Archive for February, 2011

Bastard Box is devastated – who’d do this for a living?

Arrived at our property at Skyline Road last Friday to find that the 120 vines at Bastard Box are in a very sad state. Just one month ago, the vines were in the prime of health with even the sniff of our first miniscule production. Since then, we’ve been hit by two severe setbacks.

The first, downy mildew. No surprise really given the extraordinary wet conditions. Last Friday was 26 degrees Centigrade, but the humidity must have been close to 100%. Unbearable, and that’s coming from someone who lives in Singapore! The second setback is locusts, Not great swarms of them, but enough of the odd one hatching out of the moist soil to completely strip some vines.

So, no harvest this year. The good news is that as a result of the calamity, I’ve been introduced to a very enthusiastic vigneron, and she’s fairly confident that with proper management, we’ll get our first vintage next year. Oh, and she wants to expand the vines to almost a vineyard!

In the meantime, I’ve been on a spending spree. I picked up a missing year (2008) of James Halliday’s Wine Companion for $4 at a favourite second-hand shop in Yarra Glen, and I picked up for only $5 each, the Complete Book of Australian Wine by Len Evans, The Australian Wine Compendium by James Halliday, and The Great Australian Wine Book by Robert Mayne, all 1985 editions, at our local Library store in Alexandra.

And to top it off, a used wine barrel bearing the stamp “Tonnellerie Sirugue, Nuits St George, France” now sits on our deck and commands that it be the resting place of open bottles, half filled Riedel glasses, scribbles of tasting notes and host to  vigorous debates about terroir, screwcaps, and HoG vs Grange.

Specials in Singapore to resume soon!

“The Stawell [Victoria] region is not productive of gold only; it has great vineyards, and produces exceptionally fine wines. One of these vineyards – the Great Western, owned by Mr. Irving – is regarded as a model. Its product has reputation abroad. It yields a choice champagne and a fine claret, and its hock took a prize in France two or three years ago. The champagne is kept in a maze of passages under ground, cut in the rock, to secure it an even temperature during the three year term required to perfect it. In those vaults I saw 120,000 bottles of champagne. The colony of Victoria has a population of 1,000,000 and those people are said to drink 25,000,000 bottles of champagne per year. The driest community on the earth. The government has lately reduced the duty upon foreign wines. That is one of the unkindnesses of Protection. A man invests years of work and a vast sum of money in a worthy enterprise, upon the faith of existing laws; then the law is changed, and the man is robbed by his own government.” – Mark Twain writing of his visit to Australia in 1895.

Wine at 71 cents a bottle (yes, really) and solid value across the board.

Reviewed offers by Crystal Wines, Wine Connection, Wine Exchange Asia, WineBOS, Eve Spirits, The Cellar Door, Underground Wines, The Local Nose, Singapore Straits Wine Company and Wine Culture.

Thought I’d put in word for a friend’s wine bar. If you’re looking for somewhere to chat over a nice glass of wine without having to put up with tourists or “yobbos” (if you’re Australian, you’ll know what that means) along the Singapore River, then head out to Binjai Park to Taberna Wine Bar and say hello to Ying Hsien Tan. It’s sort of the wine equivalent of an old fashioned bookshop. Comfortable, friendly, and you just know you could waste away a lot of time just wandering through the merchandise.

Have you noticed the creep? A dollar here, a dollar there.  Not surprising really given there’s roughly S$1.29 to A$1. That makes all the wines reviewed today damned good comparative value. There’s not a pricing dud amongst them.

I’ll leave you to make what you will of these statistics from the Wine Export Approval Report, December 2010 by Wine Australia:

In 2010, the average value of bottled wine exported from Australia was A$3.09 per bottle (A$4.12 per litre). The average value of bulk wine exported, most of which goes to the UK, was A$0.94 per litre, i.e. the equivalent of 71 cents per bottle!

Bulk wine shipments to China exceeded bottled wine shipments (30 million litres vs 24 million litres) with white wine being the largest share. Australian bulk wine exports to China grew by 51%.

Sigh. Nothing here for 71 cents!

2008 / Fox Creek / McLaren Vale / Chardonnay / S$30 at Wine Exchange Asia – Halliday gives it 90 points “highly recommended”, Wine Front 90 “very happy with it”, and Winestate 3 stars “good”. Halliday suggests it’ll drink out to 2013 but I’d probably get stuck into it now, just to be on the safe side. RRP of A$17 so the pricing is great value.

2008 / Sticks / Yarra Valley / Chardonnay / S$39 at Wine Culture – I think it says a lot that the wine in this bunch that represents the worst comparative value is actually still good value. The price on this wine is right where the BBI would expect it to be, it just loses out to all the others today. It gets a Halliday “highly recommended” rating, drinking to 2015, and with a RRP of A$20, it’s priced right.

2009 / Sidewood Estate / Adelaide Hills / Pinot Gris / S$49 for 2 at Singapore Straits Wine – One of their “2 for 1” specials for February, and a decent wine to boot. Halliday 91 points “highly recommended”. It’s drinking now, which may be why it’s priced so attractively, but attractive the price really is. RRP A$21.

