Archive for January, 2012

Are Kiwis smarter than Aussies? – Round Two

Reviewed wines on offer by Artisan Cellars, Cornerstone, Crystal Wines, Fairprice, Le Vigne, Wine Exchange Asia

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To see Round One of Aussies vs Kiwis, see the post of 28th January 2011

You would have thought the Kiwis would have learned, wouldn’t you? I mean, the glut in the Australian wine industry has been around for a long time – overproduction, greed, and an unbounded enthusiasm that “our wine will succeed” despite evidence to the contrary, followed by heavy discounting as sales failed to materialize. So why did the Kiwis do exactly the same thing, only starting about 20 years later?

I’m just reading  (in Grapegrowers and Winemaker January 2012) a summary of a strategic review of the New Zealand wine industry conducted by PwC and initiated by the New Zealand Winegrowers. Here’s some interesting snippets:

“Since 2002, the review found New Zealand’s total vineyard area had increased by 144 per cent. This included a marked regional shift to Marlborough that now accounts for 75% of NZ production up from 47%.

There are now almost 1100 growers, nearly double the number in 2002…..In 2011 there were about 700 wineries in New Zealand”

With New Zealand’s population at around 4.4 million, that’s one winery for every 6285 people.  To put that into perspective in population density, that’d be one winery nearly every square kilometer in Singapore.

“OK”, I hear you say, “but they’re exporting it right?” Well, yes but not maybe how you think. The review also shows that “since 2007, bulk wine exports grew by 1150% by volume and 480% by value, with average prices per litre falling from $6.30 to $2.90”. Wasn’t the New Zealand brand about quality? I once had a Kiwi winemaker complain to me that people (read consumers) didn’t understand or appreciate that New Zealand had a very high cost of production. So this is how it’s dealt with?

So who’s dumber? The Australian wineries who got themselves into a mess decades ago, or the Kiwi wineries who followed (dare I say like sheep) into the same mess? You be the judge, and await Round Three.

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How’s the temperature in your wine fridge?

We all know how important it is to keep wine at a constant cool temperature, either through a passive cellar (no, in a wine-rack in the dining room doesn’t count as a passive cellar), or if space is limited, a good quality wine fridge.

But what happens to the wine before it gets into your cellar?

I’ve watched with horror at bottles stored upright in so-called premium wine outlets, drying out the cork and the wine under hot, bright lights. But you don’t buy from there so you’re safe. Well, maybe not.

A recent study, reported in Wine Advocate (The Effects of Shipping Temperatures on the Taste of Wine – John J. Bartholdi, III and Alejandro Mac Cawley, Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Wine Supply Chain Council, December 19, 2011) might alarm you. The study looked at the carton temperature of wines shipped to the US from the southern hemisphere in unrefrigerated containers, meaning the wines had to cross the equator and we all know how hot being on the equator is.  Here’s a summary of the results.

Wine temperature whilst the wine was being delivered locally, and loaded on-board hovered around the 20-25 centigrade mark. Then, as the ship headed north, the temperature gradually increased, peaking around the equator at 31 degrees (in the carton!) before falling away to a more stable and acceptable level.

So, is the wine fridge a good investment after the horse has bolted?  The study is inconclusive on this point, but goes on to say that one possibility is that consumers may have become accustomed to the taste of shipped (read cooked) wines. An argument for refrigerated shipping or airfreight of course, but how would you know if that’s how your wines arrived, and there’s still those local delivery temperatures?

Best not to think about it.

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Here are today’s  deals:

2007 / Peccavi / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$52 at Wine Exchange Asia – A great wine and a good deal. 96 points by Halliday who reckons it’s got another 8 years in it. Retails for A$45 making this pricing pretty attractive.

Vintage unknown / Lake Breeze / Arthur’s Reserve / Langhorne Creek, Clare Valley, Frankland River / Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec / S$36.50 at Fairprice – Most supermarkets don’t seem to think that vintages matter to their consumers so they don’t quote any. Normally, I’d run a hundred miles from any offer without a vintage but in this case I’d possibly be doing myself a disservice. And that’s because James Halliday has given the 2006 and 2007 vintages a solid 95 points.  The 2005 gets 92 points and you’d have to go back to the 2001 to see the rating drop below 90 so it seems buying anything current is a pretty safe bet. It’s good value too as it has a RRP of A$32.

