How to make a small fortune? – start with a large one and invest in Australian wine.

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

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Just back from a visit to Tassie, catching up with wineries in the north, east and south, and managing to fit in a spot of trout fishing on Woods Lake and Great Lake. The competitors in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships had more success than me (i.e they actually caught fish) but the bizarre event of the week was witnessing record breaking Lithuanian swimmer Vidmantas Urbonas  emerge from the 10 degree water of the Great Lake in central Tasmania having just swum its 28 km length in a little over 6 hours. I’m told that when he jumped into the lake at 7:30am his first words were –  “warm”. They breed them tough in Lithuania.

I managed to meet some more wonderful characters in the crazy world of wine that exists in Tassie. Brian Franklin of Apsley Gorge whose winemaking operation sits on a ledge of rock almost jutting into the sea at Bicheno. Not the place you’d usually expect to meet a winemaker, but Brian is a retired abalone and crayfish diver so using the former processing plant makes sense. It’s just not where you’d expect to find a cellar!; Steve Lubiana, whose enthusiasm for biodynamics is infectious. Watch this space to hear more about Stefano Lubiana wines in Singapore; and Nick Glaetzer, who shocked the establishment by winning the Jimmy Watson Trophy with a Tasmanian shiraz. On my visit to Cambridge (where he is winemaker for Frogmore Creek) Nick drew several samples of pinot noir and shiraz from his own Glaetzer-Dixon barrels. I can’t wait to see these wines in the bottle in Singapore. And before you ask, no, I didn’t manage to secure any 2010 Mon Pere shiraz.

Also Loraine Kossmann at Chartley Estate, Dave Cush at Spring Vale, Peter Cameron at Waterton, Kate Hill at er, Kate Hill, and Peter Althaus at Domaine A.  Word is, it’s going to be a tough vintage this year. Too cool and too cloudy so far, but there’s still a few weeks to go before panic sets in.

And here’s a tip – catch the Spirit of Tasmania ferry so that you can enjoy a bottle of 2003 Grand Vintage Arras in the restaurant, or a glass of 2006 Domaine A Stoney Vineyard cabernet at just $8.50 a glass. And you can fill the boot with Tasmanian wine on the way back.

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I’m currently reading “The future makers – Australian wines for the 21st century” by Max Allen and what an informative read it is. This is not your usual winery tour guide but a detailed and opinionated analysis of what Australia should be growing for warmer weather (more Italian varietals), and who should be growing them (not big money) with a recurring, almost repetitive emphasis on biodynamics as the key.  It’s a rambling, entertaining, constantly challenging read. I couldn’t put it down. Apsley Gorge gets a mention, as does Stefano Lubiana and Spring Vale. Max Allen writes  under Spring Vale that “the stand-out wine is Spring Vale’s “grown-up” pinot noir: regularly up there with Tasmania’s best, it has uncommon plumy vinosity and warm generous spicy aromatics.”

So…..

I’m giving away a copy of the book (RRP A$45) to the first person to buy a case of the 2007 Spring Vale Pinot Noir at Tiger Wines (www.tiger-wines.com)

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Unless you’re new to Singapore, have been studying for your school exams (in which case you shouldn’t be reading this blog), or you don’t get out much, then you’ll know that there’s a lot of wine in Singapore that came here as an investment and is still here – only it isn’t an investment any more. Think of it more like Greek debt.

Did I say a lot? Oh yes, a lot. The word “ocean” seems to be the most popular term. Now, that’s wonderful news for you as a buyer, awful news if you’re the investor (but hardly surprising), and frankly, awful news for wineries trying to get current vintages into Singapore when older vintages are selling for cents in the dollar of their original price.  Example? How about 2006 Grant Burge Meshach which retails in Australia for about A$140. Want the 2002? That’d be A$65 equivalent in Singapore! I’ve seen wines that are A$100 bid at Langton’s being offered here in Singapore for A$38. Did I hear you whisper “arbitrage”?

So, until your cellar fills up, your credit card runs out, or you just get sick of drinking “icon” Australian wines, then you’re going to have the time of your life.  You need to get into the loop of course, and probably the best place to start is to get onto Wine Exchange Asia’s mailing list. They seem to be most active in trying to turn the mountain into a molehill.

But if you do get sick of those icons, please don’t forget the other wine retailers who are being clobbered by the obscene, ill-informed speculation that led to this (in my mind) disaster. And don’t forget that you can always take a different journey for a while by exploring Tasmania’s finest wines too.

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A break with tradition. Today I’m listing the wines in order of attractiveness of “the deal”, from the least attractive to the best.

2010 / Flametree / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$60 ($57 for members) at Crystal Wines – This is a fine wine, 94 pts from Halliday and 90 pts from Wine Front. It’s the price I can’t get excited about. With a RRP of A$30, the BBI reckons this should be closer to S$48-49 than the S$60 being asked here.

2008 / Mahi / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$42.80 at Artisan Cellars – This is actually a fair deal price-wise, it’s just clobbered by better ones today. Michael Cooper reckons it’s in the “excellent” category and Bob Campbell gives it “above average”.  Retailed for NZ$20 but worryingly, the winemaker (according to Michael Cooper) reckons this should have been drunk by 2010.

2007 / Kilikanoon / The Covenant / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$52 at Wine Exchange Asia – Halliday 90 pts, Wine Spectator 93 pts. Solid, drinking out to 2016. I’m looking at the current sale price rather than the initial retail price and the current price shows about A$42. That make S$52 a good buy.

2006 / Kilikanoon / R Reserve / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$98 at Wine Exchange Asia – Halliday gave it 95 pts and drinking out to 2025. RRP was A$120, but now selling at around A$110. Things are getting better. Great deal.

2005 / Mount Mary / Quintet/ Yarra Valley / Cabernet / S$105 at Wine Exchange Asia – 95 and 96 pts respectively from Haliday and Oliver. An icon. RRP of A$100 but now selling for A$140 so S$105 is limbo land. A steal

2005 / Dalwhinnie / Moonambel / Pyrenees / Shiraz / S$65, or $60 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – How low can you go? Actually, this is line ball with the Mount Mary but sneaks in because the overall price is lower but still 96 pts Halliday. Currently selling at A$70, up from its retail of A$52. Do the maths  – today’s winner!

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UPDATE ON BASTARD BOX

Alas, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Bastard Box wine will not appear in bottles anytime soon. It’s impossible to lead vines to wine when you don’t live on the property.  Such is life.

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“It is easy to understand the popularity of wine. Our fathers, hundreds and thousands of years ago, had no ice chests and in wine they found a food beverage which by natural fermentation preserved itself. Mostly the ancients drank their wine as soon as it was made. They had no bottles or containers that would protect the wine from the air.  Sometimes they added resin or spice or pitch to preserve their wines for longer periods. But such wine would not be very tasty to drink.” – 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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