Archive for September, 2010

Just what you need for Xmas, not – the Aussie/Singapore dollar rate at 1.2750

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet with the postings. Call it Singapore F1 GP hangover. What a terrific event, a solid win for Alonso and a great result for Mark Webber. We had guests for the GP as usual and managed to get around to quite a number of casual eating places, but I thought I’d give a plug to two in particular because (at the time of writing), neither of them charge corkage and what a bonus that is these days. They’re both in Frankel Avenue out Siglap way. The first is Baba Inn serving peranakan style food, and the second is Gourmet Plus serving international food. They’re not “die, die, must try”, but I can forgive a little if I can take my own bottle and not have to pay S$20 -$30 extra just for the privilege.

Now, to some specials from Wine Exchange Asia. It might pay to give them a ring or visit their website (www.wineexchangeasia.com) to see what’s still available but here’s a couple I picked from their recent specials:

2001 / Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$85 – This wine was A$99 retail on release but that’s a bit academic now. Looking around the rest of the field in Singapore, this looks like a pretty good buy. James Halliday gave it 95 points and suggested drinking out to 2016. Jeremy Oliver gave it 88 points, drinking to 2013. Either way, it’s an icon wine that continuously pops up in many an Australian tasting night.

2002 / Katnook / Prodigy / Coonawarra / Shiraz / S$85 – Ditto for this wine, originally coming on the market at A$100 retail.  No doubt about its standing. Halliday gives it 96 points and Oliver 92 points, with the drinking range still out to 2017 but you can safely drink this wine now too. 14% alc. With the Aussie dollar where it is, I reckon S$85 for a recognized shiraz with a bit of age is going to look a damned good buy in months to come.

You know Xmas is coming when the champagne specials start to appear, and my oh my, haven’t they been appearing with gusto over the last week or so.  There seems to be a concerted effort by the champagne makers and importers to stitch up the festive market by offering exceptional deals. One of our well-informed guests commented that the same thing is happening in Australia. After the “savalanche”, are we going to get a “bubbly flood”?

Anyway, spare a thought for some of the better sparkling producers from down-under who’ll have to battle the French and the rising Aussie dollar. I’ve listed a couple of excellent examples which are currently available from Island Wines (speak with Aaron at  www.islandwines.com.sg)

Yarrabank comes from the stable of the Rathbone Wine Group which includes such notables as Yarra Yering, Mount Langi Ghiran, Yering Station, Xanadu and Parker Coonawarra

2004 / Yarrabank / Cuvee / Yarra Valley / Sparkling / S$45, S$40.50 by the case – Liked across the board by some of the recognized raters. Epicure gives it 5 stars, Halliday gives it 5 stars, and Oliver gives it 92 points. It’s still drinking out to 2012-2013 and the price is a great deal when compared with its Australian equivalent retail price of A$38.  12.50% alc.

2001 / Yarrabank / Late Disgorged / Yarra Valley / Sparkling / S$50, S$45 by the case – Another Halliday favourite with 95 points. This one’s best drunk now and would make a perfect bubbly for the more sophisticated Xmas events coming up.  With a RRP of A$45, the pricing here is excellent indeed. 12.50% alc.

“It used to be cool to say how much you spent on a bottle of wine. Now it’s cool to say how little you spent ” – Cyril Penn, editor of Sonoma Wine Business Monthly quoted in Decanter.

Advertisements

The High Note (Misha’s Vineyard) and the Low Note (Ata Rangi)

No, I’m not about to tell you that I was wrong on the 2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir. I’m still smitten by it.  But, as Joe Friday said “just the facts, ma’am” and that’s what you’re getting here.

Fact –  2008 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir is listed at Cellar Door and Wine Exchange Asia at S$69 per bottle. Same wine, same vintage is listed at S$97 at Crystal Wines. And that’s a fact.