2005 / Clarendon Hills / Astralis / McLaren Vale / Syrah / S$299 or S$199 by the case at Cornerstone Wines – This has to be the buy of the year! OK, so it’s only January but it’s going to take some beating.  Why? Well this wine (modestly rated at 99 points by Wine Advocate) sells in Australia for between A$400 and nearly A$500. And it’s on offer here by the case at the equivalent of A$155. The younger you are the better of course, as this wine will supposedly drink all the way out to 2045 and longer. I’ll put one away for my 80th.

2010 / Clonakilla / Canberra / Shiraz Viognier / S$89 at Wine Exchange Asia –  I’m always staggered when I see Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier on sale in Singapore at such attractive pricing. Next time you are in Australia, check out the pricing at Dan Murphys and you’ll realise what a great deal we are getting here. This is one of Australia’s great wines, year after year. The 2006 is listed in the “1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die” and that’s a good enough reason for me to splash S$90 on the 2010. Halliday 95 points, but he’s not alone.

Well, what to choose from this lot? In BBI order, the undoubted choice is the Clarendon Astralis. Even the single bottle price  would put it as number one. Second (surprisingly for me) is the Lake Breeze but third is where my heart is, with the Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. The Peccavi’s a good deal, but the competition today is intense. The Year of the Dragon opens well indeed.

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TASMANIA UPDATE

Tiger Wines (www.tiger-wines.com) has taken delivery of a wide range of Domaine A wines from Tasmania, and this week, we’re showcasing the 2007 Domaine A Pinot Noir.

Quoting from Domaine A’s newsletter:

“Same intensity, fruit structure and grippy tannins as the 2006, but a little more elegant. Less than 5000 bottles made and really needs to be left in the cellar as Perotti-Brown suggests – 

‘Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2007 Pinot Noir has a wonderfully perfumed, mint and floral nose with notes of freshly crushed spearmint, violets and red roses over black cherries, baking spices and a touch of tree bark. The medium bodied palate offers a generous amount of ripe berry and mint flavours with crisp acid and a medium to firm level of grainy tannins, finishing long and spicy. Delicious now, it should cellar nicely to 2016’ – 92+pts, Lisa Perotti-Brown MW Wine Advocate, June 2011”

James Halliday 95 points  – “Outstanding”

Retails in Australia for A$70 and selling at Tiger Wines at S$88 per bottle or S$85 by the case.  Order from tigerwines@singnet.com.sg

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 “I will try to learn the difference between new oak and Newark. All the wines I’ve drunk that were aged in Newark have been a disappointment.” – Morris Gleitzman, writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine, January 2008

 

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The perfect sundowner – Turkey Flat Rose

Reviewed wines on offer by Artisan Cellars, Crystal Wines, Equatorial Wines, Le Vigne, The Local Nose, Wine Exchange Asia

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I see the Aussie dollar was 1.34 earlier in the week. Makes buying in Singapore more challenging. Just for the record, the BBI (Bastard Box Index) of fair comparative value is updated with the current exchange rate weekly to ensure that rate creep doesn’t distort comparisons.

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2010 / Hamilton Russell / Southern Right / Walker Bay / Sauvignon Blanc / S$32 at Wine Exchange Asia – You’ve heard me talk about Walker Bay before so I don’t have to tell you it’s in South Africa. Platters give this wine 4.5 stars which equates to their “outstanding” category. I have absolutely no idea as to whether this is a good comparative deal, but at S$32, I figure you can’t go too far wrong.

2010 / Hay Shed Hill / Pitchfork / Margaret River / Semillon Sauvignon Blanc / S$37.50 at Equatorial Wines and The Local Nose – This gets a Halliday “highly recommended” rating of 90 points. Perfect for drinking this year but definitely not a keeper. It’s a comfortable 12.5% alc. and RRP is A$16.  The pricing here is OK.

2010 / Turkey Flat / Barossa Valley / Rose / S$33 or $30 by the case at Wine Exchange Asia – Wine Advocate puts this wine into its “very good” category whilst James Halliday puts it into his “outstanding” category at 95 points. I’m with James on this one. Drink it now or next year at the latest but do get some and drink it. It’s the perfect late afternoon, early evening tipple on the balcony or in the garden in Singapore. A proper sundowner, or as the wife says “is the sun over the yard arm yet?” RRP of A$23 so the pricing here, single bottle or case, is very good.

2009 / Hamilton Russel / Southern Right / Walker Bay / Pinotage / S$39 at Wine Exchange Asia – Another Platters 4.5 star “outstanding” wine. I’ve been drinking the occasional Hamilton Russell and I like the change from the norm. A couple in your cellar won’t hurt you.

