Archive for October, 2010

Sante, Sula, and Grover – can’t wait to get back

Fairly slim pickings at the end of this week, although we can always rely on our usual friends to throw out a few wines to tempt us. Let’s start with a couple of whites:

2009 / Dry River / Lovat / Martinborough / Gewurtztraminer / S$49 from Wine Exchange Asia – “Gewurtz” is popping up more and more, and why not. This one gets 4.5 stars from Michael Cooper, and can be drunk out to 2013. With a RRP of NZ$39, the pricing here at S$49 is spot on.

2008 / Dry River / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$62 from Wine Exchange Asia – Not cheap are they, these Kiwi chardonnays? But this one at least gets a whacking 96 points from Gourmet Traveller Wine with suggested drinking out to 2016. With a RRP of NZ$52 (not cheap there either!) the BBI reckons it should come in at about S$64. Well, there you go. It’s at S$62 so definitely comparative value.

Now on to the reds:

2008 / Dry River / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$95 at Wine Exchange Asia – At RRP of NZ$82, it would want to be good, and it is. Bob Campbell and Michael Cooper give it 95 points and 5 stars respectively. Drinking out to 2017. The BBI reckons it should be S$95, and bingo! S$95 it is. Spot on pricing, so no gouging here.

2008 / Brick Kiln / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$34.50 by the case from Rubicon Reserve Wines – Just manages to get into the 4.5 star category with James Halliday who gives it 90 points. The Big Red Wine Book gives it 89 points so I’m not expecting an earth-shatterer but the pricing looks about right for a RRP A$18 wine.

2008 / Rolling / Central Ranges (NSW) / Shiraz / S$29.95 from Cold Storage – Yeh, yeh, I know. From Cold Storage. Well, there are some things that don’t change and that is that with the offer from Cold Stoarge (in today’s Today), you’re not told what the vintage is, or the specific wine. So….on the basis that what’s on offer includes the 2008 shiraz, I’m happy to recommend it because the 2008 shiraz gets 4.5 stars from Epicure and 88 points from The Big Red Wine Book. With a RRP of A$18, the pricing is fair indeed.

Whilst you’re contemplating the offers above, spare a thought for me (and the wife) over the next two weeks as we try and rustle up some decent wine to drink in the backblocks of India. It’s not going to be easy, but the sacrifice is worth it. We’re going back to Kerala and surrounds to repeat what we did same time last year, which is to drive ourselves (yes, we drive ourselves!) around the countryside in an Ambassador taxi. Before you laugh yourself silly at the sheer stupidity of it, let me just say that it’s the most fun you can legally have on a public road, period. You can understand why we’re hanging out for a drink at the end of the day though. Have a look at and book yourself in for next year. You’ll never regret it.

“We are part of an industry that thinks wine is a religion and consumers are there to be converted” – Andrew Caillard writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine, January 2008.

New Zealand Wines – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, pricing that is.

I attended a New Zealand wine tasting on the weekend, billed as a “Twilight Taste Tour”. And a virtual tour it was, from Hawkes Bay through Martinborough and Marlborough and ending up down in Central Otago. To be honest, there were some fairly ordinary wines on offer, with a lot in the 4 star range (OK for some) but quite a few that rated in the 3 to 3.5 star range and even some at 2.5 stars according to the knowledgeable Kiwi raters.  I can’t help but think that some of the Kiwi producers reckon that Singapore is a great place to get rid of that excess stock – cheaper to ship to than the US or UK, and the expats still have money in their pockets. Well, I think they’re wrong.  Ignorance may have been bliss once, but if you can’t shift an ordinary wine in New Zealand at a discount, you sure as hell can’t shift it in Singapore at a premium.

But it wasn’t all “bed” though. There were some truly wicked wines to try and I’ve listed them here in varietal order for a change so you can make your own direct comparison. It’s a pity that I didn’t get the chance to try them all but we only had three hours!

Let’s kick off with a pinot gris:

2008 / Bald Hills / Pigeon Rocks / Central Otago / Pinot Gris / S$38.80 from Le Vigne – A refreshing change from sauvignon blanc. Bob Campbell gives it 90 points and with a RRP of NZ$25, the pricing here is about right.

A couple of rieslings, the emerging variety from New Zealand:

2009 / Misha’s Vineyard / Limelight / Central Otago / Riesling / S$39 from Rubicon Reserve Wines – I’m a big fan of Misha’s Vineyard, not just because of the great wines but also because anyone that puts as much effort and passion into their business as Misha does, deserves our support. Bob Campbell gives this wine 93 points and with a RRP of NZ$25, and at S$39 it too fits within the BBI (Bastard Box Index) for fair comparative value.

2007 / Amisfield / Lowburn Terrace / Central Otago / Riesling / S$60 from Wines Online – Frankly, I don’t understand the pricing on this one. S$60 for a Kiwi riesling puts it way above anything else from down under, including those fantastic Clare Valley rieslings. It’s S$15 above Grosset Polish Hill!  Good luck guys. With a RRP of NZ$35, my BBI reckons that a fair price for this would be around S$46. Which is a pity, because this wine is rated 96 points by Gourmet Traveller Wine.

