Archive for December, 2011

Some giant deals, and some giant wines

Reviewed 21 wines on offer by Carrefour, Cornerstone Wines, Giant (yes, Giant!), Le Vigne, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia, commenting on 12 here today.


2010 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$32 at Wine Exchange Asia – I reviewed this wine back on 14th June and said then that (at 87 points Bob Campbell), it was a good buy. Well, it was $36 then and it’s $32 now so that makes it an even better buy. Retails for NZ$25.

2009 / Murdoch James / Blue Rock / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$59 at Underground Wines – This has a good rating from Wine Advocate (90 points -“outstanding”), is drinking out to 2015, and the price here is exactly where the BBI would put it. So, fair value for a good wine. Retails for about NZ$40.

2008 / Saint Clair / Rapuara Reserve / Marlborough / Merlot / S$45.48, $34.78 by the case at Cornerstone Wines – With a price difference like that, Cornerstone certainly entice you to buy in bulk. This wine gets 85 points from Bob Campbell (“above average”) and 3.5 stars from Michael Cooper (“very good”). With a RRP of NZ$27, the single bottle price is OK but the case price is excellent value if you’re into Kiwi merlots. I’m not.

2005 / Elderton / Command / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$75, $70 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – I’m so long on Elderton Command that I won’t be buying any of this, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, if you like Barossa Shiraz, then this is one to get. There must be an ocean of Elderton Command around as you can still buy old vintages (e.g 2002 or older) at Dan Murphys in Australia. This vintage is still on sale downunder at around A$80, which means that if you shipped it in now, it would land at about S$92. So how come it’s only S$70? Well, there’s quite a bit of it in Singapore too, sitting in investment portfolios, and as the GFC bites, you can be the beneficiary of some, er, rebalancing of priorities. What would you like to know? Wine Front 95 points, Epicure 5 stars, Wine Advocate 97! That should be enough to convince you.  Look, in my opinion this is a great wine at a fantastic price that’s still got years ahead of it, and it ought to be in the cellar of any true-blue Aussie or wannabe Ocker. This is something no other country can do.  Oi! Oi! Oi!

TBA / Elderton / Barossa Valley / Cabernet or Shiraz / S$29.95 at Giant – My fingers trembles as I typed that. Fairly typically with the big supermarkets, they figure you don’t need to know the vintage, which is either a reflection of their opinion of the wine, or of you. Early vintages of the Shiraz (2005) are still selling at Dan’s downunder, and at about A$25. As a general rule, Elderton’s “plain” Shiraz and Cabernet get pretty good ratings. A quick check showed that most vintages fall into the 90+ range from James Halliday and Wine Front so these wines are no slouch. The price at Giant is very, very attractive for such a drinkable wine. I’ll be ducking down to Giant later today (it’s OK, I’ll wear my dark sunnies) to make sure that this is just plain Elderton and not their “E” brand, which is a different kettle of fish.

TBA / Hardys / VR / South Eastern Australia / Chardonnay or Cabernet or Merlot or Shiraz / S$17.90 at Giant – Once you get below the S$20 mark, with some rare exceptions, it’s hard to talk of good value as roughly $7 in the price is duty alone. You can’t expect much from what’s left in the price. From what I can see, the VR label is an export only one, so my data comes from Decanter where they give the Shiraz (of unknown vintage) a “recommended” score based on value over there. It sells in the UK for the equivalent of A$7.50, shipped and all. Get the picture. To be honest, this doesn’t look a bad deal when you consider the duty, but for a little over $10 bucks more, you’ll get the Elderton. No brainer.

NV / Hardys / Reserve / Party Pack (3 Litre) / Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz / S$69.90 at Giant – I’ve never done a review of a box before! OK, so let’s not talk about the contents as if you’re buying this, you’re not doing it to impress your wine buddies, you’re doing it coz’ it’s bulk drinking for Xmas. Well, yes. And, no. You see, the $7 a bottle duty doesn’t magically disappear simple because you put 3 litres in a box. It’s still there only now it’s about $28 of that $70 price. So is the wine worth the difference of $42 that’s left in the price? Here’s a hint. The box sells in Australia for A$17. That right A$17. For A$63, you’ll get four boxes at Dan’s. That’s A$5.25 per litre. Makes it hard to get one’s mind around S$70 for one box doesn’t it?

NV / Jacob’s Creek / Sparkling Rose or Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir / S$49.20 for 2 at Giant – Ah, yes, this would have been called Champagne in days gone past. But, Champagne it’s not, it’s just an inoffensive bubbly that scores around the 85 point mark from the likes of James Halliday and Decanter.  RRP is A$14 but it sells closer to A$10, even A$9. Not a bad buy, just not my type of wine.