2009 / Pyramid Valley / Calvert / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$85.60 at Artisan Cellars – Good to see some new brands appearing in Singapore. This wine is rated 93 by Bob Campbell (“excellent”) and retails at NZ$52. The BBI reckons that retail price should put it around the S$72 mark in Singapore, so again, it’s a case of if you want this, you’ll be prepared to pay for it.

2009 / Cullen / Diana Madeline / Margaret River / Cabernet Blend / S$147, S$139.65 for members at Crystal Wines – The Diana Madeline always rates consistently well and this vintage is no exception, achieving “outstanding” from Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator and “excellent” from Wine Front. Long legs, out to 2020-2025. Surprisingly for a red, only 12.5%. Retails for A$113 so the BBI would expect this to pitch at about S$123. It’s not, so you’ll need to make up your own mind.

2006 / Dai Gum San / Limestone Coast / Shiraz / S$27.90 at Le Vigne – There’s also a Pinot Grigio on special at the same price but I couldn’t find a rating on it. The folk at Le Vigne are not silly – this is the perfect wine to plonk on the table over Chinese New Year. It even looks like a Chinese wine but of course it isn’t. Firstly it comes from the Limestone Coast region of South Australia, and secondly, I’m betting it’s a whole lot better than most of the stuff that passes itself off as wine up north.  Well, I know it’s a whole lot better as Halliday puts it in “recommended, above average” category. Still a couple of years left to drink, and with a RRP of A$16, the price here is terrific value. A solid S$10 cheaper than the Hay Shed Hill which retails at the same price downunder. If you are chasing your own ratings, try looking under Norfolk Rise as well as Dai Gum San.

The stand out wine today from a BBI value point of view is the Turkey Flat Rose.  The Dai Gum San is a good deal too.  Leaving aside the Hamilton Russell that I don’t have enough data on, the others are fine wines but the value is just OK, not great.

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

You wouldn’t think that wheat would be a word to be associated with wine, but it is. I was at a tasting just this week when the word popped up in describing an aged Semillon. Here’s how others have used it:

“This Semillon has begun to develop the kind of fusel notes that might bring Mad Max to mind. It’s fresh on the palate, where scents of wheat, lemon and lanolin take over and glide into a long finish.”

The wine is the 2006 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon as reviewed by my favourite read, Wine & Spirits magazine.

“A big unctuous white with warm flavours of wheat and golden grapes”, describing a Verdelho.

So, add wheat to your Winespeak vocabulary.

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THE WAY WE WERE

As far as I can tell, this is definitely the way we were, and no longer are. According to my research, the Kaiser Stuhl name quietly snuck away and died during the transition of assets from Fosters to Treasury Wine Estates last year. Let me know if I’m wrong but it looks to me like its gone for good. Someone’s grandmother somewhere will be pining.

 

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Only in America…..?

In Oklahoma “counties with by-the-glass service cannot have BYO; in others, establishments can apply for a ‘bottle club’ license that allows patrons to buy a 72-hour membership for $3 or a yearlong one for $25. Members can bring wine, but each can only drink from his or her own bottle.” – Wine Spectator, April 2011, listing the rules of BYO across US states.

 

Ratings from 97 points down to 60 points

Reviewed wines on offer by Absolute Blizzard Resources, Artisan Cellars, Crystal Wines, Wine Exchange Asia.

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There’s some top wines here today, really good stuff and a couple of favourites in the Ata Rangi and Domaine A.

2009 / Cullen / Kevin John / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$130 or S$123.50 for members at Crystal Wines – 97 points from James Halliday tells you all you need to know. A stunner with “exceptional poise and purity” according to James. Drinking forever (well, 2024 is forever when you’re my age). Retails at A$105 so the price here is OK, just I’d like to see it closer to S$115 to reflect the WET rebate in a A$105 wine, but arguing over S$10 bucks seems so petty when you’re talking of a 97 point wine. If you do buy some, remember wine is for sharing and I’m available.

2009 / Ata Rangi / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$75 at Wine Exchange Asia – If you follow this blog, you’ll know I raved over the 2008 Ata Rangi, and said that it was a bargain at S$65 a year or so ago. Well, I’m going to say it again for the 2009 at S$75.  In my mind, the 2009 is better than the 2008. It might just be a timing thing (the 2008 is a little dumb right now, I had one last night) but I find the 2009 altogether smoother and more luscious. Don’t take my word for it – Bob Campbell gives the 2009 95 points (“excellent, top quality”) with drinking out to 2017+. Wine Advocate agrees giving it 92. Won’t last to 2017 in our place though. With the way the S$ is going, the price today might look an even better deal in a few months time. Retails for NZ$65.

