Archive for November, 2011

Mid week Shiraz buys – a 96 pointer for S$38

Reviewed 4 wines on offer by The Cellar Door, and Wine Exchange Asia


Glad to see some Shiraz back in the limelight. Thought we’d lost it there for a while. Have a look at the Tasmania Update for an exclusive opportunity to obtain an award winning wine that almost no-one else in Australia will get a chance to try.


2009 / Desert Heart / McKenzies / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$49 from Wine Exchange Asia – A solid rather than spectacular wine (Bob Campbell 85 points) but it’s definitely at the right price. Retails for NZ$45 so offer here is terrific buying.

2005 / Shadowfax / Landscape / Heathcote / Shiraz / S$41.30 at The Cellar Door – Another solid wine at 89 points from James Halliday. Some confusion over the region though. The Cellar Door says Heathcote and Halliday says Geelong. I’m with The Cellar Door on this one. Drinking to 2014 and with a RRP of A$29, the buying here is pretty good.

2005 / d’Arenberg / The Dead Arm / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$70, $65 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Well, isn’t this a turn up for the books. Firstly, before we get into discussing quality, the pricing is great. I’ve seen this vintage a lot higher down under. So, to the quality……well, it depends who you believe. If you’re a fan of Wine Advocate, you’ll take comfort in their 95 point rating. If you’re a fan of Jeremy Oliver, you’ll know that 90 points isn’t great, but it’s not shabby either. But if you’re as fan of Wine Spectator, you’ll run a hundred miles. They gave it 77 points and found it bitter. Halliday also found it a little bitter and gave it 89 points but that’s still a long way from 77. You make the call. Parker at 95 or Spectator at 77?  I’ve made my call – I’ve got some.

2010 / Teusner / The Riebke / Northern Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$40, S$38 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – This has to be close to the bargain of the decade down under. A 96 point Halliday shiraz at under $20 bucks Aussie. Doesn’t come much better than that. This is the price point where the Singapore alcohol tax takes most of the margin so the price here, especially if you buy 6 or more at S$38, is quite good too.

So, where does Bastard Box stand today? Actually quite illogically.  The best comparative value is the Desert Heart followed by the Shadowfax. But it’s such a close call across all four wines that the pick today is going to the Teusner and then the d’Arenberg. Time for some shiraz with teeth.



You will recall that about a month back, I congratulated Peter Cameron and Jennifer Baird on their great result at the 2011 Canberra International Riesling Challenge. Just to recap, their 2009 Waterton Vineyards Riesling from Rowella in Tasmania won “best Riesling from Tasmania”, then “best Riesling in Australia” and then finally “best wine of the Challenge”.  More than 440 wines from 10 counties were tasted and the Waterton Riesling came out on top.

And here’s the clincher. You can be the only people in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD outside of Australia, hell, almost the only people outside of Tasmania, to get a chance to try this award winning wine. I can say that confidently because Waterton only make 300 cases of wine a year and they’ve never exported before. They don’t even have a website! But with true Tiger tenacity, we’ve managed to get some to Singapore. Not a lot mind, but there’s not a lot to start with.

Here’s what the winery says: “Waterton Vineyards are located at Waterton Hall, Rowella, on the west bank of the Tamar River. The vineyards comprise one hectare of Riesling vines and one hectare of Shiraz vines. The 2009 Riesling is a beautifully balanced wine with smooth lime and citrus flavours of very good length. Top Gold Tasmanian Wine Show 2011, Gold and 4 Trophies at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge 2011.”

James Halliday gives it 96 points, and says that it’s drinking to 2019.  11.00% alc.

It did retail at around A$24 but that’s jumped quickly to A$33+ with the show success and limited supply.

Tiger Wines has just 47 bottles in stock and we’re offering them at S$56 each. A small price to pay for the ultimate in exclusivity and undoubted quality.

2009 / Waterton Vineyards / Tasmania / Riesling / S$56 (incl gst)

Order from


“In Australia, red wine has increased in alcohol content by a whopping 1.4 percentage points over the past 18 years: it’s pretty much an entirely different drink, now, to what it was as recently as the mid-90s” – Felix Salmon writing for Reuters, 21st June 2011



Is this the best Xmas present for a wine buff? Better than socks or perfume, possibly…

Reviewed 12 wines on offer by Underground Wines, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia.


For the wine buff who has everything (even a cellar full of wine) have a look at the end of this blog for a Xmas present with a difference.


