Archive for August, 2010

Wines from Coonawarra and Barossa Valley of course, but a couple from Kangaroo Island and Tasmania for a change.

Ah, that old Singapore bugbear again. I just ordered some 2007 GSM and was delivered 2008 without being asked about the change. That’s the surest way I know to lose serious customers.  My advice to subscribers is the same as in my post of April 28th. If you order one vintage but get a different one, unless you’re completely happy with the substitute vintage, send it back.

Moving on.

You’ll have to be quick to get this one. Maybe even by the time you’re read this it’ll be gone, but you can always try. It’s at Wine Exchange Asia. (www.wineexchangeasia.com)

2006 / Wynn’s / Black Label / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$45 – Now here’s a stalwart. Every time I’ve been where a bottle of this is opened, especially a bottle with some age on it, everyone shakes their head and says “I can’t believe how good this is for the money”.  So how many ratings do you want? Gourmet Traveller Wine, The Big Red Wine Book, Jeremy Oliver all give it 4.5 stars, and Halliday puts it into the 5 star category. There is difference of opinion on its ageing potential though. Halliday suggests drink by 2016, The Big Red Wine Book by 2019, but Oliver suggest you don’t start until 2018 and then drink it through to 2026. Best get yourself a case, spread your drinking out, and debate the accuracy of the raters over a glass with friends. RRP is A$32 and the BBI is S$45.04. Spot on buying then at S$45. Don’t muck around.

Here’s an interesting selection from Epsilon Wine Resources (www.ewines.com.sg ). With some of these older wines, it becomes a little harder to compare prices unless they are on sale elsewhere in Singapore, as often they are out of stock in Australia. I’ll do my best but please don’t shoot the messenger if they’re a little out!

2001 / Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$96 – The Meshach range should need no explanation so it’s really a case of the year, the cellaring window, and whether you can readily get it here. The 2001 Meshach was (apparently – I don’t have that recorded) rated 95 points by James Halliday but Oliver only gave it 88 points and suggested drinking by 2013. I do know that’s it’s pretty much unavailable in Australia except at auction and the pricing looks about A$85. The normal BBI doesn’t apply either as there’s no way that you’re going to pick this up wholesale in Australia.  The pricing looks about right to me.

2003 / Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$88 – You can still get this in Australia on-line at A$99 and both Halliday and Oliver liked it (90 and 93 points respectively) so it looks the better buy here, with drinking to around 2015 to 2018. 14.5% alc. Pricing looks good compared to the on-line Australia price.

2004 / Cape d’Estaing / Premium / Kangaroo Island / Shiraz / S$45 – OK, I’ve got a confession to make. Even though I grew up in Adelaide, I’ve never been to Kangaroo Island. There’s not a lot of wine that comes from there either, although it is on the rise. Trying to get a rating on this wine proved well nigh impossible but eventually my Robert Parker guide proved its worth and I found it rated at 92 points, drinking 2013 to 2024. I don’t have a retail price on it so I can’t tell you whether S$45 is a good buy or not, but I’ve decided to get some myself anyway, just to try something a bit different. I figure at S$45 and Parker 92, you can’t go too far wrong.

2004 / Stoney Vineyard / Reserve / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / S$42 – Here’s another wine that was dastardly difficult to get a rating on, but for a different reason. You see, there’s Stoney Vineyard in Tasmania and Stoney Rise in Tasmania. Confused? You should be. Turns out that the best place to look for Stoney Vineyard is under Domaine A, the producer where it’s often listed. So, whether it’s Domaine A Stoney Vineyard or just Stoney Vineyard, Halliday gave it 92 points with drinking to 2013.  The RRP was about A$40 but I say “was” because it’s now listed as out of stock down under. Pricing is keen, and I’ve got some of this to try as well. 13.5% alc.