2009 / Pyramid Valley / Angel Flower / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$117.70 at Artisan Cellars – One of the “three tenors” of Central Otago that knock out stunning Pinot Noir, the others being Felton Road and Craggy Range. This wine gets an “excellent” rating from Wine Advocate (91+) and is drinking to 2015. Retails at NZ$75 so as a straight value comparison with the Ata Rangi, it doesn’t stack up (BBI says closer to S$95 but certainly sub S$100). But, if you want to “tick the box” on another iconic brand, then I don’t think you’ll find it elsewhere in Singapore and that’s Artisan’s price. Take it or leave it.

2003 / Domaine A / Tasmania / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$65 at Absolute Blizz Resources – What can I say about Domaine A that isn’t good, after all Tiger Wines is now the Singapore retailer handling current releases! I’ve got some older vintages too, but not this one. Halliday gives it 95 points (“highly recommended, worthy of a cellar place”) and says drinking to 2023.  Current release is only 2005. Retailed at A$65.  As with most of Domaine A’s Cabernets you need to decant well in advance of drinking.

Putting aside my bias for the Domaine A, the best deal here is the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir.

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WINESPEAK  101 – How to waffle with the best of them

Today, we don’t have a “word”, but rather a look at how raters express themselves when the wine is rubbish. These ratings come from a 1999 Wine Spectator and it’s interesting to note (on my personal anecdotal evidence) that raters don’t rate as harshly as they used to, or at least those harsh ratings don’t get published any more.  Back in the old days, swags of wine were rated at 85 points and below. Today, that’s less and less common. Better wine? Maybe.

Let’s do the countdown…..

77 points  – “Only a professional taster or a masochist would consider drinking this thick, black liquid.”

74 points“Dry and rather bitter, with an overt stale note that reminds me of spoiled butter.”

73 points“Tart, green, herbal; a tough red that dries on the finish.”

72 points“Like smelling a horse stable.  In the mouth, it’s rich, ripe and sweet. Very bizarre,” and “This diluted, acidic wine is more like water.”

71 points“An oniony aroma and flavour doesn’t add up to much.”

70 points“Tastes of cardboard. Sweet and appley, but not clean,” and “Stinky, earthy and tart. What happened?”

And finally…

60 points“Odd and unclean, with wet cardboard and tart pineapple flavors”; “Something wrong here. Tart paint varnish” and “Very earthy, even swampy, with herbal and stewed artichoke notes leading to a tart finish.”

I was once presented with a masked bubbly and asked to comment. On the aroma, the first thing that hit me was an overwhelming sense of being in a valley tainted with smoke from coal fires. On the palate, it reeked of napthalene or mothballs. It turned out to be an English bubbly, perhaps expressing its “terroir”!  I won’t judge all britagne by that bottle.

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“Hitherto, our own capitalists have had no, or little, faith in the future of our wines. Let them see there is a future for them, and then doubtless they will, on both personal and public grounds, lend a helping hand to the undertaking.” – The South Australian Chronicle, 8th August 1874

 

A great start to the New Year and a great Tassie wine in Singapore

Reviewed  8 wines on offer by Artisan Cellars, Le Vigne, Peccavi Wines, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Directions. Comments on 6 today.

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How better to kick 2012 away than with a sale.  The Straits Wine Company is closing their two Turf City outlets and their sale, starting today, promises “up to 80% off”. I don’t have a listing so I can’t comment on individual deals. If you know what you want and the usual price, then it looks like the place to be.

Here’s today’s reviews:

2011 / Stratum / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$21.50 at Undergound Wines – If your looking for this, try looking under Sherwood Stratum as that’s where you’ll sometimes find it. Wine Advocate says “86 – very good” and drinking to 2013. It retails in the US for US$10 but we’re not so lucky. Still, at S$21.50, with S$7ish of duty in there, it looks like a good buy.