TBA / Wolf Blass / Red Label / Moscato or Moscato Pink / S$18.90 at Giant – Run away! Run away! That’s usually my reaction when I see any wine with “pink” in its name (or Hello Kitty for that matter), and in this case maybe that’s justified. No point in talking of quality, although I do see that Epicure regularly say 3.5 stars which is OK. Sells at Dan’s in Australia at sub-$9. There’s that duty again.

TBA / Wolf Blass / Yellow Label / Various varieties / S$25.90 at Carrefour – I can pretty much repeat what I said about the Red Label, although this does sell for A$5 more at Dan’s.  But by the time you get to S$26 for the Shiraz, why wouldn’t you get the Elderton at $30?

TBA / Wolf Blass / Eaglehawk / Various / S$15.75 at Giant – I’m guessing this is where many young Singaporeans get introduced to Australian wine. I think my only advice would be drink half as much at twice the price. One bottle of Elderton or two bottles of Eaglehawk? Easy for me to say that’s a no-brainer, I’m not 21 any more. Sells at Dan Murphy’s at A$6.65. You listening kids?

And finally….

NV / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Sparkling / S$34.50 at Le Vigne – Le Vigne had this listed at S$40.55 back in November so this is a real discount. The wine regularly scores 90-92 points from Halliday, so another example of “pay a little more, get a lot more”. A great deal.

Bastard Box was born near the Barossa so the decision here today is easy. It’s the Elderton Command by a country mile.  But its little brother is also a great deal and will even tempt Bastard Box to the 5th floor of Parkway Parade (something not easy to do) to quickly secure the Elderton Shiraz. And for the fizz, go for the great deal on the Ninth Island.


Moving quickly from the world of $10 bubblies to the higher realms of true Champagne, Bastard Box tracks sub US$150 wines that score 95 points or better, and there’s two Champagnes just in time for Xmas. I’m not saying these are available, or at this price in Singapore though. That’s for you to do your own homework on, but if you do find some, let me know.

Theses ratings and comments come from Wine & Spirits, one of my favourite and affordable (S$9.95 downstairs at Siglap Shopping Centre) wine magazines.

2002 Bollinger Brut La Grande Annee Champagne, US$150 – 98 points

“There is Champagne, and then there is 2002 Bollinger. This wine makes me dizzy, stammering in cross-eyed bliss. Taking a step back, the sustained chord of flavour comes into focus, revealing a limestone honey; scents of acacia, marzipan, apricot and golden citrus. Jamal Rayyis, one of our tasters with the broadest flavor library in his head, described the scent as loomi (dried lime) and dried apricots, as if walking into a Middle Eastern market. Flavor details aside, the wine’s richness softens the structural grandeur of the vintage, which is buoyed in a mineral bath of power.” –

2002 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne, US$150 – 96 points

“Think of standing above a well at the edge of an apple orchard, the cool feel of the earth deepening the bosky scent of the ripening fruit. This wine may take you there, then leave you to contemplate its complexity; full-on limestone-derived power, juicy nectarine and apricot scents, candied lemon and lasting spice, all of it rounded into a supple shape and a subtle mist of a finish.”

Wow, does it come any better than those two pieces of wine writing? I love it!

The other Champagnes that met the 95+ at US$150 or less were:

1999 Bruno Paillard Brut Assemblage, US$100 – 96 points

2004 Louis Roederer Brut Blanc de Bancs, US$75 – 95 points

2004 Louis Roederer Brut Vintage, US$70 – 95 points

As I said, if you see any of these in Singapore at a reasonable price, please let Bastard Box (and our readers) know (after filling your own interests first of course)!


“Champagne is a pleasant start to the day, but the real problem is, what wine does one serve with breakfast?” – Anders Ousback writing in Wine & Spirit Buying Guide, January 1979

What the Australian Prime Minister was drinking 40 years ago

Reviewed 11 wines on offer by Absolute Blizzard Resources, Certain Cellars, Le Vigne, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia – just 4 get a guernsey here today…maybe there’s too much effort on champagne right now.


2008 / Palliser Estate / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$44.90 at The Local Nose and The Cellar Door – Gets 89 points from each of Bob Campbell and Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perotti-Brown. That means “above average” and “very good” respectively.  Bob Campbell said it’s an “exuberantly tangy wine”. Wine Spectator said “very good” too. Should drink to 2015. RRP of NZ$52 so the pricing here is the best of today’s lot, very keen indeed.

