Archive for April, 2012

It’s NOT the tax, stupid!

I didn’t set out for this blog to contain mostly wines from Wine Exchange Asia. In fact, I looked at wines from Eve Spirits, eWineAsia, Le Vigne, (Le Vigne are always reliable and have some great deals) and The Local Nose as well but it seems that many of the raters are still catching up with the latest vintages. Anything 2011, I’m still struggling to find ratings for, and I use James Halliday, Jeremy Oliver, Campbell Mattinson & Gary Walsh, Huon Hooke and a smattering of internationals. Sometimes it’s just the way the cards fall.


In ascending order of BBI value:

2006 / Majella / Coonawarra / Sparkling Shiraz / S$49 at Wine Exchange Asia – I’m a big fan of Sparkling Shiraz as you know. This was our house bubbly for a while so comes strongly recommended. James Halliday gives it 90 pts, Huon Hooke 88 pts (just misses a sliver medal). It retails for about A$28 so the price here is OK and the wine will cellar for a while. If you’ve been put off Sparkling Shiraz by sweet lolly water, then try this. It has definite character.

2008 / Devil’s Lair / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / $62 at Wine Exchange Asia – Solid marks across the board on this one. Halliday 94 pts and 94 from Wine Front too. It’ll outlast me going to 2030 possibly. Alcohol is an acceptable 13.5%. RRP in Australia is A$50 – that’s the equivalent of S$64 at today’s exchange rate. It sells here at S$62 or the equivalent of about A$48. And we still have supposed experts saying that wine in Singapore is expensive.

2010 / Spy Valley / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$45 at Wine Exchange Asia – This gets pretty good ratings from Bob Campbell (90 pts), Winestate (4 stars), Wine Spectator (92 pts) and Michael Cooper (4 stars), so a safe bet quality-wise. Looks like it’ll drink for another 3 years too. RRP of NZ$32 so this is a “wicked” buy.

2010 / Dominique Portet / Yarra Valley / Sauvignon Blanc / S$37.50 at eWineAsia – The retailer says it’s Yarra Valley but I think it’s got a little bit of Pyrenees in it too. No matter, good to see a Yarra Valley wine on offer as there’s not exactly a great range from this region on sale in Singapore. 90 pts from Halliday, but drink this year. Definitely not a stayer. RRP of A$28 so pricing here is very good.

2011 / Majella / The Musician / Coonawarra / Cabernet Shiraz / S$30 at Wine Exchange Asia – Yep, this is the deal of the week, and I don’t have a rating on it! Huh? Well, I’m sticking my neck out on this because every vintage in recent times has scored well by Halliday. The last few vintages have scored 95 pts and it’s not dropped below 92 pts in the last 7 years, so I reckon it’s worth a punt. RRP of A$18 means that pure price wise it’s quite good, but throw in the quality and it wins today.


There’s some new (the stamp’s still wet in the passport) players coming into this market, who have concluded that consumers here are tired of paying outrageous prices for Australian wine. I’d say they’ve been looking in the wrong place. Maybe they should have ventured more than a few blocks from their hotel when doing their research.

That hoary chestnut that “it’s the tax” has been dragged out yet again to support the flawed observation that wine in Singapore is expensive compared say, with Australia. Well, let me tell you, GST in Australia is 10% – here it’s 7%. The wine tax on a bottle of Grange in Australia is about A$80 – here it’s about S$7.

It’s NOT the tax, stupid!

It only hurts on the cheap stuff.


“All the smart people in this industry are the ones who are exporting. In the future, and I’m certain that in the not-too-distant future, there’ll be a huge wine glut in this country [Australia] again, and in the next minute we’ll see Boeings full of ockers coming over to London to try and offload what they’ve got in their warehouses, with little regard for the poor bloody importer who wants continuity of supply, and this time the people in Britain certainly already know what they can expect. They’re not gonna touch these guys with a bargepole.” –  Tony Lord, then editor of Decanter magazine speaking to Winestate magazine, August 1982


It’s so cool to be cool – is credibility in the Australian wine brand about to be destroyed, again?

Reviewed offers by Artisan Cellars, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia


It’s so cool to be cool. Is cool climate the most over-used expression in the Australian wine vocabulary, next to passion and dedication?

I’m thinking it is.