2009 / Sidewood Estate / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / S$49 for 2 at Singapore Straits Wine – I blogged this last week as outstanding value. OK, the price has gone up by 50 cents a bottle, but no surprise, it’s still outstanding value.

2008 / Fonty’s Pool / Single Vineyard / Pemberton / Merlot / S$33 at Wine Connection – Wine Connections surprises me again – I’ve got my Fonty’s Pool chardonnay so I’ll be trying it soon. This merlot is a pretty good deal. James Halliday rates it 92 “highly recommended” and The Big Red Wine Book says “excellent, get it”. RRP down under is A$22 so great value.

2008 / Rockburn / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$42 at Wine Exchange Asia – This is a well rated Kiwi pinot at a reasonable price, which one can’t always say about New Zealand pinots. Michael Cooper says “excellent” (4 star) and Bob Campbell says “very good”. It’s got few years in it yet and the value here is terrific. RRP NZ$38.

2007 / Nepenthe / Gate Block / Adelaide Hills / Shiraz / S$44.90 at Eve Spirits – “Outstanding” according to James Halliday (94 points), with plenty of cellaring potential to 2020, and quite a bit of alcohol (14.5%). The RRP is $38.90 so yet another “great value” price here. If you’re a Nepenthe regular, this should definitely be worth a try.

2004 / Viking Estate / Grand / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$49 a bottle or S$45 by half case at Wine Exchange Asia – It’s always difficult to work out the comparative value on older wines but this looks to me like a pretty good deal. On release, it was A$35 which would mean the S$ price today was spot on, but this winery caught the attention of Robert Parker and that can drive prices crazy. I reckon it’s worth a punt as Halliday gave it 93 points which is the top end of “highly recommended” and it should last until 2019. 14.5% alc.

On a “bang for your buck” basis, the two Sidewood Estate wines win hands down, with the Rockburn pinot next.

And I thought I was a big spender…….

“I used to spend more than a million dollars a year on wine……..I’ve got about 5,000 top wines and hundreds of thousands of normal wines “ – Julio Iglesias speaking with Lucy Shaw in Decanter, September 2010.


There’s some serious value here – get in before the prices rise

Reviewed offers by Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, Eve Spirits, eWineAsia, Hermitage Wine, Rubicon Reserve Wines, Singapore Straits Wine, The Cellar Door, Underground Wines, Wine Culture & Wine Exchange Asia.

The luck of the reviews today just ended up with a swag of whites, a pink and a solitary red. Swings and roundabouts…..

2005 / Forrest / Bubbles for Brigid / Marlborough / Methode Champenoise / S$39.50 at Underground Wines – This is a wine I think you’d have to ask for in a whisper. I can’t imagine a burly Aussie going up to the counter and seriously asking for a bottle of “Bubbles for Brigid”. But, don’t let the name put you off. Winestate says “very good”, Michael Cooper says “excellent” and Bob Campbell says “very good, above average, but not great”. You’d want to drink it now, and at S$39.50 versus RRP NZ$29, it’s great value.

2007 / Fermoy Estate / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$34 at Epsilon Wines – This is a terrific buy. Halliday 91 “highly recommended” with drinking out to 2015. It retails for A$28. Terrific value here.

2008 / Ata Rangi / Craighall / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$49 at Wine Exchange Asia – Bob Campbell 93 “excellent, top quality”. RRP of NZ$38 so S$49 here is great value.

2008 / Bindi / Composition / Macedon Ranges / Chardonnay / S$62 at Hermitage Wines – Looks like the Ata Rangi and Fermoy Estate might give it a run for its money. Wine Spectator 91 “outstanding” but Jeremey Oliver 88 “top bronze”. It’s currently for sale at A$49 so the price of S$62 looks quite good. It’s just that the Ata Rangi is $13 a bottle less and the Fermoy Estate S$28 less. Drinking to around 2013ish.

2009 / Summerhouse / Marlborough / Gewurtztraminer / S$34 at Underground Wines – Hmmm. Yes well, the comparative value is there when you look at the RRP of NZ$27. It’s just that neither of the two main Kiwi raters get overly excited by it. Michael Cooper 3.5 (“very good”) and Bob Campbell 83 (“average to good”) that seems to justify its price.  Can I tempt you to the Mitchell Riesling for less money?

2009 / Mitchell / Watervale / Riesling / S$29.90 at The Cellar Door – 4.5 stars from Halliday (94 “outstanding”) and Oliver (92 “top silver”) and the potential for a long time in the cellar, 2020 perhaps. Retails for A$22 so S$29.90 is a steal.

2008 / Durvillea / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$25 at Rubicon Reserve Wines – Not the greatest of ratings on this wine, but look at the price. Michael Cooper “very good” and Bob Campbell “average to good”. The local price reflects the target market at NZ$15 so the price here is very, very good. You’d want to drink it now though.

2009 / Nepenthe / Tryst / Adelaide Hills / White / S$29.90 at Eve Spirits – This looks a pretty good deal until you compare it with the Mitchell Watervale Riesling. This one’s  “highly recommended” by Halliday but its retail price starts at A$15 but ends up the same as the Mitchell at S$29.90. Surely that’s reason enough to try the Riesling? If you’re not tempted by the Riesling , this deal is still pretty good. Drink by 2012.