2008 / Wither Hills / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$44.90 at The Local Nose and The Cellar Door – Bob Campbell says it is “sleek and supple” and put it into his “above average” category. Wine Spectator were less excited but still “solid, well made”, but they had it down as drink by 2010.  Retailed for NZ$35, I’d take a punt on it.

2008 / Vasse Felix / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$58 from Absolute Blizzard Resources – This is the highest rated wine here today, with James Halliday giving it 95 points (“outstanding”), Wine Front giving it 94 (“excellent”) and Wine Advocate giving it 93 (“outstanding”) so no doubting that it ticks the boxes for them. Consensus too on its cellaring which should be to around 2019. But with a RRP of A$38, the price here is OK but certainly not remarkable. It’s a good wine at a fairish price.

2009 / Vasse Felix / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$40 at Absolute Blizzard Resources – “Highly recommended” from James Halliday, “excellent” from Wine Front and both of those reviews done this year. A safe bet to 2018.  With RRP of A$25, the pricing here is acceptable just not mind-blowingly great.

So, only four to choose from today. Bastard Box’s first choice is the Palliser Estate Pinot Noir, followed by the Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot. It’s not the greatest deal, but you’ll probably kick yourself in years to come if you pass up the Vasse Felix Cabernet. Just depends on whether you think the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, which if you’re right, you might start to see this wine discounted.



Wine & Spirits magazine out of the US has 2 Australian wines with 95 points+ in their October edition. They are:

2006 / Penfolds / Grange / South Australia / Shiraz at 96 points;

2005 / Tahbilk / 1860 Vines / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz at 95 points

WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them. Today’s word – MEATY

“Smells meaty and chocolaty and has persistent, savoury flavours. Very masculine wine.”

“Savoury wine with meaty/Bonox aromas. Much the same on the palate.”

If you’ve been paying attention over the past year, you’ll know that savoury and shiraz go hand in hand, and so it is here with meaty. Think savoury meat, think shiraz?


THE WAY WE WERE – 40 years ago at The White House

Well, the advertisement is from 1978, but the menu is from 1971.


“Cabernet, the exquisite paradox. Sauvignon. The very name harks of redemption, except that it derives from ‘sauvage’. Paradox indeed!” – Cabernet. Notes of an Australian Wineman by Max Lake, 1977




The drought has broken – some top deals here

Reviewed 14 wines on offer by Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, Rubicon Reserve, The Cellar Door, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia, 10 listed here.


Bear with us today – there’s quite a few deals to get through.

2008 / Bald Hills / Pigeon Rocks / Central Otago / Pinot Gris / S$32.50 at Le Vigne – Bob Campbell’s quite happy with this wine calling it “classy” and giving it 90 points.  Lisa Perotti-Brown (Wine Advocate) gives it 89 (“very good”) so no doubting the quality then. But what about the age? Drinking to 2013 apparently. This is the best value of the current releases here today. Sells for NZ$25. By the way, this wine was offered at $38 over a year ago, so Le Vigne are keen to shift this. You be the beneficiary.

2007 / Bald Hills / Last Light / Central Otago / Riesling / S$32.50 at Le Vigne – I couldn’t get a Kiwi’s rating on this so I’ve relied on the foreigners view. No bad thing really as sometimes the Kiwis get carried away on their Rieslings. This one stacks up according to Gourmet Traveller Wine who gave it 4.5 stars (“extremely good”) and Lisa Perotti-Brown from Wine Advocate gave it “very good”. Bob Campbell didn’t rate this particular vintage but did say “my favourite was the 2007, lovely tension and purity”. Not one for keeping though. Drink it now. Sold at NZ$23.

2010 / Shaw & Smith / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / S$42, S$39 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Pretty much loved by all. Wine Advocate 90 points (“outstanding”), James Halliday 95 points (“outstanding”), Wine Front 92 points (“excellent”), and Wine Spectator 90 ponts (“outstanding”). Do I need to go on? You’d want to drink it in the next year or two. The pricing is pretty good, not up there with some of the other deals, but why would you discount this anyway?  You’re unlikely to see 2010 Cloudy Bay at this price and to be frank, it’s not getting the ratings that this Shaw & Smith is.

2011 / Spy Valley / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30 at Wine Exchange Asia – I couldn’t find a down-under rating on this one, but did see that Lisa Perotti-Brown of Wine Advocate gave it 89 points (“very good”) suggesting drinking to 2014. Looks like a good price here.