I met Misha Wilkinson in Singapore a while back and her enthusiasm for her wines and the Central Otago region was impressive. I’d planned to do a review some time ago but for some reason, they haven’t popped up on my radar until now. I tracked these down at Rubicon Wines. The pricing is OK rather than great with the case price just slipping into the BBI for value.  For the sake of a few dollars. I’d definitely give them a try.

2009 / Misha’s Vineyard / Limelight / Central Otago / Riesling / S$44.90, S$40.45 by the case – Bob Campbell gives it a solid 93 points.

2008 / Misha’s Vineyard / The High Note / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$64.20, S$57.78 by the case – Bob Campbell 90 points, so a 4.5 star wine.

2009 / Misha’s Vineyard / The Starlet / Central Otago / Sauvignon Blanc / S$44.90, S$40.45 by the case – 92 points by Bob Campbell, and perhaps a nice change from the Marlborough sauvignon blancs at an equivalent price.

It wouldn’t be a posting without a special from Robert Rees at Wine Exchange Asia, one of the most prolific offerers around. Could be gone by the time you read this.

2005 / Cullen / Diana Madeline / Margaret River / Cabernet blend / S$90, S$85 by the half case – How about 97 points by Jeremy Oliver, and 96 points by James Halliday? Nuff’ said. Halliday reckons drink to 2018, Oliver to 2035. The first I can handle, the latter, only through a straw. RRP was A$90 so I reckon the pricing at WEA is spot on.  Great deal, eh? I thought I’d see how it’s priced elsewhere. Try S$140 for the 2006 at Crystal. Or S$145 at Ponti Wine Cellars.

And, “off the shelf” from Cold Storage today:

2009 / Penfolds / Rawsons Retreat / Merlot / S$25.95 – Generally rated around the 3 to 4 star mark, and sells retail in Australia for A$12 but usually sells closer to A$9. So what’s the problem? Well, if you assume that retailers mark up 100% over cost, and that cost included the S$7 (approx) duty, then you automatically add about S$14 to the bottle even though the initial costs starts at around S$10. To me, that’s just dumb value because it means that the duty and its mark-up are the main components of the price. Remember, the duty and its mark-up is S$14 whether the wine starts at S$10 or S$100, so the lower the initial price, the worse the comparative value when it lands here. Just another reason not to drink cheap wine.

If you’re fond of Brown Family Vineyards in New Zealand, and their labels Cape Campbell, Lobster Reef and Cable Station Road, you’re out of luck – they’ve gone into receivership.

And if you want to see how the French buy their wine (?) click the link below:

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/archives/2010/09/new_device_disp.php

We employ the term ‘drunkard’ as synonomous with an excessive consumer of alcoholic beverages, though we never term a glutton as an ‘eatard’, nor do we call a baby a drunkard, although it eats nothing for the first six months of its life.” – O. Mendelsohn, The Earnest Drinker’s Digest, 1945

Pity the poor seller or pity the poor buyer?

My recent post on Gravitas and Caledonia Australia wines suggested you might find them at eWines. Well, seems there’s two “ewines”. One is http://www.ewines.com.sg and the other is http://www.ewineasia.com and they don’t appear to be related.

To be absolutely clear the following wines are available at ewineasia at http://www.ewineasia.com

2006 / Gravitas / Reserve / Marlborough / Chardonnay / S$38, S$35 by the case – Bob Campbell rates it at 93 points and it looks like it sells in New Zealand for around the NZ$30 mark so the buying here is quite good value.

2005 / Gravitas / Hugo’s Delight / Marlborough / 375 ml/ Late Harvest Riesling / S$31.25 or S$29.50 by the case – Here’s another case of confusion. The seller just lists this wine as ‘late harvest Riesling” but I can’t find that Gravitas does any late harvest Riesling other than “Hugo’s Delight”. So with the caveat that it is an assumption, Bob Campbell gives it 93 points and it sells for around NZ$25, so again, good value here.