My Gourmet Traveller Wine lobbed in my letterbox recently and I was excited to see the mains story as “Cool Climate Shiraz”. Now, I’m a very big fan of cool climate shiraz so this looked like it was going to be great story, and it is. The leading wine at 96 pts was the Jimmy Watson Trophy winning 2010 Mon Pere Shiraz by Glaetzer-Dixon in Tasmania. (I’ve got some – not selling, not sharing. At least not with my relatives)

But then I scanned the list, and saw Best’s Great Western and then Black Jack and Passing Clouds of Bendigo. Cool climate? Jeez, anyone who’s driven from Melbourne to Adelaide overnight after a sweltering day, in a Datusn 180B before the days of car aircon, would feel that hitting Great Western at 2:00 in the morning would hardly be confused with a sudden cool change. And Bendigo? It’s within cooee of Heathcote by Australian standards and further north to boot, the same Heathcote that is the home of big, jammy, cooked shiraz.

Yes. I’ve seen the definitions of cool climate, but you know what, if it doesn’t feel like a cool climate, it probably shouldn’t be. Tell some Brit that because it goes down to 23 C from 45 C during the day, it’s cool, or that it only gets to 100F for less than a week a month. Yeh, right. About as cool as British beer.

Selective use of statistics can be very useful to prove a point, especially my point, and I’ve very selectively chosen the temperature statistics for January 2012 for Bendigo (not a particularly hot year by the way). The hottest day in Bendigo in January was 39 C. The warmest it stayed overnight was 21 C. Let’s just compare that with Singapore. The highest temperature ever recorded in Singapore was 36 C and the lowest 19 C. Well, bugger-me dead! Singapore is cool climate. Who would have thought! OK, so on the day it was 39 C in Bendigo, it went down to 18 C overnight. I’m still thinking Singapore is cool climate.

In my mind, if it doesn’t have latitude, altitude or a seabreeze, then it’s probably not cool climate. I reckon that the best way to see if it’s really cool climate is to see if people have to turn on their airconditioners. If they don’t, it probably passes the cool climate smell test. If they do, then I think cool climate is marketing hype.

Here’s a map put out by the Bureau of Meteorology that shows where people turn on their airconditioners. I reckon by this measure, Tassie is cool climate (no argument there) Great Southern, Coonawarra and the southern strip of Victoria (Mornington, Macedon etc) but guess what? No Bendigo, no Orange, no Grampians, no Adelaide Hills.  And I reckon that feels about right.


Again, a lot of specials appearing for the second time around. It’s tough out their trying to flog some Aussie wine.

In ascending order of comparative value…….

2008 / Mt Rosa / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$40 from Wine Exchange Asia – Nothing wrong with the pricing, it retails at NZ$31. It’s just that with a Bob Campbell rating of 84 pts, it’s a great deal on an “average to good” wine.

2010 / Waterfalls Road / The Eddy / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$22.42 by the case at Underground Wines – Here’s an even better deal for an even more ordinary wine. 83 pts by Bob Campbell but I’ve got to tell you that a one point difference at this end of the market is a lot different to 94 vs 95. But, you’d probably struggle to get anything anywhere near as good as this for the same price at your local supermarket or bike shop. Retails for NZ$20 at home.

OK, so here’s where we stop mucking around and get into decent wine at a decent price:

2002 / Henschke / Keyneton Estate / Eden Valley / Shiraz blend / S$65 at Wine Exchange Asia – Probably gone by the time you read this. Robert Parker 93 pts, James Halliday 95 pts, Jeremy Oliver 95 pts. Need I go on?  They all agree it should drink for another 10-12 years. On release, this was only A$32 retail, but if you check the auction scene, you’ll see that it’s been selling for about A$50 this year. I reckon that makes the S$65 price spot on.

2001 / Tahbilk / Reserve / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$50 at Wine Exchange Asia  – Ratings wise, not quite in the same league as the Henschke (Oliver 92, Halliday 94) but no slouch either. It’ll probably outlive me. Drinking to 2031 according to Halliday. Found it hard to get a handle on the secondary market price. A$35 – A$50 looks about right on the little data I could find so S$50 looks very fair to me.







Tiger Wines ( has just taken delivery of a small batch of Kate Hill Wines. I met Kate when I was in Hobart recently and this is one focused winemaker. A regular top gold or gold trophy winner at recent Tasmanian wine shows, her Rieslings are consistently rated 95 pts or better.  We’ve brought in a tiny amount of her 2010  Riesling (Halliday 96 pts) & 2011 Riesling (Gold at the 2011 Royal Hobert Wine Show) and the 2010 Pinot Noir. The Rieslings retail at S$53 incl gst and the Pinot Noir at S$59.


