Archive for August, 2012

Australia, the Lucky Country?

Did you know that because you live in Singapore, you’re not allowed to buy some Australian wines?

Nothing to do with anything Singapore has done of course. No, some wineries in Australia won’t sell wine to me (i.e. Tiger Wines) because they know it will end up here. Their answer (and I’m talking of a big player here, a real big player and a wine at the premium end of the range) has been “the wine is very limited, we don’t have stock for Singapore and its already allocated to our preferred buyers and restaurants”. Fair enough you might think, it’s only that, well, I wandered down to Dan Murphys in Melbourne and bought a couple of cases at a 60% discount (that’s right, 60%) off the winery’s own current cellar door price. Gee, I’m glad it’s so precious that there’s none left for Singapore drinkers…

On a brighter note, have a look at the link below to see what can be achieved when people (in this case Peter Althaus and Domaine A) do get off their butt and make things happen

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Reviewed wines offered by Artisan Cellars, Cornerstone Wines, Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, Wine Exchange Asia, The Local Nose, Wine Guru

Well, the Aussie has finally dropped below 1.3 (1.2895 for the purpose of this review) but it’s probably too little, too late. My anecdotal evidence on the specials around suggests that mainstream Australian wines have been displaced by the Europeans and that the shift by consumers may well be permanent.

On that sobering note for Australian producers, let’s look at what’s out there (in ascending order of comparative value):

2011 / Odd Socks / South Australia / Semillon Chardonnay Chenin Blanc / $36 at Wine Guru – This is a label of Berton  Vineyards in the Riverland. I don’t have a rating but frankly, that’s not the issue. The issue is the price. This wine is on sale in Australia at A$5 bucks a bottle. Why it ends up at $36 in Singapore is beyond me.

2006 / Langmeil / Earthworks / Barossa Valley / Cabernet Sauvignon / $32.30, $29.35 cash & carry at Le Vigne – This wine falls into the Halliday “recommended, above average” category and with a RRP of A$15, the value is quite good. Drinking to 2013 and alc. 14.5%

2007 / Soul Growers / Barossa Valley / Shiraz Grenache Mouvedre / $51.20, $46.55 cash & carry at Le Vigne – 90 points from Halliday puts it into the “highly recommended” range. With RRP of A$25, pricing is fair. Watch the alcohol though! A solid 15.5%. This is a personal favourite.

2008 / Arlewood / Margaret River / Chardonnay / $52.90, $48.10 cash & carry at Le Vigne – This is also in the “highly recommended” range by Halliday (93 pts) and is good value with a RRP of A$30 . 14% alc. Drinking to 2016.

2009 / Aurum / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $48 at Artisan Cellars – This wine appeared in the last blog where it was listed at $53.50. It’s even better now at $48 but you must mention “web price” when ordering.

2005 / Kreglinger / Vintage Brut / Tasmania / Sparkling / $58.50, $53.20 cash & carry at Le Vigne – 93 pts by  Nick Stock, 93 pts by WineFront and 94 pts by Halliday. A terrific wine, and at $53 bucks, why are you buying NV Champagne? It’ll drink to 2016 too.  Another personal favourite.

2007 / Two Hands / Zippy’s Block / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $59, $55 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Halliday gives it 92 pts and there’s no doubt that on release it was RRP A$100. What it is now is a bit of a guess but it’s looking a pretty good deal to me.

2004 / Troll Creek / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $50, $45 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – I couldn’t find an Australian retail price on this, only a US retail price which was US85. The rating comes out of the US too, from Wine Advocate’s Jay Miller who gave it 95 pts. So, on that basis it wins here today. Halliday probably wouldn’t agree though. Whilst he’s not rated this particular vintage, his ratings for Troll Creek Shiraz tend to be in the low to mid eighties. That’s what differences of opinion are about!

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TIGER WINES update:

Arriving this week are 2006 Tyrrell’s Single Vineyard HVD Hunter Valley Semillon (sorry, all sold prior to arrival), another batch of the very hard to get 2009 Waterton Tasmania Riesling, and a bunch of wines from Cape Bernier’s vineyards on the east coast of Tasmania., the 2011 Pinot Rose, 2009 Pinot Noir and 2010 Chardonnay. Watch www.tiger-wines.com for final pricing.