“…although the general run of the English-speaking people rather despise wine-drinking as something effeminate and strange, the top wine-drinking section has elevated it to a matter of aristocratic habit” – O. Mendelsohn, The Earnest Drinker’s Digest, 1945

Maybe the best value wine to date, and maybe the worst

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted, but sometimes you just have to do it.  Noticed that one of the supermarket chains has a sale on wines, including a couple of Australian wines. Fair enough, but let’s look at the pricing. There’s no vintage indicated (what does that tell you?) but the wine I’m looking at is Torbreck Descendant. And a lovely wine it is too. I’m not sure how I’d describe the pricing though. Maybe you can think of your own words.

When I calculate “fair value” for a wine in Singapore (the Bastard Box Index) I assume that the seller is entitled to a 100% mark-up over cost, as that seems to be accepted as an industry guideline. I have no argument with that level of mark-up; people have to make a living. So applying the usual criteria to the Descendant, I see that its RRP is A$135 but you can pick it up at WineStar in Australia for A$120. Now, through a convoluted formula known only to the makers of Coca-Cola and Vegemite, A$120 translates into an expected selling price in Singapore (the BBI again) of about S$117. That’s a fair way short of the price it’s on sale for which wanders in at a staggering S$179 (usual price S$195!). Yep, I reckon that’s a 300% mark-up over cost, and yes, that cost already includes freight and duty and all those other nasties. Now I’m not blaming the supermarket because I don’t know what they’re paying for it, but someone’s making a lot of money.  Just not off me, and hopefully not off you either.

That’s the bad news, here’s the good news.

ewines (their website is up and running on http://www.ewines.com.sg) have quite a few specials on the go but for today I’ve picked out this one.

2007 / Kalleske / Clarrys / Barossa Valley / Grenache Shiraz / S$34 – Epicure gave it 4.5 stars, Jeremy Oliver 91 points and James Halliday 89 points.  Drinking is suggested to 2012 so a good one to buy now, drink now.  With a RRP of A$19-A$20, the Singapore price of S$34 is spot on with where the BBI would expect it to be. A fair deal then.  As to alcohol at 14.5%, I personally find that the grenache blends often seem to handle this alcohol level better than say, straight shiraz.

Just a reminder of Wine Directions sale at Extra Space tomorrow (1:00pm to 5:30pm). I’ve already blogged some of the specials (see post of 24th August) but here’s a sneak preview of some of the other deals, and I’m going to start with what may turn out to be the most stunning value for the year.

2005 / Trentham Estate / Riverland / 375 ml / Noble Taminga / S$19 – A sticky, in case you hadn’t noticed the 375ml bottle. WineEstate and Gourmet Traveller Wine both give it 4.5 stars, Halliday 89 points. It’s a “drink now” sticky, and at least by 2012. 11% alcohol. The RRP – A$16. Now with the low alcohol level and being only 375ml, this wine is going to attract Singapore duty a bit below $3 rather than the usual $7 odd, but even so, at S$19, that’s very keen pricing, and possibly the best comparative value so far this year.  Get some to put on your ice-cream.

2006 / Shottesbrooke / The Eliza / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$40 – Solid ratings, solid value. Epicure give it 5 stars, Halliday gives it 94 points. RRP of A$38 so S$40 is looking pretty good. 14.5% alc. Oh, drinking now to 2019ish.

2006 / Shottesbrooke / The Punch / McLaren Vale / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$40 – Ditto for the cabernet. Halliday rates 93 points, drinking to 2016, alcohol 14%. Same RRP, same value.

2007 / Fermoy Estate / Margaret River / Merlot / S$32 – Halliday likes it giving it 93 points but The Big Red Wine Book thought it a bit too leafy and gave it 88. Drinking to around 2016 and at 14.5% alc. RRP is A$32 and price here is S$32. Say no more.

Are you willing to be convinced?

