Archive for September, 2011

The final word on WET, and some unusual wines for the weekend

Reviewed offers by Absolute Blizzard Resources, Carrefour, Cornerstone Wines, Goodwines Online, Rubicon Reserve Wines, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia.

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There’s nothing like a tax to drive (distort?) activity and the WET (Wine Excise Tax) is as good as any tax at doing that. Here’s a couple of interesting observations on the WET.

The first $500,000 of any WET paid by producers in Australia is rebated. That equates to sales of around $1.7 million, so effectively, the first $1.7 million of sales is WET free and thereafter, add 29% to the wholesale price, thank you very much.  It’s a boost to small producers  – it allows them to compete with the big guys because the big guys start paying WET of 29% before the ink is dry on the 10 million labels they’re printing. Some people reckon there’s a few people, large retailers in particular, who are rorting the system (see http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2010/02/03/154871_horticulture.html )

Now, I don’t know about that but I have always wondered why the large retailers in Australia need 100+ labels. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? I reckon the ocker definition (as compared with the Oxford definition) of rorting is “working the system, probably legally, but not in the spirit of intent.

Secondly, New Zealand producers who sell in Australia also get the 29% tax rebate under an arrangement between the two governments. Puts the small Kiwi  producer on an equal footing with Australia’s small producers. So whilst the Aussie small producer gets a leg-up against the big Aussie players (and to be fair, the big Kiwi players), he gets clobbered because the number of competing small producers expands to include every struggling boutique in New Zealand that has surplus stock. Talk about distortion.

No wonder then, that….”today, one in every three bottles of white wine sold in this country [Australia] is a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. And, with that country’s wine industry experiencing similar oversupply problems as Australia, many of their cheap and over-cropped savvies arriving here are indeed simple and frivolous” (Graeme Phillips, The Mercury 26/9/11)

So who’d be a small producer then? I think I’ll stick with my 300 bottles of Bastard Box shiraz (first vintage expected 2012!), drink them amongst friends, and to hell with the WET or any other tax!

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Had lunch with friends at the wonderful Le Bistro Parisien in Haji Lane this week. What an interesting place (lots of Malay film paraphernalia) and what an interesting person Jean-Francois Nordin is. The French onion soup (actually made with Spanish onions) is definitely “die-die-must-try”. Classically French in the heart of the Arab quarter. Try it – you won’t be disappointed.

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What a frustrating bunch of wines reviewed today. Looked at 13 wines of which 7 were from New Zealand but could only come up with ratings on one of the Kiwis. I mainly use Bob Campbell and Michael Cooper and then any of the internationals but if anyone knows of another Kiwi who gives accessible ratings on New Zealand wines, please let me know.

2009 / Carrick / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$55, S$49 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – A very solid 94 points from Bob Campbell putting it in to his “excellent” box. Retails for NZ$45 so Wine Exchange Asia’s price is also excellent. This is a great deal.

2008 / Trinity Hill / Gimblett Gravels / Tempranillo / S$39.95 at The Cellar Door – The Kiwis will turn their hand to anything won’t they? At least it’s a pleasant change from yet another sauvignon blanc or a pretentious syrah. Bob Campbell gives it 89 points (“above average”) and says its an “assertive nod in the direction of Spain”.  Michael Cooper gives it 4 stars (”excellent”) and reckons it’ll go to 2015. Retails for NZ$24 so price here is terrific value.

2009 / Bouchard Finlayson / Crocodile’s Lair / Kaaimansgat vineyard / South Africa / Chardonnay / S$39 at Wine Exchange Asia – I’ve bought some of this, mainly because the wife has taken to Bouchard Finlayson as a brand (especially the Galpin Peak pinot) and because Platters said it’s “potentially profound” and awarded it 4.5 stars.  I have no idea what the price should be here, but I took the  square root of the price in South Africa and the price in the UK (13 pounds for the record), added a bit, subtracted a bit, multiplied the lot by my birthdate and concluded that it’s about right.

2005 / Klein Constantia / Vin de Constance / South Africa / non-botrytised dessert wine / S$78 for 500ml at Wine Exchange Asia – The Americans like it. Wine Spectator gives it 94 points and Platters give it their highest – 5 stars. The pricing calculation says it’s about right

2008 / Klein Constantia / Marlbrook / South Africa / Cabernet Blend / S$45 at Wine Exchange Asia – This is what South Africa does best, a classic Bordeaux style. Platters gives it 4.5 stars and says its “so poised and well groomed”. Pricing feels right based on absolutely no empirical evidence. I’ve bought some of this too.

