Archive for March, 2011

New Zealand 3, Australia Nil……

Reviewed offers by Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, eWineAsia, Rubicon Reserve Wines, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Wine Connection, Wine Culture, Wine Exchange Asia.

You may have read of the planned purchase of Cellarmasters in Australia by Woolworths. Seems it’s stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest. This is just one of the websites that has arisen to counter the fear of market concentration.

The Kiwis:

2009 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc – S$35, S$30 by the case at Wine Exchange Asia – This is a personal favourite of mine but don’t rely on my opinion. Wine Spectator says it’s “very good” (86) but Bob Campbell is more excited giving it “excellent, top quality” (94).  The pricing is pretty stunning as its RRP is NZ$25. By the bottle at S$35 it’s great value, but outstanding value by the case at S$30. There’s really no excuse for not having some of this in your fridge.

2006 / Trinity Hill / Gimblett Gravels / Hawkes Bay / Chardonnay – S$42.90 at The Local Nose or The Cellar Door. This wine is a stunner – Winestate says “excellent, high silver” (4.5), Gourmet Traveller Wine says “outstanding” and Bob Campbell says “absolutely outstanding” (96) and it takes a special wine to get a rating like that out of Bob. It retails for NZ$30 so the price here is great value.

2008 / Wild Earth / Central Otago / Pinot Noir – S$49, S$46 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia.  It’s got to be tough flogging pinot noir from Central Otago when you’re up against names like Felton Road and Bald Hills. This wine does OK, where it gets a “very good” (87) rating from Wine Spectator, and “good” (84) from Bob Campbell. On a comparative basis, the pricing here by Wine Exchange Asia is very keen indeed, it’s just that with a RRP of NZ$42, it seems a little out of its league to start with. Still, you won’t get a Felton Road or Bald Hills in Singapore for forty six bucks, so definitely worth considering.

In this lot, the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc by the case is the best buy, but it only just pips the 96 point Trinity Hill Chardonnay, so best to get a case of each, don’t you think?

The Aussies:

2009/ Bindi / Block Five / Macedon/ Pinot Noir – I don’t have a rating on the 2009 yet, but when I do, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, you might like to consider this – S$152 at Crystal Wines (Member price S$144.40) or S$112 at Wine Exchange Asia. The facts, just the facts.

Not a lot of comparative value in this lot I’m afraid:

2003 / Mitolo / Savitar / McLaren Vale / Shiraz – S$129 at Wine Culture. OK, so it’s an older vintage but it is still available retail at around A$69 (e.g Wine House in Australia). Given that, it’s hard to see how this wine should be over S$90 but if you want it here and now in Singapore, you’ll make your own choice. Oliver “regular gold” (94) and Halliday “outstanding” (95) with general agreement on cellaring to around 2013.

2007 / Sir Paz / Parker Road Bin 8 / Yarra Valley / Shiraz – S$49 at Wine Connection. I’m sorry, I can’t look at the name of this wine without thinking of Sir Les Paterson – it must be word association, but that’s not a pleasant association for any wine seeking credibility. And it has credibility – Halliday gives it “recommended, above average” (89). With a RRP of A$26, the price here gets a BBI of marginal value, but it’s the best BBI of the Aussies reviewed here today. Oh dear.

2005 / Yalumba / The Menzies / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon – S$77 at Epsilon Wines. Well, this wine and this vintage get all the gongs. Jeremy Oliver “regular gold medal” (95), James Halliday “outstanding” (94), Robert Parker “outstanding” (90+), Gourmet Traveller Wine “outstanding” (92), etc. etc. General consensus on cellaring seems to be 2018. Looks like it’s pretty much out of stock down under, but when it was in stock, it was about A$49 meaning it would have been around S$62 under a fair BBI. It’s that case again of “if you like it, you’ll buy it”.

Well, that’s how the cards have fallen this time round. I promised some good deals in my last blog, and there are, but you’ll have to look to the Kiwis for value today.

A way with words:

“You can tell by the way it blossoms on the palate. And by the character of the tannin, reflecting light back on the fruit like glints off chipped mica” – Wine & Spirit magazine tasting notes on 1999 Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz,  October 2005.

Is this a new record for Singapore? – Penfolds Grange at S$820

I think this deserves its own special mention.

Carrefour has listed in today’s Today, 2005 Penfolds Grange at S$820, on sale from U.P. S$890.

Gobsmacked is a word that comes to mind. Or, as we might say down under “tell ‘em they’re dreaming”

Last I heard (and saw), 2005 Grange was selling in Singapore for around the S$520 mark. Wine Exchange Asia certainly had it at that, and maybe they still do. It’s currently on offer in Australia for A$500.

You be the judge, but the BBI doesn’t have a publishable designation for this asking price.

Let us have some wine and women,

mirth and laughter,

Sermons and soda-water

the day after

– Lord Byron

The embarrassment of screwcaps

I know, I know, you’d love to open that Henschke Hill of Grace now under screwcap, but what would your guests think? Oh, the ignominy, oh the embarrassment.

Never fear, the Trudeau screwcap remover is here!

One of the benefits of a 60th birthday is all the fun wine gifts you get, ranging from a stopper that uses, how shall we say, a certain part of a man’s anatomy to seal the bottle, through to the wonderfully silly screwcap remover. It even comes with instructions that tell you to “turn to open the bottle”. How did we ever cope with an instruction-less corkscrew?

The idea it seems, is to hide the fact that you are removing a screwcap by allowing you to display some purpose to the action, muffling the metallic snap as the seal breaks, and then by a devious mechanism that holds the screwcap out of sight in the tool, allowing you to discreetly pop the used screwcap into the nearest bin. Your guests will be none the wiser…..apparently. You can see why I had to have one.

