Archive for July, 2011

Not a shiraz or sauvignon blanc in sight

Reviewed wines on offer by Absolute Blizzard, Equatorial Wines, Rubicon Reserve Wines, The Local Nose, Wine Exchange Asia.

Had a pinot noir tasting amongst friends on Saturday night, with the theme being one pinot from any country. It ended up being only a small group (do I need to get more friends?) and the surprising thing was that there wasn’t a single pinot from Australia, New Zealand or France represented. Maybe we’re getting tired of the predictability. The range included California (Sonoma Coast) and South Africa, but the surprise winner on the night was a pinot from Chile (Leyda). Definite similarities with Central Otago but not quite as “in your face” as the Kiwi south-islanders can be. I read recently that “this is South America’s decade” when it comes to wine so it will be fun to see how their wines catch on.

Also attended a blind Aussie/Kiwi pinot punch up last week with the Aussies truly trounced, although it’s fair to say that a quality Aussie pinot can hold its own. The middle of the road stuff is a different story.

So, on to today’s wines, starting not surprisingly with a couple of pinots:

2008 / Wild Earth / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$53, S$49 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – this is a good rather than great wine according to the raters. Wine Spectator gives it 87 points, Bob Campbell 84 points, Michael Cooper 4 stars, and The Age Good Wine Guide 91 points. Campbell said it needs time and that seems fairly safe as it’s drinking out to about 2015. It retails at NZ$40-42 so the price here, especially by the half case, is definitely great value. In fact, on a pure price comparison, it’s the best value of the wines reviewed today.

2009 / Te Kairanga / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$42 at Equatorial Wines – slightly higher rating than the Wild Earth by Bob Campbell (85 points) but with a significantly lower retail price of NZ$21, so much so that Campbell said it is great value in its home market. By the time it gets here though, the value is good rather than great because, even though it’s half the cost of the Wild Earth at home, it creeps up towards the Wild Earth by the time it gets here. So, a good wine, but the value got lost in transit.

2005 / Chapman Grove / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$45, S$40.50 by the dozen at Rubicon Reserve Wines – this should still be drinking OK as James Halliday reckons drink by 2012. He gave it 90 points. It retailed at A$23 so the single bottle price here is OK, but the case price clearly good value.

2006 / Amadio / McLaren Vale / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$39 at Absolute Blizzard Resources – another Halliday 90 pointer drinking out to 2015. With a RRP of A$20, the asking price here is absolutely spot-on with the BBI calculation.

2006 / Zema Estate / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon/ S$42, S$38 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – a Coonawarra cabernet, how could you go wrong? Not with this wine that’s for sure. Halliday gives it a solid 94 points, drinking out to 2016. Like the Wild Earth, both the single bottle price and the half-case price come in under the BBI benchmark. RRP is A$25. The single bottle price is good value, the half-case price is great value. Stop complaining about the price of wine in Singapore and stock up with some of this stuff.

So where does that leave us? On a pure comparative price basis, the Wild Earth is the best buy, but when you factor in the quality as well (as measured by the rating), then the Zema Estate wins. Both from Wine Estate Asia. Are you surprised?


I stumbled onto this ad in the latest Decanter magazine. It reminded me of the great fight that erupted between Australia and France over the use of words such as champagne, methode champenoise and French colombard. Having seen this example, I wonder if Australian wineries might not be able to call their wine “burgundie”, with a phrase on the label that said “this Burgundie is not affiliated with, approved by, endorsed by, or in any way connected to Burgundy in France”. But then again, why bother…..let’s just call it Australia pinot noir.

“It is often said that if a great (and expensive) European wine was sneaked into an Australian wine show, the judges would probably award it nothing!” – Andrew Corrigan writing on different judging styles in Winestate, October 2007

A mixed bag. Sign of the times?

Reviewed wines on offer by Absolute Blizzard Resources, Crystal Wines, Delfi Singapore, Rev Winehouse, Rubicon Reserve Wines, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Connection, Wine Exchange Asia

What a difficult start to the week! I reviewed 14 wines for this post, and am only managing to comment on four. Many of the wines were just too far outside the BBI for value, way outside in some cases. Others, mainly the new releases, haven’t been reviewed yet. Hopefully, that’ll change as James Halliday’s 2012 Wine Companion is released in Australia in a week’s time.