Also surprising is the belief that our tastebuds pick up different flavours depending on the calendar, with wine best tasted on certain days of the year, coinciding with the rhythm of the lunar cycle. In other words, both humans and the wine are reacting to the moon, changing the way the wine tastes. After numerous taste trials, I’m willing to be convinced” – Will Lyons writing in the Asian Wall Street Journal, August 6-8 2010

Margaret River, Adelaide Hills, Padthaway and………Marlborough

Evelyn Lim at Evespirits (evelyn@evespirits.com) has some good deals on Sandalford, Nepenthe and Browns of Padthaway. Oh, and an obscure wine called Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Here’s the deals:

2009 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$44.90, minimum of 6 bottles – Michael Cooper rates this wine a 5 star, drinking now to 2011. I’ve mentioned before, but Wine Spectator were not quite as enamored with this vintage giving it only 89 points (4 star) and suggest drinking it now. With a RRP of NZ$34, the pricing at Eve’s is right where the BBI would expect it to be, and that means it’s a good deal. How good? Well, you’ll see the wine and this vintage for sale elsewhere in Singapore for S$55.

2007 / Nepenthe / Ithaca / Adelaide Hills / Chardonnay / S$49.90 – I don’t have a point score rating on this vintage, but I can tell you that it was awarded an “International Trophy” by Decanter in October 2009.  With a RRP of A$38, the price of S$49.90 is exactly where the BBI would put it. Well, actually, the BBI put it at $49.92. Can’t get much closer than that.

2008 / Nepenthe / The Good Doctor / Adelaide Hills / Pinot Noir / S$42.90 – This wine has quite a following amongst the locals as a good reliable drop. The Big Red Wine Book gives it 90 points and suggests drinking now to 2013. With the same RRP as the Ithaca chardonnay (A$38), the pricing here is solidly inside my BBI.

2005 / Sandalford / Prendiville Reserve / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$88.80 – Wow. This wine has been rated by every man and his dog. Let’s start with the lowest and work our way up. Jeremy Oliver gives it 91 points, drinking 2013 to 2017+. Decanter magazine and WineEsate magazine each give it 4.5 stars, with Decanter suggesting it be drunk now to 2019.  James Halliday gives it 96 points, and Wine Front gives it 96 points too, and they both agree that it’s best between about 2013 and 2023ish. 14.5% alcohol. With a RRP of A$90, (or GBP40 if you’re over there), the price of S$88.80 is favourably inside my BBI by about $7. I’d say you can’t go wrong.

2008 / Sandalford / Prendiville Reserve / Margaret River / Shiraz / S$88.80 – As far as value goes, same story as the cabernet really, only on this one I only have one rating. Gourmet Traveller Wine gives it 94 points with drinking 2012-2030.

2002 / Browns of Padthaway / The Brigstock / Padthaway / Red Blend (shiraz, cabernet, malbec) / S$59.90 – Like me, something with a bit of age on it. Only one rating on this, from Wine Front who gave it 90 points, drinking 2009-2016 so in its window right now. With a RRP of A$57, it is yet again solidly within my BBI for value.  13.8% alc.

Suggest you put your name on Eve’s mailing list for future specials.

“…I think that alcoholic beverages, sanely and moderately used (as, in fact, the overwhelming majority of people in the world do use them) are, like the Pickwick pen, ‘a boon and a blessing to men’.” – Mendelsohn, The Earnest Drinkers Digest, 1945

Three 90+ pointers at less than $30 bucks

Wine Directions has a sale on this weekend (Saturday 28th August, 1:00pm – 5:30pm) at Extra Space, 301 Boon Keng Road, Kallang. If you punched “favourite” into my GPS, it would take you straight there as I’ve been a regular visitor to Extra Space for Wine Exchange Asia who are also there.  But I digress. I’ve bought from Wine Directions before and found their service pretty reliable. Here’s my first cut of what they’ve got on offer:

2008 / TarraWarra  Estate / Yarra Valley / Pinot Noir / S$27 – That’s a pretty good price for this wine. James Halliday rated it 92 points (4.5 stars) and suggested drinking now to 2014. Gourmet Traveller Wine were not quite so keen giving it 4 stars as did Wine Front, and drinking to 2012, but overall I reckon it’s a safe bet and the pricing is good. RRP is A$22. 14% alc.