No confusion in the next lot though. I recently met with a previous work colleague who’s done quite well thank you, and apart from the Porsche 911 Turbo in the garage, he’s looking to finally start building a decent cellar of Australian wines. Mate, if you’re reading this, the next three wines would always find a place in my cellar. These are available at Wine Exchange Asia (limited stock  though) on http://www.wineexchangeasia.com

2007 / Henschke / Keyneton (previously Keyneton Euphonium) / Eden Valley / Shiraz blend / S$60 – Halliday 93 points, drink to 2020, Epicure 4.5 stars, drink to 2015. RRP is A$48 so right on the button for value. Buy it. You won’t be disappointed. By the way, having grown up in South Australia, I should have known how to pronounce this wine. I didn’t. It’s pronounced Kay-nton, not Kie-nton.

2006 / d’Arenberg / The Dead Arm / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$65 – What can I say? Halliday gives it 95 points, drink to 2030, Oliver gives it 95 points, drink to 2026. Robert Parker is a big fan of The Dead Arm giving previous vintages 95 points but I don’t have a rating for the 2006. Wine Estate magazine (which I must admit I don’t follow) gives it 3 stars. You be the judge. Personally, I’d hide this away and not be tempted to drink it before about 2018. The patience will definitely be rewarded.

2003 / Leeuwin Estate / Art Series / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$88 – What can I say, continued? Jeremy Oliver gives it 97 points, Halliday 94, Wine Spectator 4.5 stars, Gourmet Traveller wine 5 stars……and Wine Estate 3 stars. You be the judge, again. Whilst most of the raters agree on the quality, there’s definite disagreement on when it should be drunk. Oliver says from now to 2020, Halliday says “drink now”. I think I’m with Halliday on this one. For what it’s worth, my advice on drinking aged whites (which I love) is several fold. Firstly, get it out of your mind that this is going to taste like a “fresh” recent release. It’s not. Secondly, I always decant my old whites – but not everyone agrees. Thirdly, let it sit a while – don’t be put off by that first drop you put into the glass to test the wine. You’d smell too if you’d been locked up for 7 years. And finally, don’t serve it too cold. You’ll kill any flavours that are trying to escape. Be patient, let the wine open up, and I think you’ll find an enriching experience.

Have a good weekend.

“I believe budding wine mavens can’t get started building their vinous vocabularies soon enough – even before they’re eligible to drink. Toward that end, perhaps wine terms could be introduced at school spelling bees.” – Lettie Teague ‘Speaking of Wine’ Asian Wall Street Journal 3/7/10

The Laird and the larrikins in the wine industry.

Maybe this is the best indicator yet that the world is coming out of recession because Torbreck has just launched what is claimed to be the most expensive Australian wine at release ever. It’s the 2005 Torbreck The Laird Barossa Valley Shiraz and it’s expected to retail at over A$700.  Dave Powell at Torbreck Wines never was the shy and retiring type. I’m a big fan of some of the Torbreck wines, especially The Steading, so I wish them well.

On that note, I read recently that a blind tasting was conducted in which expensive and less expensive wines were served with the expectation that without any label prejudice, expensive wines might not rate as well as if they’d been seen.  Surprise, surprise, it was the cheaper wines that proved more popular. Talk about wine snobbery, only from the reverse end! You take a bunch of people who buy quaffing wine all their lives and ask them their preference when confronted with something they’ve never tasted before. Doh! Of course they’re going to vote for the cheaper wines – it’s what they’re familiar with.

I’m reminded of a sobering lesson that I learnt way back in the early 70s. I was attending a blind tasting of Penfolds at the local liquor store and we moved through the various well-known commercial Penfolds range. Then came a wine that was truly awful – heavy tannins, dry as chalk, and utterly undrinkable. As I tipped my glass into the pot plant, the host asked for comments. Several people waxed lyrically about the structure, the balance, the ageing potential. What rot I thought, and I was about to speak up when the host beamed a smile to the audience and said “congratulations, you picked the latest release Grange”. Those commentators knew a hell of lot more than I did about expensive wines, mainly because at that stage I’d never had a Grange in my life. If you’d asked me to vote on the blind wines, it’s pretty clear where my vote would have gone.

