe that’s why the pricing is more resilient. My BBI suggest it should be around S$62 so again, if you’re happy not to quibble over eight bucks, go for it. For the record, Gary Walsh rates this wine at 93 points drinking to 2017. RRP A$50.

I’d love to be able to give you a value recommendation on the Old Bastard (the wine, not me) but I can’t. With a price of S$228 before discount, it deserves that I use data for the exact year and I don’t have that yet, and haven’t found it through my usual sources. This Barossa shiraz has a real following in the US where it retails for US$190, and previous vintages have been rated as high as 98 points by Robert Parker. When I get a rating for the 2007, I’ll let you know.

A Bastard Box personal favourite – Peter Rumball Sparkling Shiraz

There used to be a biscuit advert in Australia that went something like this:

If you couldn’t kick a ball, and you couldn’t hold a bat,
And you didn’t know where the Dog on the Tuckerbox was at
Then you wouldn’t be an Aussie
You wouldn’t be true blue
Unless Arnott’s biscuits meant something to you.

Well, another true Aussie icon is sparkling shiraz, and for the benefit of those from colder climes, we’re not talking here of “cold duck” but of proper bottle-fermented shiraz bubbly that can last and last. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we’re still drinking the 1985 Seppelt Show Reserve Sparkling Shiraz (called Sparkling Burgundy in those innocent days), and Jeremy Oliver has the 1998 Leasingham Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz drinking to 2018+ and at 96 points to boot.

The vintage stuff aside, there are two consistently reliable sparkling shiraz that you would always find in my fridge in Australia, and they are Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz and Peter Rumball. I haven’t been able to find the Seppelt in Singapore at a decent price for a long time, but I have found the Peter Rumball, and it’s on special at Top Wines

Here’s the deal:

Top Wines at 33 Temberling Road, 423576 (near Joo Chiat Place) ( are having a “bubbly Saturday” on the 26th June where for a fee of S$33, you can try a range of sparklers – have a look at their website for more details – but the key thing is that by going along, and paying your S$33, you’ll get 33% off the price, including the Peter Rumball. So…….that brings the price of the Peter Rumball down to about S$37.55 which stacks up pretty damn well against a RRP of A$24. Buy a dozen, sample a few wines, amortise the S$33 and you’ll end up paying about S$40 bucks a bottle which is exactly where I would expect the BBI price to be.

Not unsurprisingly, I’ll be stocking my fridge with some.

Glaetzer, Glaymond, Golding and Heartland

Moving through Denise’s GSS specials and had a look at Glaetzer, Glaymond, Golding, and Heartland. I don’t have enough data on Golding to comment, but on the others, I’ve listed them with “best value” first until the prices break through my BBI (Bastard Box Index).

2007 / Heartland / Langhorne Creek / Viognier Pinot Gris / S$31.00 – Epicure give it 5 stars, and at RRP A$16, the price here is right on where I would expect it to be landed and taxed in Singapore.

2007 / Heartland / Langhorne Creek / Dolcetto Lagrein / S$35.10 – In case you’re wondering, it’s a red. Winestate gave it 4 stars. Jeremy Oliver didn’t like it much at all giving it only 83 points but WineFront had it just sneaking into 4.5 stars. They all agree its drinking to about 2012. With a RRP of A$20, the pricing is spot on again.

2006 / Glaymond / El Abuelo / Grenache / S$44.94 – James Halliday rates this wine 92 points, drinking to 2016. The pricing just fits within my BBI.

Maybe it’s because of the less usual varieties that the wines above are best value, because from here on in, the BBI gets blown out of the water. There’s no doubting that the Amon Ra and Bishop from Glaetzer, and the Distinction shiraz from Glaymond are excellent wines. I guess when a wine is rated 97 points by Robert Parker (the 2005 Glaymond Distinction Shiraz) you shouldn’t expect a bargain, and no surprise, you’re not going to get one.

If in doubt, talk with the winemaker, …..and some good deals on Ferngrove

Earlier this year, I bought some 2002 Ashton Hills Sparkling Shiraz for my cellar in Australia. I’m a big fan of aged sparkling shiraz and we’re still drinking 1985 Seppelt Show Reserve. Sure, the odd bottle is a little flat but the blackberries, oh, the blackberries.

I tracked down some Ashton Hills reds and whites in Singapore but they were a bit exxy, so I used the opportunity to ask the retailer when I might drink the 2002 sparkling shiraz. The answer I got was that all sparkling wine should be drunk early and that I shouldn’t hang on to the wine for much longer. Hmm, this just didn’t gell with the fact that the current release is 2002 so I decided to follow up with Ashton Hills direct. No website, so that meant a phone call. Of course, one of the benefits of picking up the phone is that you actually get to speak with a real person, and in this case it was the winemaker himself, Stephen George. His candid response to the advice I had received was “BS” and that the wine would cellar for at least another 10 years.