2008 / Torzi Matthews / Schist Rock / Eden Valley / Riesling / S$25 – I won’t harp on about the great value that Australian Rieslings are so let’s just have a look at the ratings. Seems just about everyone thinks this is a pretty good wine. Wine Spectator gave it 91 points, James Halliday 92 points, and Epicure 4.5 stars. Common agreement that this is not a stayer (many rieslings are) with recommended drinking now to 2012. For the record it’s 12% alcohol. RRP is A$15-16 so the pricing is keen too.

2010 / Shottesbrooke / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / S$28 – Couldn’t have been in the bottle long! But hey, that’s the way to drink sauvignon blanc. I personally made the mistake of losing a 2002 Vavasour sauvignon blanc in the depths of my cellar (impressed?) and it went down the sink last night. Bugger. Wine Front are first off the block in rating this wine and they give it 90 points with drinking to 2012. With a RRP of A$20, it’s solidly within my BBI. 13% alc.

“The best accompaniment for a bottle of Grange are the pies and pasties from Linke’s bakery in Nuriootpa [in the Barossa Valley]” – attributed to Max Scubert of Grange fame.

A Clare Valley shiraz and fall-out from the Aussie glut.

From The Cellar Door at VivoCity:

2000 / Mitchell / McNicol / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$45 – This looks like a good deal, and something you can drink now or soon. Jeremy Oliver gives it 90 points, drinking 2012-2020, and James Halliday gives it 91 points drinking now to 2013.  The RRP is A$45 so at S$45, that’s keen pricing indeed. I’ve tried some and have no doubts in recommending it as an alternative to Barossa shiraz (well, at least for one night a week).

From eWines:

There are strange things going on in the world of Australian wine.  If you’ve been following what’s been happening in the US, you’ll know that Australian wines are distinctly out of favour there. Add to that, the collapse of one of the key US distributors of Australian wine and you end up with a fair bit of stuff that’s looking for a home. Some of it seems to be finding its way to Singapore, which on the one hand is a good thing, but its not all beer and skittles as they say.

Take The Colonial Estate as an example.  Epsilon Wines (eWines) has three of their 2006 range on offer at S$43, namely the Envoy GSM, the Explorateur Shiraz, and the Etranger Cabernet. Wine Spectator rated these wines as 4.5 stars and The Colonial Estate has been rated favourably by Robert Parker as well. These wines sold for about US$28 which would make a S$43 price tag an excellent buy indeed. James Halliday rated the Explorateur in 2010 and gave it 94 points with drinking to 2016  (alc 14.5%)with a RRP of A$33.

And therein lies the problem. These wines are not selling at A$33 any more but at A$14.99. I know. I’ve just bought some in Australia at that price. So, you’ll have to be the judge.

At RRP A$33, the asking price of S$43 is pretty good by BBI standards. At RRP A$15, the asking price of S$43 is about S$12 above where it might be to fit within the BBI. Probably not a good time to be holding large stocks of “cult” Australian wines that were mainly destined for offshore markets at high prices then.

Here’s the details, and for what its worth, I’ll judge that S$43 at eWines is an acceptable price.

2006 / The Colonial Estate / Envoy / Barossa Valley / Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre / S$43

2006 / The Colonial Estate / Explorateur Old Vine / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$43

2006 / The Colonial Estate / Etranger / Barossa Valley / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$43

Today’s quote: “Hmmm, lovely oak, but I wonder what the grape variety was?” – attributed to American wine writer Bob Thompson.

A wine for the young punters amongst us, methinks – Berrys Bridge

I had a scan through some specials on offer by Epsilon Wine Resources this week. You can e-mail Sandra at Sandra@ewines.com.sg for details and they promise to have their website up and running next week.

A mixed bag with the Shottesbrooke Punch Reserve cabernet and the Henry’s Drive cabernet shiraz priced pretty solidly outside my BBI, but one offering caught my eye.

