Archive for March, 2012

And the winner of the week is…….from Carrefour!

Reviewed wines on offer by Artisan Cellars, Carrefour, Crystal Wines, Equatorial Wines, Eve Spirits, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia

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Bit bizarre this week. Of the 5 Australian wines I looked at, I couldn’t find ratings on 4 of them, in fact for one of them, I couldn’t even find the winery!

So let’s have a look at what I know I don’t know:

Equatorial Wines has a 2008 Barinia Clare Valley Cabernet for sale at S$35.50. I’ve never heard of Barinia and it seems it doesn’t have a web-site.  A quick Google and I was not much more informed. No rating from any of the recognized raters down under so I can only guess it’s going to be a hard sell on this wine.

Nepenthe (on offer by Eve Spirits) is much better known but I couldn’t find a rating on the 2011 White Tryst (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon) or the 2010 Good Doctor Pinot Noir. The flyer says the Tryst has a Wine Advocate 91pt rating but I couldn’t find that in my eRobertParker subscription. Rating aside, the pricing at S$31.90 and S$45.90 respectively looks OK.

That leaves the Rosemount on sale at Carrefour (2010 Rosemount Roseglen Shiraz at S$16.90) but Roseglen doesn’t pop up in any rater reviews. I suspect it’s a specific export label. I’ll pass.

Let’s have a look at what’s left, in ascending order of value.

2009 / Noon / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$152 or S$144.40 for members at Crystal Wines – This wine gets a 91pt gong from Wine Advocate so not shabby. Trouble is, this wine is on sale in Australia right now (Wine House) at A$80 so the price here of S$152 looks ambitious. Drinking to 2018.

2009 / Pyramid Valley / Lions Tooth / North Canterbury / Chardonnay / S$101.65 at Artisan Cellars – Do you follow Bob Campbell or Wine Advocate? Bob Campbell is not overly excited by this wine giving it 85 points “above average” whereas Wine Advocate gives it 91+ “outstanding”. You make your own choice. Retails for NZ$65 though, so that makes the price here a little on the high side.

2009 / Desert Heart / Central Otago / Chardonnay / S$38 at Wine Exchange Asia – A solid 5 stars from Michael Cooper (“outstanding”) and with a RRP of NZ$32, very good value at S$38. Should drink to 2017.

2011 / Soho / Stella / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.50 by the case at Underground Wines – Michael Cooper gives it “excellent, silver medal” but unfortunately does not give its drinking window. Should be safe for 2012 though. Its RRP is indicated as NZ$23, so this is great buying.

I can’t believe this.  The winner for today comes from Carrefour. As you know, I’m pretty critical of places that don’t quote vintages or sell wine right next to bicycles and vacuum cleaners. Carrefour’s catalogue (expiring 29th March) has the Rosemount on the same page as toilet rolls and on a completely separate page, the Kim Crawford next to chicken nuggets. Go figure. And there’s no vintage quoted. So, with the very big proviso that the wine offered is 2010, here’s the review:

Kim Crawford / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.65 at Carrefour – It gets 5 stars from Michael Cooper “outstanding, gold medal” and Wine Spectator “very good”. With a RRP of NZ$23, this is the winning deal. If it’s earlier than 2010, forget it, as the 2010 should be drunk right now.

To be fair, any of the last three wines here (Desert Heart, Soho, Kim Crawford) are good value, there’s not a lot in it.

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TASMANIA UPDATE (and a little bit of Yarra Valley)

The word I get from the Apple Isle is that the grapes are in for the northern wineries but down south, they’re still picking. Volumes are well down apparently but quality up.  Watch this space.

Also watch this space, as over the coming months Tiger Wines (www.tiger-wines.com) will be bringing to Singapore a range of wines from Apsley Gorge, Chartley Estate, Domaine A, Glaetzer-Dixon, Kate Hill, Pressing Matters, Spring Vale, Waterton, and very exciting, a fairly comprehensive range from Stefano Lubiana.

Some interesting small-producer wines from the likes of Yarra Valley winemakers Luke Lambert, Timo Mayer, and Syd Bradford (from Thick as Thieves) will make their way up here too.

It’s going to be a great opportunity to try wines from some of Australia’s up-and-coming and “brave” winemakers. Brian Franklin from Apsley Gorge, Steve Lubiana from Stefano Lubiana and Peter Althaus from Domaine A were all listed in Decanter’s “Australia’s 10 Bravest Winemakers” in their May 2010 issue.