It wouldn’t be a New Zealand review without a couple of sauvignon blancs, and they’re both from the same maker:

2008 / Terravin / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$37 from Terravin Singapore – A solid 4.5 star sauvignon blanc. Gourmet Traveller Wine gave it 4.5 stars and Bob Campbell gives it 91 points. Even though it’s a 2008, it’s suggested that it will drink out to 2012. And, thankfully with a RRP of NZ$25, the pricing is spot on.

2008 / Terravin / Te Ahu / Marlborough / S$52 from Terravin Singapore – This is one of those “branded wines” but it’s a sauvignon blanc, and a good one. Decanter Magazine gave it 18 points and suggested drinking to 2011. Sells in the UK for GBP18 and with a RRP of NZ$36, it just sneaks inside the BBI for value. Just.

And so on to chardonnay. Does New Zealand make chardonnay? Apparently:

2007 / Vidal / Reserve / Hawke’s Bay / Chardonnay / S$55 from Wine Guru – Wine Estate Magazine liked this giving it 5 stars. Nice wine then, pity about the price. My info tells me that this sells for NZ$30 locally, meaning the BBI would put it at around S$41 max for value. It isn’t, it’s at S$55 so I’ll pass. Again, pity.

OK, let’s get into the proper stuff. Pinot Noir:

2007 / Auntsfield / Hawk Hill / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$52 from Rubicon Reserve Wines – 5 stars from Gourmet Traveller Wine, and recommended drinking out to 2015. And decent pricing thankfully. With a RRP of NZ$40, this should come in at about S$52. Snap! Well done guys, so no excuses for passing up on this one.

2007 / Vynfields / Reserve / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$60 from Rev Distribution – This is probably the pick of the bunch value wise. Rated 5 stars by Michael Cooper and with a RRP of NZ$49, this is a no-brainer. Get some.

2007 / Domain Road / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$61.20 from Booze Wine Shop – Damn. Just when we were on a roll for value. RRP NZ$35, BBI says it should be about S$46. Oh, well. Wine Estate reckons it’s a 4.5 star wine.

2007 / Bald Hills / Single Vineyard / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$66 from Le Vigne – I’m assuming you’ll get 10% off for cash or cheque so the pricing then slips inside my BBI. It’s a good, solid wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine giving it 92 points, Bob Campbell 90 points, and Michael Cooper 4.5 stars. Drinking out to 2016. RRP NZ$44. A personal favourite.

2008 / Amisfield / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$84 from Wines Online – Let’s give you the good news first. This is another good, solid pinot noir. Michael Cooper 4.5 stars, Bob Campbell 93 points, Wine Spectator 93 points and drinking to 2017. But this is where it starts to get ugly. RRP NZ$40. That’s NZ$9 less than the Vynfields but asking price is S$24 more. Don’t ask me, I’m just the consumer. As they so often say in Australia and New Zealand….bugger.

Does New Zealand make other reds? Apparently;

2007 / Vidal / Hawke’s Bay / Syrah / S$51 from Wine Guru – Michael Cooper gave it 4.5 stars but Gourmet Traveller Wine only 87 points. With a RRP of NZ$25, I won’t be tempted at S$51.

And finally, some stickies just in time for Xmas:

2007 / Seifried / Winemakers Collection Ice Wine / Nelson / 375ml/ Riesling / S$39.90 from Le Vigne – This wine won the Decanter International Trophy for NZ sweet wines and is rated 18 points by them standalone. Retails for about NZ$27. Seifried is another personal favourite so I’ll be getting some of this.

2006 / Terravin / Noble / Marlborough / 375ml / Sauvignon Blanc / S$49 from Terravin Singapore – Michael Cooper 5 stars, end of story. RRP NZ$48, end of story. Get some.

Do you remember the first time you had Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc? I do. I was working for an investment bank in Wellington in 1988 and one of the young whipper-snappers introduced me to it over lunch (it was the 80s after all) and I can remember the impact. Blown away, just blown away.  Well, Cloudy Bay has just celebrated its 25th birthday and must be one of New Zealand’s greatest exports that hasn’t yet been claimed by Australia. Congratulations.

“Other places [than New Zealand] make Chardonnay much better. White Burgundy is one of the world’s great wines; is it enough to say you make it ‘nearly’ as well”? – Rosemary George MW, Regional Chair for New Zealand at the Decanter World Wine Awards, as quoted in Decanter June 2010.


There are sales, and then there are sales.

Wine Directions has a sale at Extra Space this coming Saturday and I’ve already favourably reviewed some of their offerings. I’d call it a sale.