Now lets’ talk about value.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I simply cannot fathom the pricing policies of some wine merchants in Singapore. It’s up to them, it’s their business, and hell, they know a lot more about selling than I do – I’m just a buyer. Let’s make a comparison across three New Zealand pinot noirs. If you’ve been listening, my benchmark outstanding value, die-die-must try pinot is the 2008 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir which you can get for S$69 from Cellar Door or Wine Exchange Asia. Remember that price, and remember that it sells retail in New Zealand for around NZ$65-70.

The next wine in line is from Booze WineShop and it’s the 2007 Domain Road Central Otago Pinot Noir. A fine wine it is too, rated 4.5 stars by WineEstate and 4.5 stars by Michael Cooper. It retails in New Zealand at NZ$35 so where do you think the price might be? Well BBI reckons about S$46. Nup. Put this in your cart and you’ll find it’s pitched right up there against the Ata Rangi at S$68.

But wait, there’s more. Booze also has the 2006 Waipara West North Canterbury Pinot Noir which Michael Cooper rates at 3 stars, and which retails in New Zealand for NZ$26. And where’s it pitched? You guessed it – right up against the Ata Rangi at S$65. BBI reckons a price of around S$37 better reflects what’s asked for it in New Zealand compared to here. Whether you’d want to pay S$37 is another matter, but S$65 when you can get Ata Rangi for S$69? Maybe you do – I don’t.

I guess on the good news front, I calculate that the Australian government gets about A$140 out of each bottle of Torbreck The Laird sold, so I hope they sell heaps – hell knows, the government will need the revenue to pay for all the pork-barrelling going on down under.

The final word……“It’s just a naïve domestic Burgundy without any breeding but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption” – James Thurber, the renowned cartoonist, on wine-speak.

Booze, Bottles & Bottles, and Underground Wines

It must be a challenge coming up with a catchy name for a wine store. Almost as hard as coming up with the name of a wine, like Bastard Box for instance. Maybe that’s where The Big Red Wine Book got it so right. Anyway, to the wines for this weekend……

Booze WineShop

I had a look at Booze’s online offerings for Australian wines (www.booze.com.sg) and found that they list two brands, Penmara and Yatalla Creek. I couldn’t find any data on Yatalla Creek, but Penmara popped up in the ratings from time to time. Here’s what I found:

2007 / Penmara / Reserve / Orange / Shiraz / S$42 – When was the last time you had a wine from Orange? Yes, I thought so. Turns out that they can produce quite a reasonable drop from that area. The Big Red Wine Book gives this wine 92 points and James Halliday gives it 94 points. Not bad at all. Recommended drinking is from now out to about 2018. The RRP is A$20, so to fit within the BBI, the wine should be about S$36, at the outside S$39. It isn’t, so you’ll have to be the judge. 14% alc.

Underground Wines

Have a look at http://www.undergroundwines.com.sg for some interesting Kiwi wines. Here’s one I picked:

2009 / Summerhouse / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30.50 –  To be honest, I don’t know this brand at all, but Michael Cooper does and he gives this particular wine 4.5 stars. It retails for about NZ$22 so Underground’s price is spot on for comparative value. I think the catchphrase for sauvignon blanc should be “drink often, drink early” – have this whilst you’re waiting for the Stonewell (see below) to mature.

Off the shelf – a random selection of wines from shopfront or supermarket  retailers. This time from Bottles & Bottles in Parkway Parade.

2005 / Peter Lehmann / Stonewell / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$98 – OK, so definitely not your quaffing wine then, and nor should it be. The Big Red Wine Book gives it 96 points and James Halliday gives it 94. It’s one to put away for a while with recommended drinking from about 2017 to 2024. If you’re an expat in Singapore on a two-year stint, you’ll need to think about where this wine might end up. For the rest of us who can wait that long, Stonewell has a grand reputation for rewarding patience. My records show that it retails in Australia for around the A$85-A$90 a bottle or A$75 for an on-line case purchase, so Bottles & Bottles price of S$98 for a single bottle purchase looks pretty fair to me. I’m guessing it will come up at the Singapore on-liners somewhat lower too but if you just want one bottle to slip into your grocery bag whilst the boss is not looking, then this might be the place to get it.