Steve Lubiana is highlighted in Max Allen’s book “The future makers – Australian wines for the 21st century”. So too are Luke Lambert and Timo Mayer, referred to as members of the South Pack , “an excuse some may say, for boozy road-trips thinly disguised as marketing”. If Singapore is ready, maybe we can entice them to pay us a visit.

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‘Mark how it smells. Methinks a real pain

Is by its odour thrown upon my brain.

I’ve tasted it – ‘tis spiritless and flat,

And it has as many different tastes,

As can be found in compound pastes….

A poet comments on port in 1702, in “Winetasting” by Peter Simic, Winestate December 1978

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Pity the poor investors, but you benefit – Meshach in the bargain bin.

Reviewed wines on offer from Artisan Cellars, Cornerstone Wines, The Cellar Door, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia

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I know the Sydney Royal Wine Show has been over for a few weeks now but did you pick up that the 2010 Peter Lehmann Art Series Shiraz Grenache won a top gold? What makes that so special is that it retails in Australia for A$12! Wonder if we’ll ever see it here, and at a decent price? Bottles & Bottles is the distributor so let’s keep our eyes open.

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Let’s do the the Kiwis first and in ascending order of value:

2010 / Villa Maria / Private Bin / East Coast / Chardonnay / S$32.90 at The Cellar Door – The pricing on this is OK, it’s the rating that holds down the comparative value. Michael Cooper gives it 3 stars which is “good”. Just up against stiffer competition today.

2009 / Pyramid Valley / Kerner Estate / North Canterbury / Pinot Blanc / S$53.50 at Artisan Cellars – Yes, that’s right – Pinot Blanc. Also a Burgundy (white) but rarely seen, even there. Michael Cooper gives it a resounding “excellent” and the winemaker, Mike Weersing says that it has “intimidating power and presence”. Looks like it retails for around NZ$36 so the pricing here is about where the BBI (Bastard Box Index) would expect it to be. Go on, experiment.

2009 / Jackson Estate / Widow / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$49, S$45 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – The ratings are getting better all the time, this one 5 stars from Michael Cooper making it “outstanding”.  Drinking to 2020 apparently and retails for NZ$35. That makes it a good buy here.

2010 / Rock Ferry / Rapaura / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$26.50 at Underground Wines – Almost anything in the $20 range will score comparatively well if it’s half decent. This gets a rating from Michael Cooper somewhere between “very good” and “excellent” so at S$26.50, it gets the value award today for the Kiwis. Don’t sit on it though. Drink before the end of next year.

Let’s talk shiraz and let’s talk real value:

The Grant Burge for sure comes from a distressed investor, maybe the Schubert too, but either way, you get to be the beneficiary.

2001 / Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$80, S$75 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – You know enough about Meshach that I don’t have to tell you any more. Just two numbers: Last seen at A$85 in Australia, showing here at S$80. No brainer.

2002 / Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$85, S$80 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – A$110 versus S$85. Need any more convincing?

2005 / Schubert / Goose-Yard Block / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$60, $50 by the case at Cornerstone Wines – Halliday 94 pts, drinking to 2025 (still a pup then) and 15% alcohol. Last seen at A$65 down under. A bargain if you like your reds big.

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WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them – Today’s words GLACE CHERRY

Glace cherry nose, medium bodied but ripe and lively

I like this one because I think it captures exactly what, to my nose, many syrahs are like.

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“If you ask me to give you, quickly, the mark of civilization in Europe, I would as quickly reply: The Vine. Wine adorns the pages of the Old Testament; the Greeks sang of it lovingly; the Romans, who should have known better, drank it from pitchy skins (although Horace had a Falneros and Virgil a Fruity Dry White from the Sabine Hills that sends an ache of longing to taste through us who live today); Caesar crowned his conquests, even of Britain, by planting the grape; from the so-called Dark Ages (which were not as dark as they are painted) to the bursting, fruiting glory of the Middle Ages, the Vine made Europe, and most everything we have we owe to that source. Were our source to fail and disappear, we, who were made, would also fade and disappear.”  – The Aesthetics of Wine, March 1946

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Here’s Tiger Wines promotion for this week:

 

Act II – New Zealand

Reviewed  wines on offer by Eve Spirits, Hai Choo Wines, Le Vigne, The Local Nose, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia, Wine Guru

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As promised yesterday, here’s a continuation of the reviews looking only at Kiwi wines.