[In Australia]Sherry is now called ‘Apera’. The Australian style can be surprisingly complex and true to type thanks to a visit to Spain back in the 1930s by some enterprising Australians who captured some of the Spanish flor, or yeast, growing on sherry and brought it back home. Reportedly the yeast was secured on a hanky. Ingenious. Not exactly legal but it does explain why Aussie Aperas can have that distinctive nutty flavour” – Jeni Port, writing in The Age 5th October 2010.


Turning Chinese – hat’s off to Jeremy Oliver

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

Some of the offers weren’t reviewed as they had been offered before – same, same, not different.


Folks in this part of the world had been wondering if Jeremy Oliver had slipped behind when competing with the rush of updated web-based subscription services on wine, but seems he’s had his head down working on very real improvements. First, there was the release of his updated online service but the big news is the release of the Wine Annual in Mandarin. One small step for Jeremy, one giant step for Australian wine.

The immediate reaction by drinkers in Singapore – buy your Grange now!

What’s next? A version in Tamil? I don’t hear of any plans for a version in French though.


An interesting read on parallel importing, something we can expect to see more of.


On the Tasmanian front, look out for new arrivals at Tiger Wines from Kate Hill (see Very excited to bring Singapore yet another “first ever export” from a superb winemaker. Kate’s Rieslings consistently win gold or top gold at respected wine shows. Expected arrival the week after Easter. Watch this space.


Some weeks, the specials get me dribbling, they’re so good. This week’s not one of them. With one exception, it’s a pretty ordinary lot today.

One of the wines I looked at was the Callendale Estate Limestone Coast Shiraz on sale at Equatorial Wines for S$29.50. I couldn’t find a website, couldn’t find a rating but I did see that one retailer had it listed at A$20 whilst another had the 2007 vintage listed at “buy 6 bottles, get 6 bottles free, pay only $5.98 a bottle”. At that point, I moved on.

As usual, in ascending order of value.

2009 / Lime Rock / Hawke’s Bay / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30 by the case at Underground Wines – On strict comparative buying, this deal isn’t too bad, after all the wine has a RRP of NZ$24. But with a rating from Bob Campbell of 84 pts (“average to good”), it can’t compare with a wine that’s 95 pts at less than twice the price.  So, marked down to this spot, it is.

2008 / Water Wheel / Memsie Homestead / Bendigo / Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet / S$42 at Crystal Wines – This wine is probably best thought of as a quaffer. It sits in the 85-90pt range with a group of raters, it’s getting towards the end of its drinking window (2013) and it retailed down under for A$14.  But with that RRP of A$14, the price here looks a bit ambitious, especially when one considers that Crystal were selling this wine in this vintage for S$29 in December 2010. It’s out-rated here today.

2008 / Nepenthe / Tryst / Adelaide Hills / Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo / S$31.90 at Eve Spirits – The flyer that accompanied this offer said “drink now through 2010”. Well, it’s a good ways past 2010 now but in fact this wine should drink to 2013 according to James Halliday.  He could only rustle up 88pts for it though. Retailed for A$15, so a better comparative deal than the Water Wheel but I still can’t get too excited.

2007 / Pyramid Valley / Riverbrook / Brancott Valley / Riesling / S$50.29 at Artisan Cellars – The retail price (NZ$27) is only NZ$3 more than the Lime Rock but the price here is S$20 more. How come it’s better value? Well, I’m not saying it’s great value but with a Wine Advocate rating of 91pts (“outstanding”), it creeps up the value line. I’ll take 91pts over 84 every time.

And finally, the only wine that gets me in any way excited:

2009 / Misha’s Vineyard / High Note / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$66 from Crystal Wines and The Local Nose – Michael Cooper 5 stars, Bob Campbell 93 pts and Wine Advocate 90pts. Now you’re talking. Drinking to around 2016 and with a RRP of NZ$45, it’s about where the BBI (Bastard Box Index*) would expect it to be. The best buy here by a country mile.

(* see About Bastard Box for the BBI calculation basis)


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

Nice champagne yeast characters on the toasty nose, some toasty complexity on the palate with excellent structure and good depth of yeasty flavours with balancing acidity” – Champagne of course.

A very high end Australian sparkling wine was once described to me, with a less than subtle grimace, as smelling of Vegemite. Well of course it would! Vegemite is a yeast extract and Australian’s are bred on it. And it goes on toast too. Toasty and yeasty – so what’s the problem?


How close we came……

In 1801, a shrewd Frenchman, M. Peron, a member of an expedition sent on a voyage of discovery by Napoleon, saw the great possibilities of the grape in New South Wales. But the French were not allowed to develop the plan.”  – 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