Hong Kong auctioned more fine wine than the entire US in the first quarter of 2010. Let’s hope it was all genuine.” – Attributed to ‘A Famous Wine Writer’, Decanter June 2010.

A mixed bag of wines for the long weekend

From Epsilon Wines Resources (eWines), a couple of interesting brands.

2006 / Gravitas / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$40 – Michael Cooper gives it 90 points. RRP is about NZ$37 so pricing here is quite good.

2003 / Caledonia Australis / Gippsland / Chardonnay / S$40.25 – James Halliday gives it a solid 94 points, and suggests drinking by 2011. RRP of A$25 so pricing here is still within the BBI.

From The Cellar Door in VivoCity, some very familiar names.

2008 / Ata Rangi / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$69 – I’ve already raved about this wine when it first became available in Singapore through Wine Exchange Asia (still at the same price of S$69). In case you’ve forgotten, Decanter gave it 18.5 points, The Big Red Wine Book 96 points, Bob Campbell 96 points. For those people who say they don’t take any notice of ratings, I say “really?”. You are going to kick yourself if you don’t get some of this. I’ve seen it at A$80 retail although you can get it for A$60 on-line. I’ve got myself an ample supply given the current financial state of affairs and limited cellar space. If you only buy one decent pinot this year, make it this one. You won’t regret it. 13.5% alc and drinking 2012-2018. Had one at lunch today – delightful!

2008 / Ata Rangi / Craighall / Martinborough /Chardonnay / S$48 – Makes a change from Sauvignon Blanc. Bob Campbell gives it 93 points and it retails for about NZ$38 so the pricing here is right where the BBI would expect it to be.

And here’s a mob of Majellas from Wine Exchange Asia (www.wineexchangeasia.com). Usual caveats apply, i.e. check on the availability as stock moves fast here.

2009 / Majella / Coonawarra / Riesling / S$29.00 – James Halliday rates at 90 points, drinking now to 2018. RRP is A$16 so this price comes in slightly below the BBI so fair buying.

2005 / Majella / The Mallea / Coonawarra / Cabernet Shiraz / S$66 – A wide selection of ratings on this, most in agreement but one dissenter.  Let’s start with those who give it 5 stars – Wine Estate, Gourmet Traveller Wine (in 2008), and James Halliday (96 points). In 2009, Gourmet Traveller Wine gave it 4.5 stars. The dissenter is Jeremy Oliver who gives it only 86 points. You be your own judge. Recommended drinking ranges from 2013 (Oliver) to 2020 (Halliday). Alc 15%. Recommended retail is about A$66 making S$66 a good buy.

2005 / Majella / Coonawarra / Sparkling Shiraz / S$42 – Big fan of decent Australian sparkling shiraz (I did say decent) and have had this before so no qualms in recommending it. I’ve bought a couple of cases. Halliday rates at 93 points drink to 2014, and Epicure rated similarly at 4.5 stars. RRP is A$28 so pricing here is spot on with the BBI level.

2007 / Majella / Coonawarra / Cabernet / S$42 – Halliday liked it a lot giving it 96 points and Wine Estate gave it 5 stars too. It’s a keeper, with potential range out to 2022. A classic Coonawarra. It’s A$35 down under so pricing right in line with the BBI. 14.5% alc.

2008 / Majella / Coonawarra / Caberent / S$40 – Ditto for the 2008, only its S$2 cheaper! Wine Front gave it 94 points and suggest drinking to 2021 too.