A dozen wines reviewed, only 6 recommended but what recommendations some of them are. There’s some serious quality here at very attractive prices. And two New Zealand reds – what’s the world coming to?

2009 / Tulloch / Hunter Valley / Semillon / S$34 at Wine Directions – Like most Semillon, no need to rush into this wine, in fact I wouldn’t start drinking it until around 2014, and then it’ll go through to about 2024.  Good Semillon is a serious keeper. Tulloch is one of the reliable producers and this wine gets 94 points from James Halliday. 11% alcohol, quite solid for this grape. It retails for around A$26 so price here is solid value too. It’s also the best white here today. Er, it’s the only white here today. Some would say that’s how it should be.

2008 / Soho / Revolver / Waiheke Island / Red / S$42.50 by the case at Underground Wines – The red in this case is predominantly a Merlot/Malbec blend. Michael Cooper gave it 4 stars (“excellent”) and said it had “good concentration and complexity”. RRP is NZ$38 so pricing here is great value.

2007 / Unison / Hawke’s Bay / Syrah / S$52.50 by the case at Underground Wines – I heard someone describe syrah as shiraz with a lisp. No comment. What I can say is that this is another Michael Cooper 4 star wine (“excellent”) and with a RRP the same as the Soho, the value is good too. The only question mark I would have is on its further cellaring so I’d be tempted to drink this now.

2005 / Fox Creek / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$49 from Wine Exchange Asia – I’ve blogged this wine before and then it was selling for $55. It’s now $49. Why? – you’ll have to share a glass of wine with me to get the answer to that. Just enjoy the wine at the price you’re getting it. Rated Halliday 94 at time of release, and should still be drinking well for a few more years.

2006 / Pikes / The EWP Reserve / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$65 at Wine Directions – Wow, I’m blown away by this wine and by this deal. How does Halliday 97 points sound? Halliday called it “a bargain” at A$65. What does that make it at S$65! Just don’t be in a hurry – it’s purportedly drinking out to 2036. One to buy now and put away. Drag it out in years to come and amaze your friends. I’d get some.

It’s an easy choice for Bastard Box today. Get some Fox Creek to drink now, and some Pikes EWP to put away. Then e-mail your Aussie friends and gloat – a lot.


WINESPEAK 101 – Waffle with the best of them. Today’s word “PEAR”

“Taut, focused and distinctive, with a strong minerality weaving through the slightly salty pear and lime flavours.”

“Silky, round and deftly balanced to play its pear, apricot, grapefruit and nutmeg flavours against a refined structure.” 

Both comments are for Chardonnay, so you know what to say at that next social gathering….


THE WAY WE WERE – We drank Claret then. 1983



Did you see the results of the 2011 Royal Hobart Wine Show?

Our friends at Pressing Matters won “Most Successful Tasmanian Exhibitor”, Trophy Winner for “Best Sweet Dessert Wine Unfortified” and Gold for their 2010 Pressing Matters R139 Riesling, Gold for the 2010 Pressing Matters Block C Pinot Noir, Gold for the 2010 Pressing Matters R69 Riesling, and Gold for the 2011 Pressing Matters R9 Riesling.

We have the 2007 Pressing Matters R9 Riesling in stock now at S$47. A bargain!

Have a look at



If you travel the world a lot like Bastard Box does, then you’ll wish you had a decent wine glass to drink from wherever you are. A decent glass can make mediocre wine taste, well mediocre – but a bad glass can spoil even the best wine.  You’ll struggle to get a better wine glass than Riedel, but how do you take a Riedel with you everywhere you go? The Riedel O series looked the answer and much experimentation took place by yours truly to develop a secure travel container for the “O”. Think of those tiny milk crates that kids used at kindergarten and you’ll get the idea.

Then Riedel brought out their “O to Go” and it seemed the problem was solved. A Riedel O glass in a nice cardboard cylinder.  But alas, after a while, the cardboard cylinder succumbed to determined efforts of baggage handlers to crush both the container and your spirit. And the lid fell off. And the packing fell out.

So, Bastard Box has come up with the BB Buddy. It’s been tested over many air miles, many train miles, and many overland 4WD miles and it’s passed with flying colours. OK, even a BB Buddy might succumb to someone else’s 40kg Samsonite being dropped onto it from 10 metres but I’ve dropped the BB Buddy with glass from about 2 metres onto a marble floor and the glass survived intact. The lid seals on nice and tight, there’s no packing and it’s very light but oh-so strong.

