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 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

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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