2004 / Rusden / Boundaries / Barossa Valley / Cabernet / S$65 a bottle  or S$43.33 for the last case at Absolute Blizzard Resources –  If you like a challenge, go look for a rating on this one. Halliday doesn’t mention it, nor does WineFront or any other of my Australian raters. It gets a rating of 94 from Jay Miller at Wine Advocate apparently, but I can’t confirm. WA also says its drinking to 2020. All my comparative pricing is in pounds or US dollars, but no matter which way you cut it, it looks like a good deal here. In fact, it looks like an exceptional deal if you buy the last case. I’m half tempted to buy all of this myself but stocking up my Tiger Wines portfolio takes priority at the moment. If you do buy it, invite me around.

2007 / Thorn-Clarke / Quartage / Barossa Valley / Cabernet Blend / S$29.99 at Cornerstone Wines – Let’s call it $30 bucks shall we. Another Bordeaux style; where’s the shiraz?….. (apologies to Elton John). Wine Front 92 (“excellent”), Winestate 3.5 (“very good”) and Halliday 89 (“recommended”). Drinking out to 2015. RRP of A$20 so price here is terrific value.

So, what’s going in the shopping trolley this weekend? Well, if you know your Rusdens (and I don’t) the Boundaries looks to be exceptional value and would be number one on the list. If you’re a bit hesitant, go for the Carrick pinot and then the Thorn-Clarke Quartage. To be fair, every wine reviewed here today fits comfortably within the BBI.

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 THE WAY WE WERE – 1979 Chateau Singapore. Pity the images aren’t of Singapore!

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Just a reminder that Tiger Wines has the 96 point 2006 Grampians Estate Black Sunday Friends Reserve shiraz on offer at S$77.  Email tigerwines@singnet.com.sg for more details.

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A little bit (very little bit) of Australia wine history:

“In 1787 Captain Phillip brought vines to Australia. Vines of various kinds were brought out from the Cape of Good Hope by the First Fleet. This was 1788. They were planted in the Governor’s Garden, on the east side of Sydney Cove.”  – Wine, Its History, Culture and Making published by Rhinecastle Wines, March 1946

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Will a change to WET change the way you buy wine in Singapore?

Reviewed 18 wines today on offer by Cornerstone Wines, Goodwines Online, Le Vigne, Quarto Products, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia.

There’s a huge debate raging at the moment as to whether Australia should ditch its WET (Wine Excise Tax) and replace it with a volumetric one similar to that of Singapore. Initially the feeling was “no way” but with some of the heavies in the wine industry weighing in for the change (see http://drinkster.blogspot.com/2011/09/wet-doomed-to-dry-right-out.html ) there’s just a chance, a very slim chance, that it might happen.

What would that mean for Singapore buyers of Australian wine?

There’d be two things going on.

The first is that there’d be a complete change in the pricing of retail wine in Australia. Cheap wine would go up in price (that would be the intent of the change), and really expensive wine would (should?) come down in price.

Let’s look at two wines that currently wholesale at say A$3, and A$20 and then let’s look at say, Grange or similar.

Example 1. A$3 per bottle wholesale

Under the current WET system, a wine that wholesales for A$3, has roughly A$0.87 of WET added, then about A$0.39 of GST and with 100% mark up for retail, ends at around A$8.50. Call that the A$7.99 special then.

Under a volumetric tax, a wine that wholesales for A$3 would have an alcohol tax of say A$7 (assuming approx 13% alcohol), A$1 of GST, and with 100% mark up for retail, ends at around A$22.

Big changes in the LOW END of the market then!

And of course, that’s exactly what some might want – it pushes up the entry price of alcohol theoretically discouraging young drinkers, or pushes down the alcohol level if one wants to keep the price low. Mission accomplished.

Example 2. A$20 per bottle wholesale

If you’re frightened by figures, close your eyes now.