2009 / Arlewood / Margaret River / Marsanne Rousanne / S$28 at Le Vigne – I reviewed this wine back in August 2011 when it was S$29 at Le Vigne. Here’s what I said – Gets a solid 89 rating from James Halliday who says “it will develop with time in the bottle”. Give it a try if you’re tired of the same old, same old sauvignon blanc/chardonnay routine. RRP of A$20 so terrific buying here. – It’s now S$28 and the comment’s still the same, except that I can add that Wine Advocate gives it 90 points (outstanding) and recommends drinking by 2013. A terrific buy.

2007 / Mahi / Rive / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$66.34 at Artisan Cellars – Mahi’s not a name I’m familiar with so good on Artisan Cellars for bringing us a bit of variety in the very established Kiwi Pinot Noir market. This one from Marlborough too.  Bob Campbell says “87 – above average”, Michael Cooper says “4.5 – excellent” and Wine Advocate says “90 – outstanding”. Well that’s not a bad start is it? Still drinking to 2016 according to Cooper. With a RRP of NZ$45, the price here spot on.

2006 / Trentham Estate / Mornington Peninsula / Pinot Noir / S$35 at Wine Directions – I recommended this wine back in May 2010 and you should have bought it then when it was offered at S$30. I recommended it again in April 2011 and here I am recommending it again in January 2012. Halliday 92, drink to 2013. It’s a great buy.

2007 / Peccavi / No Regrets / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$45 at Peccavi Wines and The Local Nose – Wine Advocate says “87 – very good”, James Halliday says “94 – outstanding”. Plenty of legs as it should keep drinking well to around 2018. 14.5% alcohol, and with an RRP of A$28, the pricing here is BBI perfect.

2002 / Henry’s Drive / Padthaway / Shiraz / S$52 at Le Vigne – I first looked at Wine Spectator’s rating on this wine and thought “uh-oh”. That’s because they reckon it should have been drunk by 2009. They gave it their “very good” rating. But looking further afield to Wine Advocate, they reckon its good to 2017 and gave it a solid 93 points (“outstanding”) so it’s a case of “who do you believe?”. I’ll go with Wine Advocate on this one. With a RRP of A$32, it’s no bargain at S$52 but it is fair value.

So the top three BBI picks for this blog are fairly easy. Number one off the rank is the Trentham Estate Pinot Noir, followed by the Arlewood Marsanne Rousanne and then the Stratum Sauvignon Blanc. They’re all fair deals here today but those three are the best by Bastard Box’s calculations.

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

“There’s expensive oak involved but that quickly yields to the kind of mineral-tinged pear and apple crispness that completely subsumes the wood.”

“Fragrant apple, pear and fresh wheat scents infuse the creaminess of this chardonnay.”

Both chardonnays, both bloody good ones. The first is 2008 Penfolds Yattarna and the second is 2008 Leeuwin Estate Art Series. The comments come from Wine & Spirits, October 2011. So, good chardonny. Apple it is.

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TASMANIA UPDATE 

During 2011, Tiger Wines introduced a range of Tasmanian wines into Singapore that had never been seen here before – Pressing Matters, Spring Vale, and Waterton. Now there’s Domaine A as the first new listing for 2012. Domaine A has been shipped to Singapore before but it quickly disappeared into investment holdings and was not generally offered at retail. Well, that’s changed as Tiger Wines has a good supply of Domaine A’s current range of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

On offer now is the 2005 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon which despite the vintage, is the current release. Wine Advocate gives it 94 points (“outstanding”) and Langtons has promoted the Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon from “Distinguished” to “Excellent”. This is from Domaine A’s latest newsletter:

This wine retails in Australia at A$70 (I saw it in Dan Murphys at that price last month) and here in Singapore it is offered at S$88 (incl gst)

2005 / Domaine A / Tasmania / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$88 at Tiger Wines

James Halliday 93 points (“highly recommended”), Jeremy Oliver 94 points (“gold medal”), Wine Advocate 94 points (“outstanding’”). Drinking to 2025.

Order from tigerwines@singnet.com.sg

Domaine A also makes Australia’s best Sauvignon Blanc, Lady A, and certainly its most expensive (A$60), but those in the know snapped up the stocks on arrival so it’s now completely sold out in Singapore.

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Australians have got tunnel-vision. And this is where I – well, for a highly-placed person in an Australian wine corporation to say effectively, that the poms wouldn’t know a good bottle if it hit them over the head, is just the end. If they think it privately, keep it to themselves, but you don’t go saying it where it’s going to be quoted back to you in an influential trade publication. If the wombat’s doing these things, you bury him in a very large hole.” – Tony Lord, then editor of Decanter speaking with Winestate, August 1982

 


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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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