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.

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1 Response to “The Laird and the larrikins in the wine industry.”


  1. 1 Rob September 16, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Another great post. I just saw the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2008 in a shop here near the CBD for $119 … extortion! Its a shame cos this shop has a great range of mostly Aus stuff, but I’ll just presume all their other prices are equally inflated and wont buy from there. In another store I saw the excellent Dalwhinnie 05 Moonambel Shiraz at $69 – I bought it from Wine Exchange Asia for $49 (even WEA says it was a great deal, but still $20 difference??)


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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

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