In ascending order of BBI value:

2008 / Man O’ War / Dreadnought / Waiheke Island / Syrah / $69 at Wine Guru and The Local Nose – Bob Campbell gives it 94 pts (“excellent, top quality”) and Decanter gives it 18.5 pts which puts it into 5 star territory. Should be drinking for another 6 years or so. A terrific wine by their standards. The RRP is NZ$46 so the price here is still a BBI “fair value”. Nothing wrong with the price, it’s just beaten by others who are more keen in their pricing.

2006 / Kumeu River / Mates Vineyard / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$55 at Wine Exchange Asia – Like the Man O’War, this too gets 94 pts from Bob Campbell. It also gets 96 pts from Gourmet Traveller Wine and 91 pts from Wine Spectator. Only a couple of more years left in it apparently, so all the more reason to buy now and drink now. With a RRP of NZ$50, you can see why it beats the Man O’War in value.

2009 / Mt Beautiful / North Canterbury / Pinot Noir / S$42 at Wine Directions and The Local Nose – Quite frustrating (again) that the only rating I could find on this wine and this vintage came not from a New Zealand rater but from Wine Advocate. New Zealand definitely needs to breed more recognized home-grown raters. Wine Advocate gives it 90 pts putting it just into the “outstanding” category. The RRP looks to be around the NZ$30-33 mark so the pricing here is very keen indeed.

2008 / Crossroads / Talisman / Hawkes Bay / Syrah / S$42 at Hai Choo Wines and The Local Nose – Another wine and vintage with the rating by Wine Advocate and seemingly ignored by the local Kiwi raters. Wine Advocate’s rating on this one puts it into the “very good” category, although to be frank, there’s only a point difference between it and the Mt Beautiful. Looks like it retails for about NZ$40 so it gets the gong for the best comparative value here today.

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THE WAY WE WERE – 1976

Coolawin Wines was established in 1969 and at its peak was making 50,000 cases.  The best I can gather is that sometime before 1985 it morphed into Chais Clarendon which today sits under the Norman’s label.

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“Do you really think that plunking down ridiculous sums of money for classed-growth Bordeaux makes you a wine lover? That it makes you knowledgeable? That it shows the world how smart you are? I’ll let you in on a little secret: The folks who really know about wine think you’re something, all right But smart it ain’t” – Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator 31st May 1998

Hot deals and hot Tasmania

Reviewed 20 wines on offer by Cornerstone Wines, Eve Spirits, Crystal Wines, Hai Choo Wines, Le Vigne, The Local Nose, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia, Wine Guru.

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Tasmania is hot at the moment (did I mention that a Tasmanian shiraz won last year’s Jimmy Watson Trophy?), finally getting its day in the sunshine of winemaking recognition.

Hobart has more than 50 vineyards within a 30-minute drive of the CBD, far more than the number enjoyed by any other capital city in the country. Between them, those vineyards offer us wines in a variety of styles from 17 grape varieties and, according to the international doyenne of wine, Jancis Robinson, writing after the recent international Cool Climate Symposium held in Hobart, our chardonnays are ‘stupendous’ and ‘if Tasmania produces any seriously ordinary wines of any variety, I failed to find it’ “ (Graeme Phillips writing in The Mercury, 4th March 2012)

Hot stuff indeed! But wait, there’s more….”six of Domaine A’s and Stoney Vineyard’s vintage cabernets, merlots and oaked sauvignon blancs featured among Jancis’s top picks.” Check out www.tiger-wines.com for some of Domaine A’s and Stoney Vineyard cabernets and sauvignon blanc in Singapore.

On the sparkling front “of the top 15 Australian sparkling wine brands being sold on-premise around the country, four of them – Jansz, Clover Hill, Ninth Island and Stefano Lubiana – owe their origins to vineyards located in the north, south and east of Tasmania. Indeed, with their market shares combined, the four Tasmanian brands will account for close to one in every 10 bottles of Aussie fizz that will be uncorked today in our clubs, pubs and restaurants.  Many of the island’s small-scale producers would add that it’s not a bad effort for a viticultural region that contributes less than 0.5 per cent to Australia’s total wine crush each vintage.”  – Mark Smith writing for Grapegrowers & Winemaker February 2012 on the the beverage report of AC Nielsen.