2008 / Majella / The Musician / Coonawarra / Cabernet Shiraz / S$29 – Well, now we are talking about a range of opinions, trouble is, it’s the same rater with the different opinion! Halliday gives it 94 points, and Epicure gives it 4.5 stars. So far so good. Wine Estate gives it 3 stars, and then 4 stars. They’re allowed to change their mind I hear you say, but in the same issue of the same magazine? Go figure. Anyway, it’s 14.5% and selling at A$17-A$20 so pricing here is fine.

Off the shelf – wines picked at random in retail stores:

2008 / Elderton / Unoaked / Barossa Valley / Chardonnay / S$25 at Giant – With a RRP of A$13, pricing here is OK but rating is a bit ordinary. Wine Estate gives 3 stars.

“We like to say that Grange has one of the worst wine labels in the world. But we have no plans to change it.” Matt Lane, Penfolds Americas director of wine education.

Nothing over $30 bucks here, and a 94 pointer at less than $21. How low can you go? Try S$13.50!

Continuing with a dissection of the Vineyards Direct liquidation sale and all the caveats that go with that namely, that these are case prices and that they may very well be sold-out now or soon. Get cracking to sam@vineyardsdirect.com.sg if you’re in any way interested. Can’t imagine these prices being repeated any time soon.

2008 / Redheads Studios / Yard Dog / McLaren Vale / White / S$13.50 – Halliday rates at 87, drink to 2011, RRP A$12.50. Forget the quality, (which is still 4 star) look at the price!

2007 / Tahbilk / Nagambie Lakes / Viognier / S$17.90 – Halliday 89, Oliver 89, so almost a 4.5 star wine for under $20 bucks. Drink now, RRP A$19.

2007 / Grant Burge / Summers / Barossa Valley / Chardonnay / S$18.70 – Halliday rates 89 points, drink to 2013. Oliver rates 77 points (ouch!). RRP A$24.

2008 / Trevor Jones / Boots / Eden Valley / Riesling / S$20.50 – Halliday rates at 94 points. Shall I say that again in case you didn’t notice – Halliday rates at 94 points. Drink to 2017, RRP A$17.50.

2008 / Paracombe / Adelaide Hills / Pinot Gris / S$21.00 – Halliday rates 89 points, drink to 2012, RRP A$19.

2007 / Paracombe / Adelaide Hills / Chardonnay / S$22.10 – Halliday 90 points, drink to 2013, RRP A$21.

2006 / Cascabel / Fleurieu / Shiraz / S$23.80 – Halliday 89 points, drink to 2014 with a RRP of A$33.

2006 / Paracombe / Adelaide Hills / Shiraz Viognier / S$23.80 – Halliday rates 92 points, drink to 2014, RRP A$21.

2007 / Paracombe / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / S$24.90 – Halliday 94 points, drink now, RRP A$21.

NV / Grant Burge / Barossa Valley / Sparkling Shiraz Cabernet / S$25.50 – Halliday rates 87 points, RRP A$31.

2006 / Cascabel / McLaren Vale / Monastrell / S$27.80 – James Halliday rates it 88 points but with a RRP of A$44, who’s complaining? Drink to 2013.

2006 / The Colonial Estate / Etranger / Barossa Valley / Cabernet / S$28.30 – Halliday rates 90 points, drink to 2016, RRP A$33.

2007 / The Colonial Estate / Expatria / Barossa Valley / Semillon / S$28.60 – Halliday 91 points, drink to 2013, RRP A$35.

2006 / The Colonial Estate / Eclaireur Old Vine / Barossa Valley / Grenache / S$28.60 – Halliday rates 91 points, drink to 2014, RRP A$33.

——————————————–

Off the shelf – a random selection of wines on sale at various retail outlets. This one from Giant.

NV / Banrock Station / Sparkling White Shiraz / S$30.50 – I can’t find a rating on this wine but I can tell you that you can get it for A$8.95 down under. Big on Mother’s Day I’m guessing. Now, scan up the page and see what else you can get for S$30.50.

“Wine consumption in Asia is increasing four times faster than the world average and is expected to continue in the next five years” – Robert Beynat quoted in the FT, 19-6-10.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 74 other followers

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

Advertisements