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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