Not bad indeed.

Unfortunately, it’s been hot in other ways too. Meadowbank Vineyard has lost this year’s crop to bushfire damage and smoke taint. We wish them well for next year’s vintage.

I previously offered a copy of Max Allen’s “The future makers – Australian wines for the 21st century” to the first buyer of a case of the Spring Vale pinot noir. Well, that copy has been snapped up, but I’m offering another (and my last) copy to the first buyer of a case of Pressing Matters Tasmania Riesling (either the R0 or the R9). Have a look at www.tiger-wines.com for the details.

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Some weeks I struggle to find enough good deals to write about, Other weeks, there’s a glut, and this week is one of those. So, today, I’ll look at a bunch of Aussies, and tomorrow we’ll look at the Kiwis.

In ascending order of BBI value:

2006 / West Cape Howe / Great Southern / Shiraz / S$26.80 at Le Vigne – The wine’s OK (Wine Advocate “very good”), the pricing’s OK too, especially at this price point. It’s just that today, there’s better, even for West Cape Howe.

2008 / Mitolo / G.A.M. / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$56.25 or S$52.50 by the case at Crystal Wines – Timing is everything. On an ordinary week, this wine may well have won “best value”. It’s a good deal for a Halliday 94 pt wine. Plenty of cellaring time ahead of it too, (roughly 2020) but it’s literally been clobbered by the great deals elsewhere today. RRP A$55.

2007 / West Cape Howe / Styx Gully / Great Southern / Chardonnay / S$33 at Le Vigne – Terrific deal and 95 pts from Halliday – what’s not to like? And all for S$33 bucks.  RRP A$24. We’re being spoilt.

2005 / Wild Duck Creek / Springflat / Heathcote / Shiraz / S$49.99 at Cornerstone – Possibly coming out of an investment portfolio as we’ve seen this wine around at various outlets over time.  It’s 94 pts Halliday and drinking to 2020.  15.5% alcohol though.

2007 / West Cape Howe / Book Ends / Great Southern / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$33 at Le Vigne – Just look at this. A 95 pt Halliday cabernet  for S$33. RRP is A$25 so if you still think wine has to be expensive in Singapore (don’t tell me – it’s the tax) then you’re looking in the wrong place.

Now to the very, very serious value…..

2009 / West Cape Howe / Great Southern / Riesling / S$27 from Le Vigne – You might wonder how anything can beat the earlier deals. Well, this one does because it’s 94 pts Halliday and the selling price here of S$27 is low, low, low.  You know, at our local provision shop yesterday, I saw an Australian wine for sale for S$40 that oozed nasty. It doesn’t have to be that way.

2010 / West Cape Howe / Zeepard / Great Southern / Sauvignon Blanc / S$22.90 at Le Vigne – This came as a shock to me, so much so that I checked my figures over and over again. How could a Sauvignon Blanc beat the previous wines? Ah, blame the tax.  You see, at $22.90, the asking price here is less than the Australian retail of A$19, and with roughly $6-7 of alcohol duty in that $22.90, it translates as terrific comparative value. The wines OK at  “very good” from Wine Advocate, but it’s the low pricing that makes the deal.

2004 / Cullen / Diana Madeleine / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$85 at Wine Exchange Asia – Definitely coming from a distressed investor and superb buying.  You can buy this in Australia today for A$110 (that’d be S$146 then), or you can buy it in Singapore at S$85 (that’d be A$64 then). Even I can work out the value of that and I failed maths. It’s got 95 pts from Halliday and Gourmet Traveller Wine and it’s still got plenty of years in it yet, out to 2019. A Langton’s Exceptional classification.

What a stunning selection of some superb wines at great value.

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

I wonder how many Singaporeans (or for that matter Melburnians) have ever been into an actual barnyard. And yet, we all seem to know what they smell like (and even taste like). Very peculiar.

“Ripe, raisined like fruit mingles with the drying tannins, and there’s an interesting hint of barnyard-like elements”.  A shiraz in this instance.

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By 1840, only four years after the first European settlers arrived on the mainland of South Australia, there were vineyards and orchards sprouting up everywhere. But there were problems. One was the supply of vine cuttings. We know that in the 1830s some cuttings came to South Australia from South Africa, collected when the immigrant ships called in for supplies.” – Valmai Hankel, writing on ‘Early Days of Winegrowing in South Australia’ in Winestate, October 2007


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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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