So, what have we got then?

2010 / Soho / Black Label / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.50 at Underground Wines. I have it that Bob Campbell gives it 83 points (“average to good”) so we’re not exactly firing on all cylinders yet. The value is pretty good though as it retails for NZ$17 so it’s coming in a good $10 bucks lower than where it might. Treat it as a cheap Kiwi sav blanc and you’ll be OK with it.

2003 / Chalkers Crossing / Hilltops / Semillon / S$30 at Rev Winehouse and The Local Nose. Always difficult to assess the older releases and I reckon this came out in about 2005/2006. That’s when Halliday gave it 92 points anyway. It’s the best comparative value here today (RRP A$17), but I have a little concern on its age. Halliday also said drink by 2010, and well, its not 2010 any more. I like my old Semillons, so for $30 bucks, I’d probably take a risk on it.

2009 / Darling Cellars / Six Tonner / Darling / Merlot / S$30 at Wine Connection. Here’s one from left field. Ever heard of the region Darling (no, that’s not a skit from Blackadder)? It’s in South Africa – learn something new everyday. This wine is rated 3 stars by Platters who call it a “reliable quaffer”. It sells locally for abour ZAR59 which means about S$10.50 so we’re not talking high end here. But again, for $30 bucks, worth having a bit of variety.

2005 / Magpie Estate / The Malcolm / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$145 at Wine Exchange Asia. About as far removed from the other wines as possible. Halliday said “it’s not for the faint hearted” and gave it 94 points. Not for the octogenarians amongst either, as its recommended drinking is out to 2030. With a RRP of A$150 on release, the price here looks pretty fair to me.

If you’re prepared to take a punt on the age, the Chalkers Crossing looks the best deal today.


Is this the wine invention of the decade? Maybe not, but two articles that I’ve read lately got me thinking.

The first article talked about the pros and cons of screwcaps and corks, with one interesting observation that wine under cork can include a taste of cork without it being “corked”. In fact the article suggested that we’ve got used to the taste of cork in our wine which is why wine under screwcap can sometimes taste so sterile. Makes sense doesn’t it? After all, we put wine in oak to give it flavour so why shouldn’t we expect cork to do a little of the same thing.

The second article talked about the horrendous cost of new oak barrels, and a move by some winemakers to use oak staves instead. The theory is that you get the benefit of the barrel without the cost.

So, that got Bastard Box thinking. Why not put a piece of oak in the bottom of a screwcap. Voila! The problem of the expensive oak barrels goes away and the wine will develop in the bottle (we let champagne develop in the bottle). I’m sure that with enough research, winemakers could establish just how much oak should be left in the bottle before it did its job, i.e. it didn’t go on “oaking” forever.

OK, so I won’t hold my breath on this invention, but if it does ever take off, you heard it here first!


The way we were: 1978 Hardys Moana White Burgundy – never mind the quality, look at the price! On sale in 1978 for A$2.59.


The more things change…..

“More than 30,000 tonnes of wine grapes were left to rot on their vines in Australia this year, said the Australian Wine Board in a recent report. Admittedly, we have a surplus of red grapes throughout the nation, but this is ridiculous! While not wanting Australians to forget other wines or spirits, we can’t understand the decline in the percentage of people partaking of reds.” – Cuttings in Winestate magazine, December 1978


All Whites from New Zealand

Reviewed offers by Absolute Blizzard Resources, Le Vigne, The Local Nose and Wine Exchange Asia

You learn something new every day. The standard rule for sauvignon blanc is to drink it within 2 years, maybe 3 years right?  Well, maybe not. I just saw James Halliday’s review of 2008 / Domaine A / Lady A / Tasmania / Sauvignon Blanc in his May newsletter and the recommended drinking is out to 2018. So surprised by it that I double-checked. Yep, 2018 it is – more of a Bordeaux style apparently (and with a limit of 6 per customer from the winery).

