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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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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