Thank you Peter & Sandra. It’s been a big hit already.

In the same way that car magazines often get criticized for writing about Lamborghinis and Ferraris instead of bread & butter models like BMW, wine magazines get criticized for writing about wines that few can afford, instead of writing about wines like Yellow Tail or Wolf Blass Yellow Label. Well, time to get your pens ready. The wines reviewed here today are definitely not your everyday drinking models.

1997 / Best’s / Thomson Family / Great Western / Shiraz – S$188 or S$178.60 Member Price at Crystal Wines – I’m a great fan of Best’s but I would be wouldn’t I? Highly rated by those who matter, for example Jeremy Oliver gives it a “regular gold medal” 94 point rating, and Wine Front gives it “exceptional” at 97 points. A bit of difference on the cellaring with Oliver giving it 2009+ and Wine Front saying “out to 2027”. So, is it good value? Given the vintage, it’s fair to say that the BBI shouldn’t include an allowance for getting the WET back. On that basis, a direct comparison with recent sales of the wine in Australia shows it in the market at about A$120. If you bought a bottle yourself retail, you’d land it after duty and VAT at around S$165, so S$178 isn’t that far away. At this level of buying though, and with the scarcity of older vintages, it’s probably a bit academic. If you like it, you’ll probably buy it. So, the next question is – is this the best deal for it in Singapore? That I can’t answer, but if you do see it or similar vintages around for less, let me know so we can tell the world.

2006 / Jim Barry / The Armagh / Clare Valley / Shiraz – S$290 at Epsilon Wines – I have fond memories of an Armagh consumed at a restaurant in Arrowtown in Central Otago (Gantreys from memory) in 1993 for about $50. Those were the days. It’s a serious acquisition now. James Halliday gives it “outstanding” and Oliver gives it a “top silver medal”. It’s Jeremy Oliver again who suggests a shorter cellaring (2014+) against Halliday’s 2030, not something that Jeremy is know for. You’ll have to be the judge on the price. I reckon you can still get this retail and get the WET back in which case it should be closer to S$215 than S$290 but you might waste a lot of time tracking it down.  Another case of, if you like it, you’ll probably buy it.

2008 / Man O’War / Ironclad / Waiheke Island / Red Blend – S$66 at Rubicon Reserve Wines – This looks to be a pretty stunning wine, with Gourmet Traveller Wine giving it “outstanding” (95) and Bob Campbell giving it “excellent, top quality” (93). If you’re tired of those big Barossa reds (not me!), then give it a go. RRP is NZ$46 so the price of S$66 is about where the BBI would expect it to be.

I promise that the next blog will be more Morris Minor than Porsche.

“I’ve enjoyed wine without food many times, but I’ve never tasted a wine that was unaccompanied by words” – Lettie Teague ‘Speaking of Wine’ in the Asian Wall Street Journal 3rd July 2010

This sale looks like a sale – Straits Wine Company at Turf City

In recovery mode after a self-imposed grueling schedule of birthday celebrations down under.  Tasted some wonderful wines though, including Penfolds Yattarna, Elderton Command, Henschke Mt Edelstone etc. etc. but the delight was discovering some new favourites. Three that stood out after a lunch in the Yarra Valley included a 2009 Mayer Bloody Hill Chardonnay, a 2008 Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir (ignore the light colour, enjoy the nose and palate), and the 2007 Collector Reserve Shiraz from Canberra. Not wines I’d tried before, but I’ll certainly be seeking them out from now on.

Also three places I can definitely recommend for wining and dining:

Jasmin Restaurant in Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide – rated as one of the best Indian restaurants in Australia and no argument from me on that one. A good selection of reasonably priced wine and fabulous food. Even converted the “steak & chips” mob that attended.  See

Healesville Hotel, in (not surprisingly) Healesville, Yarra Valley – I think our longest lunch ever, beating one at Original Sin several years back that started at 12 and ended at 9:30pm. This one ended at 10:30pm! Thankfully, we were staying at the pub overnight. The hotel focuses on Yarra Valley wines but has a great selection from smaller wineries from across the country (hence the Collector from Canberra). See

Tarrawarra Estate in the Yarra Valley – We’ve driven past this estate for over 25 years and until now, never called in. It’s a stunning place, in terms of the architecture (very swish rammed earth), its Modern Art museum, the setting in a meticulously maintained vineyard and its small but inviting restaurant.  See

Whilst I get my act together, I’ve had a quick look at a couple of the specials from Straits Wine Company’s Wine Warehouse Sale at Turf City (until 24th March), and first impressions are that there’s some pretty good deals here:

2009 / Glaetzer / Amon Ra / Barossa Valley / Shiraz S$88 on “pre-order”.  96+ points from Robert Parker. Say no more. Currently on sale in Australia at RRP of A$90 to A$80 at the online discounters, so the price here of S$88 is very attractive indeed.

2009 / Two Hands / Gnarly Dudes / Barossa Valley / ShirazS$33.  Another good deal as I reckon this could come in at S$10 higher and still make it into the BBI. RRP is A$27. Wine Spectator has it as 93 points (“outstanding”) and Wine Front has it at 89 points (“very happy with it”). Not a long stayer, probably best in the next 3-5 years.

2007 / Peter Lehmann / Weighbridge / Barossa Valley / Cabernet Merlot S$19.90. This is an interesting wine because I can’t find a rating on it anywhere, not even a mention. Maybe the Weighbridge label is for export only, but in any event, Peter Lehmann’s “normal” cab merlot scores around the 87 point, 4 star mark, so I’d be prepared to give this a go at the price.

“I like my pinots to taste like pinots. I don’t want them to be too jammy….or what I call shiraz in drag” – Ariki Hill of Labyrinth wines speaking in Gourmet Traveller Wine in July 2007.

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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