But there’s another “one-day” sale on Saturday across town. Now, I have to confess that I failed mathematics at school, so my ability to deal with complex numbers is limited at best. That’s why I have trouble subtracting 15, 20 or even 40% off the recommended retail price and still coming up with a sale price that seems to be higher than normal selling price for others.  I guess it’s probably crystal clear to the more numerically minded amongst you, so perhaps one day you can explain it to me.

Here’s what I’m struggling with:

2009 / Grosset / Polish Hill / Clare Valley / Riesling / Sale price S$55.25…….. but it’s for sale at S$46 elsewhere in Singapore

2008 / Ata Rangi / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / Sale price  S$82.45……but you must know if you’ve been following my blog that you can get it retail (yes, at a real shop with real people, not just on-line) for S$69.

2009 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$43.35…..but you’ll find it at S$35 if you look around.

You see my problem. I never did understand just how things added up.

Speaking of sales though, I saw this headline in an e-mail that lobbed on my computer. “Save up to $1,000 a dozen” – must surely be one of those 2009 Bordeaux  offers I thought – but no. It’s for a $24.99 wine! Yep, that’s right, a $24.99 wine. Well it is now at least. I’m talking of the 2008 The Colonial Estate Émigré Barossa Valley GSM which sold (or maybe that should be, was offered for sale) in the US for US$85 a bottle and typically gained a Robert Parker rating around 94 points. Ouch!

Now before you get too excited, that’s the price on offer in Australia at

And whilst were on the subject of things adding up, can you figure this out? Last year there was I am told around 100 million cases of unsold wine languishing in Australia. It’s quite rightly been labelled a wine glut. So, according to a recently conducted survey, the 2010 South Australian Wine Grape Utilization and Pricing Survey to be precise, growers are planning to INCREASE production by between 150,000 to 830,000 tonnes next year. There’s those damn numbers again confusing the hell out of me. I thought the answer would be to subtract, but it seems the answer is to add.

A couple of tempters from Epsilon Wine Resources (

1999 / Elderton / Command / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$92

2000 / Elderton / Command / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$90

I’m a big fan of Elderton’s premier wine. Yes, it can be at bit variable, but isn’t that what people say they want instead of sameness year after year?  You’ll find a Command is always in my cellar, and these two years, whilst not the greatest, would still find a place. Jeremy Oliver rates the ’99 at 90 points and suggests that it might have been at it’s best a couple of years ago. The ’00 he rates at 93 points with drinking out to 2012+.  If you find Command under S$100 bucks these days, it’s worth trying.

“Wine is mostly a pleasant-tasting liquid soporific and/or stimulant. It is not a religion, a branch of philosophy, a sacred repository of human knowledge, or better than sex (except for Central Otago pinot noir). “ – Morris Gleitzman writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine, January 2008


If you think owning a vineyard is all beer (!) and skittles, think again

Just reading that Otuwhero Estate Wines in Awatere Valley in New Zealand has gone into receivership and that Gravitas in Marlborough, already in receivership, failed to sell at auction recently.

But spare a thought for the French vignerons that had their crops stolen. Have a look at

On a brighter note, Wine Directions is having another Warehouse Wine Fair this coming Saturday between 13:00 to 17:30 at Extra Space in Boon Keng Road.  Have a look at

I’ve picked a couple of deals that should prick your interest.

2006 / Trentham Estate / Mornington Peninsula / Pinot Noir / S$30 – James Halliday rates at 92 points and suggests drinking out to 2013. RRP in Australia is A$30. With the way the Aussie is heading, you may rue the day you didn’t buy a 92 point pinot for S$30.

2007 / Fermoy Estate / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$32 – The Big Red Wine Book lists this at 92 points and James Halliday gives it 93. They both agree that it’s drinking from now to 2017. 14% alc. RRP A$30. This is terrific comparative value.

Epsilon Wines ( has some interesting older wines available. Best to check with them on current availability but I picked a couple for review.

1999 / Domaine A / Tasmania / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$72 – As a label, Langton’s has listed Domaine A in their “Excellent” category. I’ve had a few Domaine A cabernets over the years and have generally been pretty impressed. I could only turn up one rating on this older vintage, Jeremy Oliver giving it 90 points and most importantly suggesting that it should be drunk within the next couple of year (2011+ was the actual guide).  Not much point in comparing retail price at release (which I think was around A$60) so it’s a case of deciding whether S$72 is fair value. My research shows that it is.

2000 / Domaine A / Tasmania / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$72 – This one seems to be the better of the two according to the raters. Jeremy Oliver gave it 96 points and James Halliday gave it 94 points when he rated it back in 2006. Drinking range is from 2012 to 2015 (Halliday) or 2020 (Oliver). It was A$60 on release but I see it was recently offered in Australia at A$70 but it’s now “out of stock” so the S$72 price looks attractive again.

The last drop:

“A 100-point score from Robert Parker will sell out a wine at almost any price, but it is a niche market that appears to be followed by disciples of architecture and rocketry. Americans build everything big, so why wouldn’t they want an Empire State Building or Saturn V in wine?” – Andrew Caillard, MW writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine , January 2008

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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