2002 / Berrys Bridge / Pyrenees / Shiraz / S$45 – This might be a wine for some of you to take a punt on, but you’ll need to be younger than me to do it. James Halliday rated it at 93 points, but here’s the clincher – Halliday, who reviewed the wine in 2006, says “needs 20 years minimum”. Wow! So this wine will start to get ready around 2022, in fact Halliday suggests drinking 2025. There are not too many wines that you need to put aside for so long before even thinking of drinking.  Not unsurprisingly, it has “ultra-powerful tannins”.   Trouble is, come 2025 and the only thing I’ll be drinking will be coming through a straw or a drip. But for the youngsters amongst us, the pricing is keen indeed. RRP was A$64, so at S$45, this is the furthest inside my BBI index by a long way.  Get a bottle for your kid’s 21st!

OK, if you follow Bastard Box, you know there are good deals around, but do you know how bad some are? Two examples:

2008 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir at the right place – S$72 a bottle. At the wrong place? S$97 a bottle. Both on-line suppliers.  A whacking $27 a bottle difference – someone’s coming the raw prawn……

Also 2009 Grossett Polish Hill Riesling – the right place S$46, the wrong place S$65.

I think this one takes the cake though. Unnamed to protect the guilty, but a A$9.99 Australian red on sale for Singapore’s 45th birthday at S$45, down from “usual price” of S$50. Happy birthday.

Let the battle begin – a counterpunch from Cullen, and a short jab from some lesser known Kiwis

I should have known that Robert Rees from Wine Exchange Asia wouldn’t take the recent Kiwi offerings lying down, so he’s come straight back at them with a great offer on sauvignon blanc semillon. Talk about hitting the Kiwis where it hurts!

The counterpunch:

2009 / Cullen / Cullen Vineyard / Margaret River / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$43 by the bottle, S$40 by the case – Epicure rated this wine in May this year and gave it 5 stars with recommended drinking now to 2014. James Halliday’s new 2011 Wine Companion has it rated at 96 points, drinking now to 2015. A top drop then. RRP is A$35 so at S$40 (or S$43) it’s definitely a good buy here.

Check it out at http://www.wineexchangeasia.com

The short jab:

2009 / Summerhouse / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30.50 – Michael Cooper rates this wine at 4.5 stars with a RRP of about NZ$22, so the S$30.50 price is right where I would expect it to be.

2007 / Kina Beach / Reserve / Nelson / Chardonnay / S$44.50 – Another 4.5 stars from Michael Cooper, recommended drinking now to 2015, but with a RRP of NZ$30, this just scrapes inside the BBI for value, but scrape in it does.

Both of the Kiwi wines are listed at Underground Wines (see http://www.undergroundwines.com.sg)

On a BBI countback, the first round goes to the Cullen.

And some more culture……

“And much as Wine has Play’d the Infidel

And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour – well,

I often wonder what the Vintners buy

One half so precious as the goods they sell.” – Fitzgerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

All Blacks beat the Wallabies, and now the Kiwis are scoring tries on wine – great deals on Pegasus Bay and Bilancia

Firstly, an apology, of sorts. I’ve learnt in my 10 over years in Singapore that little stands still and the same can be said for wine buying. Just because you’ve been buying your favourite wine at your favourite place for some time doesn’t mean that’s always going to be the case. Hence the need to grab specials when you can, hence the need for me to tell you about them as soon as they lob, hence the need for these frequent postings. So apologies for the number of postings, but blame the sellers (and tell them to keep it up!). Now, on to the wines.

As an Australian, I learnt a long time ago that if you’re ever in New Zealand when the All Blacks and the Wallabies play, you’re in a no-win situation. If the All Blacks win, it’s going to be pretty miserable. If the All Black’s lose, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Well, this is no time to keep quiet on some terrific specials from The Cellar Door.