Under the current WET system, a wine that wholesales for A$20 has roughly A$5.80 of WET added, then about A$2.58 of GST, and with 100% mark up for retail finishes at A$56.76. Yes folks, that A$60 bottle of wine on the shelf at your local liquor store has a wholesale price of around A$20. I told you figures were frightening.

Now, under a volumetric tax, the numbers would look something like this. A wine that wholesales for A$20 would have A$7 of volumetric tax added, and then A$2.70 of GST, double it for retail and it ends at A$59.40. Not much change at this level of the market then.

So far, what we’ve seen is that Australian buyers would have to get used to the kind of pricing we see here in Singapore. They’d be paying as much for that bottle of Little Penguin that we would. Fair’s fair I say!

Example 3. A bottle of Grange or similar

I’m going to make a big assumption (but based on a fair bit of evidence) that a $500 bottle of wine (say Grange) wholesales for around A$158. Add WET and GST, double it and you end up at A$500.

Under a volumetric system, to A$158 wholesale you still add just A$7 volumetric tax (running total A$165), GST of 10% and you end up at A$181.50, double it and now it would sell retail at A$363.

Big changes at the BIG END of town then!

From a Singapore perspective, life would be much easier.  My BBI would almost become superfluous as you’d simply take the A$ price, convert it to S$ and add a few bucks freight. Even I could do that in my head. One very positive perspective would be that the few gougers in the market here would be left floundering. The catch cry “oh, it’s the tax” for outrageous pricing of Australian wines would be exposed for the lie that it is.

In reality, what’s the chance of this happening? Zilch! Why? Which government is going to introduce a tax that means the mums and dads of the outer suburbs now pay $22 for their box wine? Not the current one that’s for sure.

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Enough of the heavy stuff! Bear with me today, we’ve got a few wines to get through.

2010 / Philip Shaw / Orange / Chardonnay / S$55 or S$50 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – This is a 95 pointer too and a bit of a change from chardonnay from the West or the Adelaide Hills. It’s drinking out to 2017 so have some now, put some away. With a RRP of A$32, I can’t get excited by the single bottle price but the half case is spot on for BBI value.

2009 / Bilancia / Hawkes Bay / Pinot Gris / S$37.80 at The Cellar Door – 86 points from Bob Campbell (“above average”) with a RRP of NZ$28. It’s a four star wine at the right price here in Singapore.

2010 / Tim Gramp / Clare Valley / Riesling / S$33 at Wine Exchange Asia – Here’s a wine for Xmas when the rellies visit. A low 12.5% alcohol should ensure that reunions don’t disintegrate into a quibbling mess. 4.5 stars from Epicure, in its drinking window now to 2017 and the price here (RRPA$20) of S$33 is terrific BBI value and about as much as you’d want to spend on the brother-in-law.

2008 / Spy Valley / Envoy / Marlborough/ Riesling / S$39 at Wine Exchange Asia – 87 points from our Bob (“above average”) and NZ$30 retail. As usual from Wine Exchange Asia, pricing here is solidly good.

2010 / Bream Creek / Tasmania / Sauvignon Blanc / S$39 at Wine Exchange Asia – Good on a Tassie to take on the Kiwis! It’s a solid 90 pointer from James Halliday (“highly recommended”). You don’t have to rush with this one as it’s drinking to 2013 according to Halliday. Retails for A$24 so the price here is fair without being outstanding, but Tassie wines have never been caught in that discount spiral. Give it a try.

2009 / Heart of Stone / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$25 at Underground Wines – I blogged this back in April. It’s a 3.5 star from Michael Cooper (“very good”) with a retail price of NZ$17 so you get a fair idea of where it’s pitched.  I’d have to say that the pricing here is very keen indeed, probably because it needs to be cleared before it’s past it.  Take advantage of that to enjoy a modest but very affordable Kiwi sauvignon blanc. Just don’t sit on it.

2009 / Brokenwood / Hunter Valley / Semillon / S$37 at The Local Nose and Quarto Products – If Brokenwood can’t make a decent Semillon then nobody can. This one’s the full bottle with 95 points from Halliday and 5 stars from Epicure. No surprise there. Drinking to about 2016 on average. RRP of A$20 so price here is right where the BBI would expect it to be. Good buying.

2008 / Mount Dottrell / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$42 at Wine Exchange Asia – Bob Campbell gives it 86 points (“above average”) and says that it’s ‘delicately dry’. It retails for NZ$35 so the pricing here is pretty good.