By sheer coincidence, everything I reviewed this week came from New Zealand and here’s the pick of the bunch:

2009 / Desert Heart / Central Otago / Pinot Gris / S$35 at Wine Exchange Asia. 86 points from Bob Campbell (“above average”) with a RRP of NZ$24. This price puts it into the “terrific value” BBI.

2010 / Rockburn / Gibbston Valley / Pinot Gris / S$32 at Wine Exchange Asia. 85 points from Bob Campbell, still in the “above average” category, still in the “terrific value” BBI. RRP of NZ$25.

2010 / Sacred Hill / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$26.67 by the half case at Le Vigne. Slightly less points from Bob Campbell (84) than the other two wines but still “good”. The price is stunning though. With a RRP of NZ$22, I don’t know how they do it at S$26.67. Outstanding value.

Frankly, it’s a toss up between the Rockburn and the Sacred Hill today.

The way things were: 1978, when champagne didn’t necessarily come from Champagne.

Today’s passing note:

“During a visit to a Hunter Valley winery which really should know better, and in fact enjoys a reputation better than most of its competitors, we observed a volume of dark liquid labelled  ‘ESSENCE OF OAK CHIPS’. We had only recently got used to seeing oak chips in sacks in winery outhouses, and now this. We presume it would be illegal to call such ‘wooded’ wine oak-aged.” – Winestate magazine, June 1983


A message to Dear Leader – sorry, Dear Reader

I’m in Australia at the moment freezing my butt off as I look over my vines. Snow in winter and 45 degrees C in summer. These shiraz vines have to be made of hardy stuff.

Whilst I’m in this area, I always pay a visit to the antique shop in Yarra Valley and this time was no disappointment.  Apart from a 1945 issue of Autocar and a 1978 issue of Winestate magazine (with a review of Woodleys 1972 Queen Adelaide champagne), I managed to secure a real gem. It’s entitled “Wine: Its History, Culture and Making” issued by Rhinecastle Wines Pty Ltd of Sydney, and with a hand written insert to “Dear Reader” dated 5th March 1946. It includes such insights as “the growing of wine begins with the planting of the grapes…..”. A few wasted nights around the log fire I fear.

What are Australia’s highest rated wines? Grange? Hill of Grace? Bin 60A? The Laird?

Maybe, but on my limited data, I’m showing something else, something perhaps a little surprising. 100 points from Wine Spectator.   Scroll to the end of the e-mail to find out one of Australia’s most highly rated wines.

What’s this #1? An Argentinian wine????

Yes, well you know that Bastard Box is obsessed with ratings on AUSTRALIAN wines, so what are these interlopers doing here? Well, I just happen to like them.

NV / Finca Flichmann / Extra Brut Rose/ Sparkling – About S$25 from Le Vigne. I say about because that’s what it is in a mixed dozen at Le Vigne until 7th July. I have no rating except personal preference, and on a dollar for dollar basis, I reckon this wine is OK.

What’s This #2? Another South African wine???

Having spent April driving a bakkie around KwaZulu Natal and Lesotho, have I become an instant expert in South African wine? Actually, not quite, as I’ve had this wine before in Singapore and not been disappointed.

2009 / Boekenhoutskloof / Chocolate Box / Red Blend – S$65 from Wine Exchange Asia.  When I say red blend, I mean syrah, grenache noir, cabernet, cinsault and viognier. A great wine to drag out when your guests can’t manage to say Bimbadgen or Bidgeebong, let alone Boekenhoutskloof.  As exotic as “foie gras” or “parmesan” on your first trip to Europe in a kombi van. Try it.

The times, they are a changin’:

“ Fino sherry, the delicate aperitif we associate with the towns of Jerez and Puerto in Spain, is now [in Australia] called ‘pale dry apera’ “ – Jeni Port, writing in The Age on 5th October 2010

The 100 pointer – Campbells NV Merchant Prince Rutherglen Rare Muscat. 100 points Wine Spectator October 2010. End of story.

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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