The price is $31 each, which gives you a Riedel cabernet merlot “O” glass and a travel container. That’s about what you’d pay for the glass on its own retail.

And here’s a hint: pull out your BB Buddy and you’ll instantly be considered a wine expert. Amongst other things.

Send an e-mail to to order, delivery after 5th December but in plenty of time for Xmas.


“[Henry] Watson next went on to talk, as have many winegrowers in Australia before and since, of the need to drink ‘a light French wine’ rather than ‘the fiery brandied compound that is fabricated for the special use of John Bull, in his land of snows and fogs” – Foresight in 1840, as quoted by Valmai Hankel in ‘Early Days of Winegrowing in South Australia’, Winestate October 2007



Lowburn Ferry, Ninth Island, Cloudy Bay – wines with a sense of place, at least in the title.

Reviewed only four wines today on offer from Le Vigne, Underground Wines and Wine Exchange Asia.

All the wines reviewed today have a scenic, watery imagery. Rock Ferry, Lowburn Ferry, Ninth Island, Cloudy Bay…..I’ve got ratings for all but the Rock Ferry, so out it goes.

NV / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Sparkling / S$40.55 at Le Vigne – Non-vintages are always hard to apply ratings to as it depends very much on when the rating was done. My research shows that this non-vintage sparkler usually sits in the 90-92 point range so not shabby at all. Priced at about A$27 RRP makes the buying here quite good.

2011 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$44 at Wine Exchange Asia, this weekend only – What can I say that hasn’t already been said? It’s an icon, it’s at a terrific price.

2008 / Lowburn Ferry / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$45 at Underground Wines – Bob Campbell gives it 87 points and calls it an “elegant wine”. 87 points from Campbell translates as “above average”. It retails for NZ$41 so on a pure price comparison basis, the cost here of S$45 is very, very tantalizing.

It’s a toss up today. On the one hand, the Lowburn Ferry is the best comparative value relative to its domestic price, but Bastard Box is going to go with the Cloudy Bay as first choice, and the Ninth Island as second choice.


 THE WAY WE WERE – 1979 Stock Gala Spumante

Admit it, you probably had this at your wedding…..



Did you notice? The top four of the Australian whites listed in the Oct/Nov issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine were from Tasmania. No surprise to me!

Tiger Wines has just landed a shipment of 2009 Springvale Freycinet Coast Pinot Noir – a 5 star Tassie Pinot Noir that punches way above its weight!

In our household, the benchmark for New World Pinot Noir is 2008 or 2009 Ata Rangi from Martinborough in New Zealand. It is a stunning wine. Well we had one last night and then took the very risky step of following it up immediately with another Pinot Noir, the 2009 Spring Vale Freycinet Coast Pinot Noir from East Coast Tasmania. Talk about blown away! Instead of prostrating itself in the company of such a benchmark, it stood tall and would have  “kicked sand” if that’s not stretching the metaphor too far. Tiger Wines is delighted to be able to offer another top-notch Tasmanian wine.

Here’s what the winemaker said:

“Ruby violet in colour. Toasty oak, spicy black cherries, licorice, dried herbs and earth. Seamless, flowing palate with upfront punch and creamy, yet juicy palate. Velvety tannins with impressive length. Orchestral!”

Winestate gave it 5 stars (“outstanding”) in July 2011 and said that the “lovely long palate has attractive flavours reminiscent of liqueur cherry confectionery.Spring Vale Vineyards is a family-owned winery, situated just north of Swansea in the heart of the Freycinet Coast region on Tasmania’s East Coat, producing Pinot Noir, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. All wines are produced on-site with exacting care and attention to detail, ensuring that Spring Vale wines are always of exceptional quality. Every year, most of the wines sell out well before the new vintages are bottled.

Now, you don’t have to go to Tasmania to get this wine, you can get it East Coast or Holland!

2009 / Spring Vale / Freycinet Coast / Tasmania / Pinot Noir – S$57

Winestate 5 stars, drinking to 2016, 13.6% alc., RRP in Australia is A$40 – 48 bottles available

Order from or visit the website at


Quote for today:

“As Hilaire Belloc so nobly recounts in his ‘Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine’, man advanced across from Asia Minor through the Greek Islands to Africa, thence to Italy and France; here one branch went to the Norse countries (of the Sagas) and the other went to India and the East; and with them all went the Vine.” – 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