2001 / Sally’s Paddock / Pyrenees / Cabernet / S$54.15 at Cornerstone Wines – If you can’t find this in your searching, look under Redbank, you might find it there. It’s an 89 pointer from Wine Front (“very happy with it”) drinking out to 2015 so still some legs in it yet. It retailed for A$60 so I reckon the price here is pretty good.

2008 / Sons of Eden / Remus / Eden Valley / Shiraz / S$64 at Wine Exchange Asia – It’s a rare thing indeed when I disagree with Robert Rees of Wine Exchange Asia, but disagree I do. Robert showed this wine as from Clare Valley but I reckon it’s from Eden Valley and I’m sticking to my guns. Unless you’ve been asked to bring a wine from a specific region, it really doesn’t matter as the main thing is that it’s 94 points from Halliday, drinking to 2018 and retails for A$60. The deal here is pretty good and it’s a hard to get wine, so don’t delay.

NV / Stanton & Killeen / 25 Year Old Grand / Rutherglen / Muscat / S$82 for 500ml at Wine Exchange Asia – The boys and girls from Rutherglen sure know how to make fortifieds and this wine is no exception. This is stuff of which  Australia can be exceptionally proud. Halliday gives it 96 point, ‘nuff said. It retails for A$80 so the price here is BBI perfect. Here’s what to do – buy a couple of bottles and have it with that Xmas pud, when everyone gets teary at missing the beach, the bbq, the rellies, the outer on Boxing Day, and 45c without humidity. A wine for sharing with mates.

So, what’s the recommendation out of this lot? Not a wine that’s listed here today! Seriously, I think the best value going at the moment is the 2005 Arlewood Shiraz that I reviewed last blog (16/9/11).  Le Vigne still has it on special at S$26.90 and I’d ship it in.

Next in line is the Sally’s Paddock Cabernet at Cornerstone but the wine that grabs my personal attention today is the Stanton & Killeen Muscat at Wine Exchange Asia. An iconic style at the right price and just in time for Xmas. Very smart buying.

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And just to let you know of my own latest offering, I’ve just landed some 2006 / Grampians Estate / Black Sunday Friends Reserve / Shiraz which I’m offering at S$77. It sells for A$65, its rated 96 points by Halliday and Tom Guthrie from Grampians Estate tells me he’s down to his last 10 dozen. The story behind the name is that following devastating bushfires that nearly destroyed Grampians Estate, wineries from across the region including Pyrenees and others from the Grampians all pitched in to provide Tom with grapes. Hence the name Friends. It could equally have been called Mates, and it’s a great example of what makes Australia so special.  I had this wine with friends at Absinthe last night (sensational ravioli!) and it’s a classic wine in a true Australian style just entering its drinking window (out to 2019).

Campbell Mattinson of Wine Front wrote:

“It’s a quality wine. It tastes of tar, blackberry, game and leather, though its best features are its tannin (which works as fine, supporting chains to the fruit) and its length (which pushes assertively through the finish)”

Grampians Estate is a small producer (less than 1500 cases) so you won’t see this wine anywhere else in Singapore. Order at tigerwines@singnet.com.sg

THE WAY WE WERE: Oh yes, believe it or not, Chateau Singapore!

“It’s always seemed odd to me that Australia is branded as a ‘new world’ wine region when we have some of the oldest yielding vines in the world. It always surprises me that the Europeans think they have a grip on the understanding of terroir. That’s exactly what we are doing here as well.” – Reid Bosward winemaker at Kaesler quoted in Winestate, October 2007

Outstanding value. Don’t know how they do it!

Reviewed offers today from Absolute Blizzard Resources, FairPrice, Le Vigne, Wine Directions.

Funny how the cookie crumbles, (or for those of us from down-under, the toast and vegemite falls. Always face down on to that clean white shirt right? On a Monday morning when you’ve not done the ironing for any other shirt.) Anyway today, the cookie crumbled on the West.

Today I looked at 22 wines, found 7 that are worth talking about and wouldn’t you know, 6 out of the 7 are from the West!

What staggers me about the offerings below is the sheer value across the board. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sometimes I don’t know how they do it, but as a consumer, just get in there and fill your cellars. You’ll see the words “outstanding value” often today.