2009 / Bald Hills / Single Vineyard / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$48 at Le Vigne – Two quite different ratings on this one. Bob Campbell gives it 84 points (average to good) but Wine Advocate (Lisa Perotti-Brown) gives it 91 points meaning “outstanding”. Drinking to 2016 and with a RRP of NZ$44 the value here is very, very good. I’m a big fan of Bald Hills so I’m going with Lisa on this one. Recommended.

2009 / Wild Earth / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$52, $49 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Wine Advocate 90 points means it just slips into the “outstanding” category. Good enough for me. Pricing looks good.

2001 / Yarra Yering / Dry Red #1 / Yarra Valley / Bordeaux Blend / S$69 at Wine Exchange Asia – A classic Yarra Valley Cabernet blend that has a cult following. Jeremy Oliver has no qualms giving it 96 points.  Robert Parker gives it 88 which still equates to “very good”. Drinking to around 2020. I’ve seen this vintage on offer in Australia at around A$80+ so this is great buying again.

2006 / Newton Forrest / Cornerstone / Hawke’s Bay / Cabernet Blend / S$59 at Underground Wines – A full 5 stars from Michael Cooper who thought it “a stylish dark wine with dense flavours”. Bob Campbell put it into his “very good, but not great” category. RRP of NZ$50 so the pricing here is pretty good, but it’s up against stiff competition today.

2002 / Irvine / James Irvine / Grand / Eden Valley / Merlot / S$79 at Wine Exchange Asia – James Halliday tasted this in 2008 and gave it a full 95 points. A little surprisingly for me, he suggests drinking by 2014 but I’ll go with his recommendation on that. It retailed at around A$100 on release so the price here does represent a genuine attempt to move this wine. Great wine, great pricing.

2004 / The Colonial Estate / Émigré / Barossa Valley / Grenache Shiraz blend / S$99, S$90 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – The Colonial Estate brought out a lot of wines with an African explorer theme, such as Mungo Park and John Speke, and then there was the “E” theme. Émigré, Explorateur, Eclaireur, Exile etc. And now I can add “enigma”. Why? Well, it’s extraordinarily hard to quantify this wine from a value point of view. You see, when this wine was released in the US, it retailed for around US$110. That’s right US$110. You’d probably never heard of it back in 2004 as it wasn’t seen in Australia much, if at all. Then it all happened. The US importer collapsed leaving a lot of US focused wineries in dire trouble, and it’s my understanding that The Colonial Estate was one of those that got caught. So here’s the problem. You can now buy The Colonial Estate “E”s at a drastically reduced price on clearance (distressed clearance?) in Australia. How drastic? Well, the 2009 Émigré is selling for A$24.99. That’s a long way from US$110. But you won’t get the 2004 at A$24.99 so there’s the problem. Fair to say that this is a great wine caught in a marketing mess.

So how good is this wine? Robert Parker gave it 94+ points and said it’ll drink to 2021, and my guess is that a whole lot of people bought it at US$110 and were delighted by their purchase.  I can’t find a rating for the 2009 yet. So I’m going to say that the pricing here is a good deal for a great Parker wine. If you want to try the 2009 out of Oz at A$24.99, talk with me, but I’d say have a crack at this in the meantime.

It’s a real tough call today. There’s some great wines at great prices, but when push comes to shove, Bastard Box is opting firstly for the Irvine Merlot, and then the Yarra Yering Dry Red. If you’re not game to test some of the older stuff, then go for the Bald Hills Pinot Gris or the Bald Hills Pinot Noir.


WINESPEAK 101 – Waffle with the best of them. Today’s word – APRICOT

“Fresh, lively and distinctive for its apricot overtones, which lend a Riesling like cast to the classic Chardonnay character “

“Exhibits a plump mouthful of spicy apricot, pear and floral flavours, that draw together effortlessly on the harmonious finish ”

The first one is a Chardonnay , and the second one is Viognier.  So next time you attend one of those black glass “is it white or is it red” affairs, if you’re getting apricots, there’s a good chance it’s a white.



A flagon of Riesling…’d want a lot of friends, or did wine last longer once opened back then?


“A month ago I went to Melbourne and to Canberra, back through the highway, Mildura and then Adelaide. We had stopped to have a meal and we were not allowed to have wine because we stopped at a certain time……we had some in our car, but is it a civilized way to go to your car and drink wine? This is not a high standard of living. We live with a very low standard. My standard is slightly over the average Australian because the French standard of living is our goal” – Bernard Vigor, the face of Kaiser Stuhl and restauranteur complaining of Australia’s liquor laws, December 1978


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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