2006 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$30 – I have ratings from two sources on this wine. The first is from WineEstate magazine that gives it 4.5 stars and the second is from Michael Cooper who gives it 4.5 stars too, and suggests drinking now to 2013. Looks like the average RRP is NZ$27 so at S$30, this is solid value indeed.

2007 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$30 – Same price, same rating, this time from Bob Campbell (93 points), and the value is the same too. A distinctly good buy.

2006 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Chardonnay / S$37 – Respected across the board. Gourmet Traveller Wine gave it 4.5 stars as did Bob Campbell (91 points). Michael Cooper gives it 5 stars and suggests drinking now to 2014. RRP is NZ$36 so at S$37, what are you waiting for?

2007 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Pinot Noir / S$45 – When most people think of pinot noir from New Zealand, they think Central Otago or Martinborough. No argument from me on that, but here’s one from Waipara (north of Christchurch) that two respected raters give 4.5 stars to. Bob Campbell gives it 94 points and Michael Cooper gives it 4.5 stars, with suggested drinking from now until 2014. With a RRP of NZ$47 against S$45, it’s definitely worth a try.

2006 / Bilancia / Hawke’s Bay / Pinot Grigio / S$29 – Bob Campbell has this rated at 90 points with a RRP of NZ$24. I don’t have a recommended drinking range but I’m guessing that you wouldn’t want to sit on a 2006 pinot grigio.

By the way, Bob Campbell’s ratings can be found on-line at http://www.bobswinereviews.com and Michael Cooper puts out an extensive review of New Zealand wines in his book “Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines” covering over 3,000 wines. I picked up my copy in Melbourne, but if you’re interested in New Zealand wines, it’d be worth keep an eye out for it in Singapore too.

Has buying in Singapore ever been better?

Earlier in the week, there was the Halliday 94 pointer for under S$25. Now there are a couple of 96 pointers from the West that Wine Exchange Asia has on offer. Robert Rees says you’d better be quick on these as supplies are limited, and from my experience, when Robert says that, you’d better believe it! Here’s the deals:

2009 / Howard Park / Great Southern / Riesling / S$41, or S$39 by the case – James Halliday does indeed rate this 96 points in his 2011 Australian Wine Companion (I picked up my copy just today) and suggests this riesling (yes, Australian rieslings can last that long) will go to 2029. With a RRP of A$25, the pricing is right where I would expect it to be.

2008 / Houghton / Wisdom / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$42, or S$40 by the case – Another Halliday 96 pointer with recommended drinking to 2025. The Big Red Wine Book gives it 94 points and suggests drinking 2011 to 2017, so get some to drink early next year and put some aside. RRP is A$32 so the pricing here is solidly within my BBI for value too.

Scouring the second-hand bookshops some time ago (isn’t that something you miss in Singapore?) I picked up a gem of a title that I immediately thought, “bet you wish you’d written that”! It’s called ‘The Earnest Drinker’s Digest’ and was written by O. Mendelsohn and published in Australia in 1945. Here’s a bemusing quote, the first of many.

“……….in Anglo-Saxon countries, alcohol is often taken as an escape and under barbarous legal restrictions, and so men may find it is pleasant to keep up an air of mystery, just like an overgrown belief in Fairyland”

Wills Domain – a 94 pointer for less than S$25!

Denise has an “August Surprises” bin end sale on and this offering from Wills Domain looks excellent value indeed. Denise advise that this wine is available at their Icon Village shop so if you’re in the market for a fruity white at a great price, then this might be the way to go.

2008 / Wills Domain / Margaret River / Semillon Sauvignon Blanc / Under six bottles S$30.50, six or over S$24.50 – James Halliday rates this wine at 94 points and suggests drinking between 2010 to 2014. RRP is A$20 so at S$24.50, this is coming in way under the BBI which would see it still acceptable at up to S$35. Good buying indeed.

And another day, another quote. Can’t argue with this one!

“There are five reasons for drinking: the visit of a friend, present thirst, future thirst, the goodness of the wine, or any other reason.” – Attributed to Pere Sirmond, in the 16th century.


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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