NV / Alkoomi / Frankland / Various (cabernet, shiraz viognier, riesling) / S$25 at FairPrice – I think you know that I get pretty pee’d off when retailers don’t quote vintages and my usual reaction is “run away, run away”. Well, doing a bit of research on Alkoomi in general suggested that they’re making wines in the 4.5 star category consistently, but the thing that grabbed my attention was the price. These wines retail in Australia for A$21-A$22. It doesn’t take a degree from NUS to figure that a price here of S$25 is a bargain. Personally, I’d go for the shiraz viognier and the riesling, but I don’t think you’d be making a mistake picking any of these up. One word of caution though – FairPrice are trying to establish themselves in the premium end of the wine market and have now put in closed glass cellars for the premium wine. Fair enough, but the store I visited at Parkway had all other wines sitting under hot, bright lights. Maybe they’ve fixed that but I’d go for a bottle a little deeper down in the stock just to be sure.

2008 / Fermoy Estate / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$30.00 at Wine Directions – Safe, solid, reliable ,91 points from Halliday. You can keep it for 7 years. Retails for A$29 so pricing here rates a BBI “outstanding value”.

2009 / Arlewood / Margaret River / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / $26.90 at Le Vigne – Halliday 89 which scores an “above average, recommended” category so no shame here. Sells retail for A$20 and is at 13.5%. I’d drink this before Xmas. Outstanding value.

2010 / Wignalls / Albany / Sauvignon Blanc / S$31.00 at Wine Directions – Wignalls used to be an old favourite of ours but somehow has slipped under the radar. The West does a pretty mean sauvignon blanc when they’re not fighting with the Kiwis. This wine is no slouch getting 92 points from Halliday. The alcohol is acceptably low at 13.6% (so precise?), it’ll last through next year, and it retails for A$19 making the deal here a BBI “great value”. If you support the Wallabies over the All Blacks, this is the savvy for you.

2007 / Arlewood / La Bratta / Margaret River / Merlot blend / S$54.90 at Le Vigne – I’m guessing my friends at Le Vigne would prefer I listed this as a “red blend” rather than merlot. Merlot can be a bit like durian – you either love it or hate it. This one is actually 60% merlot, 20% malbec, and 20% cabernet. Halliday gives it 92 points, says it’s got long legs (out to 2020) and for those of you who follow such stuff, it’s 15% alc. With an RRP of A$58 this makes the “terrific value” BBI category.

2005/ Arlewood / Margaret River / Shiraz / $26.90 at Le Vigne – Halliday again at 91 points (“highly recommended”) and you can safely stick this one away for about another 7 years. Retails down-under for A$22. Outstanding value. Again.

2006 / Pikes / Eastside / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$33.00 at Wine Directions – I reckon this is a steal. It’s the only wine not from the West today, but by jingo, the Clare Valley is taking it right to the sandgropers. How’s this? Halliday 95 points making it “outstanding”. Safe to put into your cellar until 2021 or you can start drinking now. Get a dozen and watch the development of the wine over time.

RRP of A$26 making it a BBI of “terrific value”. Bastard Box is getting some of this.

Tough pick today, really tough pick. In the end, I’m going to call it a draw and give the gong to the Fermoy Estate chardonnay from Wine Directions, and the Arlewood Shiraz from Le Vigne.

Personally I’ll be buying the Pikes Clare Valley shiraz and another offering at Wine Directions, the 2006 Small Gully Mr Black’s Concoction shiraz viognier at S$32. This is a wine for men (or women) with hairs on their chest. Rich, fruit bomb with high (oh yes, quite high) alcohol that kills the flavour of just about anything except chillied-up laksa.  Maybe some bbq snags with tomato sauce too.

Note that the Wine Directions prices are for their sale at ExtraSpace 301 Boon Keng Road this Saturday. Check with Wine Directions for more details.

You may have noticed that all the ratings today are by James Halliday. There’s a reason for this – he’s the only one who is covering this range of wines (especially those reviewed today). I have a lot of respect for many of the other raters (Campbell Mattinson, Gary Walsh, Jeremy Oliver, Ralph Kyte-Powell etc, etc) but since the launch of Halliday’s new on-line Wine Companion website, no-one comes within cooee of Halliday for data (current and historical). I’m not in to advertising on this blog, but I’ve got to tell you, if you don’t sign up to the online Wine Companion (at A$59.95 if I recall) you’re denying yourself the largest readily accessible knowledge base on Australian wine there is.