2010 / Esk Valley / Hawkes Bay / Rose / S$35.50 at The Cellar Door – Michael Cooper reckons that Esk Valley makes the best rose in New Zealand. Not this specific vintage, but in general. Bob Campbell reckons this vintage is “above average” and with a RRP of NZ$24, the buying here is great value.

2008 / Tarras / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$53.50 at Hermitage Wines or S$42 at Wine Exchange Asia.  Not the greatest pinot to come out of Central Otago, but pretty solid all the same. Michael Cooper 4 (“excellent”) and Bob Campbell 84 (“good”), and drinking to 2016.  With a RRP of around NZ$33-34 the value is pretty much where the BBI would expect it to be if you buy from Hermitage Wines, but at S$42 at Wine Exchange Asia for the same wine, it’s great value…..that is if they’ve still got any.

My BBI value picks today are the Mitchell Riesling, followed closely by the Fermoy Estate Chardonnay.

Australian chardonnay competes favourably with burgundy (but you knew that anyway). See:

Life’s still too short to drink cheap wine……..

“Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less” –  A 2008 study by American Association of Wine Economists ‘Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?”



A bouquet of sandalwood, tobacco, vanilla……..or Avon?

Reviewed wines on offer by Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, Eve Spirits, Hermitage Wines, Singapore Straits Wine Company, The Cellar Door, Wine Connection, Wine Culture, Wine Exchange Asia, & Wine Universe.

There’s smells, and there’s smells. The one’s I want to talk about today are the one’s that linger, the one’s that stick to you long after the event. Cigar smoke from that crowded bar still in your clothes next morning. The pungent aroma of wet seals after a visit to Cape Palliser where you just had to move close enough for that photo. The lingering aroma of drying prawns after a visit to Kukup, the reminder coming for the next two days every time you open your car door.

And then, there’s perfume.

Why, oh why, do some people wear the strongest possible perfume to wine tastings? You’re in the middle of nosing a wonderful wine in a proper glass (in my case, it was a 1999 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir) when, bang! your olfactory senses are assaulted, interrupted, confused and destroyed for the rest of the evening by an overwhelming  bouquet of fake roses and frangipani. I’ve had this happen more than once at properly defined wine tastings. Makes you wonder what the wearer is there for. And yes, it stuck with us in the taxi like Kukup prawns.

To the offers….all Australian today:

2008 / Fonty’s Pool / Single Vineyard / Pemberton / Chardonnay / S$33 at Wine Connection – Just goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I’ve wandered in to Wine Connection from time to time and not been tempted, but this offer looks great value indeed. The pricing is very attractive (RRP A$22 vs S$33) but it’s the rating that stands out at this price level. James Halliday 96 points which puts it in the “outstanding” category. I’ve ordered some to try.

2008 / Sticks / Yarra Valley / Sauvignon Blanc / S$39 at Wine Culture – This wine has the same rating as the Sidewood (see below) but with another year of age, even more reason to drink now. Not next month, but now.  With an RRP of A$19, the pricing is spot on, but today it’s been trounced by the Sidewood which starts at a similar RRP but ends up S$15 a bottle cheaper.

2009 / Sidewood Estate / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / S$48 for 2 at Singapore Straits Wine Company – You’d want to drink this one straight away, no point in sitting on it at all. Halliday says “highly recommended” (90), and Wine Front says “very happy with it” (88). You should be very happy with the price too as it retails for around A$18. Outstanding comparative value. It’s their January “2 for 1” deal so you might have to twist their arm to still get it at this price.

2005 / Bannockburn / Serre / Geelong / Pinot Noir / S$125.19 at Hermitage Wine – Bit hard to put a BBI value on this one as it’s been around a while but recent pricing in Australia (around A$110) suggests the price here is OK. Both James Halliday and Gourmet Traveller Wine put it in the “outstanding category”.

2008 / Nepenthe / Tryst / Various / Cabernet Blend / S$29.90 at Eve Spirits – Halliday “recommended, above average” (88), drinking to 2013, and with a RRP of A$15, pricing is great value.

2008 / Kaesler / Stonehorse / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$88 for 2 at Singapore Straits Wine Company – This was in their January “2 for 1” offer so check to see if it’s still around.  Halliday “recommended” (89) and Wine Front “very happy with it” (90). RRP is A$15 to A$20ish, so deal here is OK. 15% alc but.

So, if you’re out shopping today, I’d look for the Sidewood Sauvignon Blanc at Singapore Straits Wine Company and the Fonty’s Pool Chardonnay at Wine Connection.

Enjoy that bottle of wine last night did you? Well, you were in good company. According to annual wine production statistics, around 80 million bottles of wine are drunk EVERY DAY around the world.  Glad to see you did your bit.

By the way, the stats for Singapore are 23 million litres of wine a year (Winestate Jul/Aug 2010). That’s 63,000 litres a day. Someone’s doing a lot more than me! Oh, yeh, that’s probably half a million dollars a day in duty too.


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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