Denise’s GSS continued……some good buying here.

Don’t ask me why, but some wines just slip under my radar. I can’t remember when I last had a Ferngrove wine from Frankland River in Western Australia, if in fact I ever have. In reviewing Denise’s GSS sale offers, I realise that it’s time I mended my ways. Denise has a swag of Ferngrove on special and what I’ve listed below are all consistently and solidly under my BBI for comparative value.

2007 / Symbols / Shiraz Viognier / S$27.72 – Rated 90 points by Jeremy Oliver, drinking 2009-2012 RRP A$16

2007 / Symbols / Cabernet Merlot / S$26.90 – 90 points by Halliday, 89 points by Oliver, drink to 2012, RRP A$16

2007 / Chardonnay / S$29.36 – 90 points by Halliday, drink to 2012, RRP A$19

2008 / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.36 – Another 90 pointer from Halliday, drink now, RRP A$19

2007 / Shiraz / S$30.18 – Winestate thought it average (4 stars) but Halliday gives it 4.5 (94 points), drinking 2012-2022 RRP A$19

2009 / Cossack / Riesling/ S$36.74 – Epicure gave it 4.5 stars and suggested drinking 2012-2018 with RRP A$23

2007 / Diamond / Chardonnay / S$38.38 – Oliver 90, Halliday 94, how can you go wrong? Drinking to 2013 RRP A$22

2007 / Dragon / Shiraz / S$40.84 – Oliver 92 points, drinking 2012-2015. RRP A$29

2007 / Majestic / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$40.84 – Oliver 93, Halliday 94. What’s stopping you? Drinking 2015-2019+.

2007 / King / Malbec / S$40.84 – Oliver 95! Halliday 94. They just keep getting better. RRP A$29

2005 / The Stirlings / Shiraz Cabernet / S$48.12 – Halliday 94, Gourmet Traveller Wine 4.5 stars drinking now to 2020, RRP A$50. Yes, that’s right A$50.

What a great selection. A bunch of 4-4.5 star wines for sub S$30 and nothing over S$50. Why pay S$21.50 for Little Penguin? On a BBI comparative basis, The Stirlings is the stand out value.

Denise’s GSS sale continues……

Up to K in the list plus a Kiwi. The value on the K1’s is OK rather than startling but still within the BBI of value so definitely worth considering.

K1 by Geoff Hardy / 2007 / Adelaide Hills / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$51.50 – Mixed bag on this one as Winestate rate it at 4 stars, but Halliday gives it 94 points, drinking 2012-2022. RRP is A$35 so just scrapes within the BBI for value.

K1 by Geoff Hardy / 2006 / Adelaide Hills / Merlot / S$51.50 – Halliday has at 92 points, drinking 2010-2016. RRP A$35 too.

K1 by Geoff Hardy / 2006 / Adelaide Hills / Shiraz Viognier / S$35.10 – A 4 star wine according to Winestate and just scrapes into 4.5 stars with Halliday (90 points), drinking 2010-2014. RRP A$18.

K1 by Geoff Hardy / 2007 / Adelaide Hills / Pinot Noir / S$50.68 – 91 points by Halliday, drinking 2010-2014, RRP A$35.

It’s pretty much line ball, but the shiraz viognier just pips the others as the best value of the bunch.

Only one from New Zealand in this review:

CJ Pask / 2005 / Declaration / Hawke’s Bay / Merlot / S$53.14 – Another significant difference of opinion. Winestate give it 3 stars, Gourmet Traveller Wine give it 4.5 stars. Take your pick. Mid range price is about NZ$52 so coming in at S$53.14 makes it a particularly good value buy

Praise the Kiwis

There’s a shop at Auckland Airport that sells T-shirts which say “I barrack for the All Blacks or anyone playing against Australia”. Bunch of losers I say. But there’s one thing you can give the Kiwis and that is they do know how to make a good pinot. OK, a great pinot.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that the 2008 Ata Rangi pinot noir wasn’t a bad deal at around S$80. Robert Reeves from Wine Exchange commented “wait a bit, there’s a better deal coming” and indeed it has.

How good is this?

Ata Rangi / 2008 / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$69 at Wine Exchange Asia – Bob Campbell rates it 96 points and I see it’s selling in NZ at S$71.

But wait, there’s more! If you buy a case from Robert, they’ll throw in a bottle of the 2008 sauvignon blanc which is being sold separately at S$33.

Great start to weekend shopping.

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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