There is method in my madness. If there’s a rush of subscriptions from Singapore, they might lower the fee for my trade subscription. James?

And finally, if anyone has old wine magazines clogging up their study (Winestate, Decanter, Spectator etc. etc.) I’m happy to take them off your hands. I don’t pay for them, but I’m happy to pick them up – just let me know at tigerwines@singnet.com.sg

THE WAY THINGS WERE: Now here’s a gem I picked up recently. Have a look at this! A 1927 Penfolds advert. The Penfolds script is almost exactly the same today, except in China where it becomes Benfolds.

“Hugh Johnson has suggested a radical alternative to the 100-point system, which you can use at home. The minimum score is one sniff, with a step up to one sip. Two sips indicate faint interest. One glass means tolerance, even general approval. Four glasses means the wine tickles your fancy, and two bottles means it’s irresistible.”  – Michael Cooper writing in Winestate, October 2008

Restaurant wine lists – old habits die hard

Reviewed 10 offers from Absolute Blizzard Resources, eWineasia, Le Vigne, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia.

I was wandering through Wine Front’s website the other day (highly recommended, by the way – see www.winefront.com.au) when I came across a rant from a few years ago complaining about the woeful state of the wine list at one of Lygon Street, Melbourne’s restaurants. The complaint was about both price and selection (think high price, poor wine). I think “tourist trap” would have been an apt description and that’s what some places in Lygon Street can be. Then just last week, I was asked to review the wine list of a 5 star, going on 6 star hotel here in Asia. I was mightily impressed. Someone had done their homework, with a terrific selection of Clarendon Hills, Mollydooker, Two Hands, Tatachilla, Rosemount, Fox Creek, Knappstein, Majella, Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Henschke, Grange, Moss Wood, Grosset and Petaluma. Nearly all 90+ point wines, with many in the 95+ point category.  Not cheap, but you wouldn’t expect them to be, but the quality of the selection was simply outstanding. Take for example the 2004 Tatachilla Foundation shiraz. That’s a 95 point wine that has a RRP of A$60, and was on this wine list at around S$140. Not bad, in a relative sort of way.

But then, they couldn’t help themselves………..there, sitting amongst the icons of Australia was a 2007 Penfolds Rawsons Retreat semillon chardonnay.  That’s an $8 wine in Australia, and that price is apt. Only here, in the middle of a wine list of enviable quality, substance, variety and intelligence it is listed at S$100. What goes through a restauranteur’s head to think that dropping an outrageously inflated $8 low-rated wine in the middle of classic wines makes sense? Come in sucker! Hopefully, the advent of wine-rating apps will do away with such nonsense.

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I’ve just come back from Tasmania (see Tiger Wines below) and it goes without saying that one must stick one’s head into the odd antique or second-hand shop.  Very chuffed again as I picked up a small but very interesting book, a 1977 copy of “Cabernet – Notes of an Australian Wineman” by Max Lake. Anyone who’s been around for a while will recognize that the words “cabernet” and “Max Lake” go hand in hand with the Australian wine industry.  Another gem for the collection at the princely sum of $4!

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Just read that Jacob’s Creek wine is to be shipped to the UK in bulk and bottled there instead of being shipped pre-bottled. Now I know news of Jacob’s Creek won’t affect you, but it makes sense doesn’t it? Shipping wine in heavy bottles (I’ve seen some up to 1.6 kgs empty) surely has had its day in these carbon-conscious times, after all, it’s what goes into the bottle that counts. Hell, if prestige German motor vehicles can be manufactured in China, then surely the er, Brits (nearly slipped up there), can stick stuff in a bottle. They’ve started doing it with their own sparkling, which leads me to my next comment. There’s a move to call English sparkling wine “britagne”, so that imbibers will be able to say “I’ll have a glass of britagne please” instead of “I’ll have a glass of champers”. OK, so they’ve got a long way to go but it’s surely better than “I’ll have a glass of that very ordinary English sparkling wine”? Maybe Australia could do the same thing with our bubbly? We could call it ors-traya if we wanted to sound a bit foreign.

