Unbelievable prices (good and bad) on Kilikanoon and Ata Rangi, and a truly exceptional wine from Seppeltsfield

Blown away, simply blown away.

At very short notice, attended a wine dinner for Kilikanoon wines hosted by Wine Exchange Asia during the week (and yes, to remain independent, I do pay my own way) and so glad we did.  It was a terrific night with Nathan Waks from Kilikanoon generously providing tastings of the higher end of their range, such as their R Reserve shiraz and Attunga shiraz. Those wines are currently listed at A$120 and A$250 apiece down-under so thank you Nathan.  The strategy worked as we bought some!

Kilikanoon is a partner in Seppeltsfield, the fortified arm of the Seppelt group that was split out and sold by Fosters back in 2007. Nathan explained that when they purchased Seppeltsfield, one of the incredible things they got was the ability to provide customers with a bottle of port from any year going back 132 years to 1878. The 100 year-old 1910 Para port is currently on sale and as you’d expect, it’s not cheap. Around A$900-$1,000 for a 375ml bottle, but when you consider that the wine has “lived” through two world wars, the Great Depression, tax collectors, auditors, accountants, and the odd corporate raider, then it’s amazing that a continuous series of vintages is there at all, let alone from 1878.

And so the wine of the night, and one of the wines of my lifetime, was a tiny bottle of  1884 Para port that Nathan just happened to have with him. Yep, 1884 – as thick as treacle but with intense mocha, coffee and raisiny flavours beyond anyone’s expectation. In the early 1970s, we used to visit Seppeltsfield and do the winery tour. That wine was in the barrels then, and was already 90 years old; little did we know that we would be tasting it in Singapore 36 years later.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir at S$110 – do I have any more bids?

Singapore really is a remarkable place for selling wine. Where else would you expect to find the same wine for sale at $69 and $110? Well, the new benchmark price for 2008 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir is S$110 at Oaks Cellars in Tanglin. That’ll take some beating but I won’t declare them the winner just yet. I thought a previous high of S$85 would win, but no.

Just to refresh, the same wine was on special at Cellar Door in VivoCity (and earlier at Wine Exchange Asia) for S$69, and it’s still at Cellar Door at S$72.  “Why so expensive, lah?” elicits the standard reply “oh, it’s the tax and everything”. Well, at 13.5% alcohol, the tax is S$7.08 and the GST is about S$4.50 and that’s the same for Cellar Door too, so I guess the $40 odd difference is well, just “everything”.  Let me know if you can beat this.

Frog wine:

Reading in December’s Decanter about a couple who are suing the UK supermarket Asda for selling them a bottle of Moscatel de Valencia which allegedly contained a decomposing frog. One wag was so unkind as to “blame the incident on the poor judgement of the frog” according to Decanter. “With the wine looking like pond water, it is easy to see how the frog could make the mistake of thinking the bottle was a nice place to be” the magazine quoted.

Off the shelf:

A couple of random picks this week from bricks and mortar retailers:

2007 / Fonty’s Pool / Pemberton / Chardonnay / S$40 from Wine Connection – James Halliday gives it 94 points, suggests drinking out to 2017. With a RRP of A$22, the price here is about right. 13.5% alc.

2008 / Heartland / Stickleback / Langhorne Creek / White / S$49 for 2 from Denise – I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to take a punt on this. Wine Spectator didn’t like it much giving it only 84 points (3.5 stars) and James Halliday could only muster 87 points (4 stars). It had a RRP of A$12 so the BBI would put it at around S$29 a bottle instead of the S$24.50 being asked here, so it’s a balance of price vs quality. If you do buy some, don’t sit on it. I’d drink it straight away. It’s already at the edge of its window if not slightly past. If it hits your button, go for it.

Value (I didn’t say cheap) reds:

2002 / Elderton / Ashmead / Barossa Valley / Cabernet / S$88 from Epsilon Wines – A solid 4.5 star wine from Elderton. Jeremy Oliver gives it 93 points, James Halliday 94 and Robert Parker 92. I know, I know, you don’t follow ratings, but it’s nice to know that three wise men agree.  They don’t agree on cellaring though – Oliver says 2010-2014+, Halliday says out to 2022, and Parker says 2012-2026. Either way, it retailed for A$85 so the price here is attractive.

2006 / Kilikanoon / R Reserve / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$95 from Wine Exchange Asia – Should I just say I bought some and leave it at that? OK, probably not. James Halliday gives it 95 points, and Decanter gives it the equivalent of 4.5 stars.  It’s drinking out to 2025 but Nathan Waks says you can drink it a fair bit earlier (even now) if you double decant and give it plenty of breathing time. I’ll certainly be drinking mine before 2025.  The RRP was A$120 and I see where it’s still for sale in Australia for that although sometimes a little lower. The price on offer here really is outstanding for a wine of this calibre. 15% alc.

2006 / Kilikanoon / Attunga / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$185 from Wine Exchange Asia – I only have one rating for this but it’ll do. Halliday 96 points. Drinking out to 2030 but the advice is the same as for the R Reserve.  Retailing in Australia at A$250 (and still on offer for that at on-line retailers), this is another bargain from Robert at Wine Exchange. 15% alc. Yes, I’ve bought some of this too.

The best comparative value wine in this lot today is the R Reserve.

“Unfortunately, there really isn’t a shortcut to gaining an insight into French wine labels other than through some dedicated tasting, preferably with a wine textbook in hand” – Jane Skilton, MW writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine Jan ‘08

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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