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Really struggled to find ratings on the 10 offers I reviewed this week. I’ve got pretty good and up to date sources but I only managed data on four. Here goes:

2005 / Mt Difficulty / Long Gully / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$156 at eWineasia – This is a cracker of a wine! 96 points from Bob Campbell and he doesn’t do that often. That earns an “absolutely outstanding” category from him. Whilst he doesn’t specifically advise on its cellaring potential, he certainly hints that its got long legs so the 2005 vintage shouldn’t bother you. “A youthful thoroughbred” he calls it. With a RRP of NZ$80, the BBI reckons that this should come in closer to S$100 than S$156. One of us is out of kilter.

2006 / Best’s / Victoria / Shiraz / S$25.90 at Le Vigne – This is one on which I don’t have a rating for this particular year. I’ve only got the 2005 which is 89 points from James Halliday. I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that this year is probably around that mark too as I’ve tasted this wine myself previously. I also reckon it’s ready for drinking right now, I wouldn’t sit on it. With a RRP of A$17, the price at Le Vigne is very attractive indeed. I’m getting some as our daily quaffer.

2003 / Stella Bella / Suckfizzle / Margaret River / Cabernet / S$65, S$59 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – You’d have to wonder what the marketers had been drinking (presumably all night) to come up with a name of “suckfizzle”. Ignore the name and focus on the quality. How does 96 points from Halliday sound? Drinking out to 2018, 14% alcohol. What else – oh the price? RRP of A$45 so the single bottle price is OK, but the half case price is really good value.

2010 / Vasse Felix / Margaret River / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$62 at Absolute Blizzard Resources – $62 bucks for a savvy semmy? It’d have to be good! It is, as today we’re blessed with three 96 pointers in the line-up. Yep, 96 points from Halliday. Drinking out to 2014 so no need to rush, and with alcohol at 12.5% to assuage the guilt. Ah….the RRP is A$25 which means the BBI puts this around the mid-$40s. Knew it was too good to be true. Then again, Vasse Felix does seem to have a cult following in Singapore…..

The BBI Buy is far and away the Best’s from Le Vigne provided you’re prepared to take a risk that it’s not rated (at least by my sources). I am. Next in line is the gloriously named Suckfizzle from Wine Exchange Asia, either by the half case or even the single bottle. Buy the Best’s to quaff and the Suckfizzle to cellar.

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WINESPEAK 101 – Learn to waffle like the best of them. Today’s word – RACY

What is a racy wine? I have no idea. See if you can guess each racy variety in these racy descriptions?

“Bright and generous, a racy style with red pepper and black currant flavours”

“Racy style offers pear and black pepper aromas and flavours, finishing with a tart edge.”

How did you go? The first one is cabernet merlot. The second is surprisingly (well, surprising to me) sauvignon blanc. And yes, a Marlborough sauvignon blanc to boot. Black pepper? Hmmm.

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The way things were – 1975 Angle Vale shiraz cabernet ( I had a look to see if Angle Vale still exists. Couldn’t find anything. No surprise as Angle Vale is now a fully-fledged suburb of Adelaide)

UPDATE ON TIGER WINES:

Just back from visiting some winemakers in southern Tasmania and very excited about the opportunity to offer some truly exceptional Tasmanian wines in the coming weeks.  Usually impossibly hard to get. Watch this space!

And whilst on the subject of Tasmania, have a look at these figures (source Wine Australia):

Average purchase price per tonne (or to put it another way, the price received by growers) for chardonnay was $251 in Riverina and $2,355 in Tasmania. Figures for riesling are $250 in Riverina and $2,445 in Tasmania.

The average price per tonne across all varieties (and Tasmania only sits in three of the 7 categories, namely chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc) was at the low end $275 for Riverina, $277 for Murray Valley, and at the high end $2,371 for Tasmania. The next highest after Tasmania is McLaren Vale at $1,393.

Make of that what you will.

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“Although the great artists have despised the senses of taste, touch and smell, many of our greatest pleasures come through these senses. There is the clinging richness of satin, the soothing warmth of animal fur, the scent of a citrus orchard in late summer afternoon, the sweet perfume of a lover, the rich bounty of a great burgundy on the palate, the homely roughness of tweed.” – The Aesthetics of Wine, March 1946


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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

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