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Technically speaking, I think Australian champagnes are as good as anywhere in the world. The quality of the champagne, that depends on the varieties that you use. In Australia at the moment we don’t have the champagne vine varieties in any quantity and this is our only drawback. We will improve further with the introduction of varieties like chardonnay. Even pinot noir should be looked at further, although the climate may be against it here. We use varieties that are available to us. I suppose the main varieties we are using here are the Clare riesling, semillon traminer, white hermitage, pedro and even sultanas.” – Norm Walker writing in Winestate magazine in December 1978

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Australia’s two buck chuck

Just back from Tassie and another very enjoyable trip. In addition to my established relationships, I also caught up with Rita Richter at Grey Sands, Rebecca Duffy at Holm Oak, Markus Maislinger at Goaty Hill and Jack Cotton at Kelvedon.  Expect some of their wines in Singapore before too long, in fact I’ve secured 10% of Kelvedon’s 2010 Chardonnay production (60 bottles!). Kelvedon must have one of the most beautiful settings in Australia for a winery.

The talk in Tassie is about the weather (dry winter in the north and east with a risk of frost in some areas), a strategic plan to emulate New Zealand that has everyone I spoke with worried, and even more worried murmurs about what Accolade and Treasury Estates are planning for their Tasmanian ranges.

I’ll possibly be down there again in November so if you’re interested in tagging along as a taste-tester, (I drive and I’m not good at spitting), let me know.  I also picked up a copy of Max Allen’s  “The History of Australian Wine”. It’s $50 bucks Aussie – let me know if you want me to pick you up a copy and bring it back to Singapore.

FYI, I noticed a 2004 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon listed in a rural restaurant at A$165. You can get that from Tiger Wines in Singapore at  S$64 (A$49) retail.

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Reviewed wines on sale by Artisan Cellars, Le Vigne, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia.

Pretty slim pickings today. I reviewed quite a number of wines but struggled to find ratings on them. I use 5 local raters (i.e. Australian or Kiwi) and 3 international but still no go.

So, for what it’s worth, in ascending order of value:

2009 / West Cape Howe / Zeepard / Great Southern / Shiraz / $22.90 from Le Vigne – This is quite a reasonable wine, at least Wine Advocate thinks so. Lisa Perotti-Brown gives it 88 points which in Wine Advocate speak translates to “very good” and all for less than $23. It’s just that for whatever reason, the wine has been priced way, way down by the winery to below A$9, and that knocks it around on a pure comparative basis. Personally I think the pricing in Australia is wrong, but it is what it is and that’s how I have to judge it.

NV / Vinaceous / Burlesque / Blanc de Blanc / Brut / Mount Barker / Sparkling / $33.90 at Le Vigne – 86 pts from Jeremy Oliver is not going to set the world on fire, and that’s what drags it down here as the pricing is very competitive, in fact the best here today. The RRP is A$28, so you se what I mean. James Halliday said “aperitif and hot days all the way…”

2009 / Aurum / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $53.50 at Artisan Cellars – Bob Campbell liked that giving it “excellent, top quality” rating. With a RRP of NZ$32, the price is OK but it’s the rating that helps it. Good, not great, value.

2011 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $35 at Wine Exchange Asia – Is there anyone who doesn’t have some Dog Point Savvy in their cellar? Possibly not. This wine also gets a Bob Campbell “excellent” but with a retail price of NZ$25, it wins the comparative value stakes here today, and by quite a margin.

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WINESPEAK 101: Today’s word – DISGUST

…a vibrant Chardonnay bursting with fruity aromas sure to please. The vivid refreshing taste of peach and tropical fruit makes it a perfect match for roasted white meats and seafood.”

This tantalizing description comes off the back label of 2012 Bowler’s Run Chardonnay from Australia that I saw on sale down there. It’s one of those “supermarket” labels. Why am I disgusted? Because this 750ml bottle of wine retails for less than a 375ml can of Coke. A$2.90 for the wine at Dan Murphys, around A$3.00 for Coke at a convenience store. Pro-rata, that would make the “wine” A$1.45 in a 375ml can.

There’s something horribly screwed up with the Australian approach to sensible alcohol consumption when it’s cheaper to buy a 13% alcohol beverage than it is a soft drink. Cheap and cheerful? I don’t think so.

 

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I feel that the essence of good labeling is best summed up by the story of the woman who went to a famous Paris couturier and when shocked at the price of an elegant but very simple black dress was told by the designer ‘but Madam, one is paying for the restraint!’. Just give me complexity in my wine and I’ll always be grateful; save the florid descriptions and art-nouveau labels for those who regard fur covered toilet seats as the ultimate state of the art.” – Great Australian Label by John Hennessy, Wine & Spirit Buying Guide, January 1979

The Battle of the Pinots

Reviewed wines on sale by Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia

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Eek! The exchange rate against the Aussie is 1.3126. Tough times for current release Aussie wines in Singapore especially when you can buy Italian or US reds for under $12 here if you’re desperate. I did say “reds”. They may also be wine.

On that note, as we travelled around the Kimberley, my brother experimented with some French wine from Languedoc – the alluringly named Arrogant Frog Croak Rotie.  Well, it’s just my personal opinion (although my brother did agree) that it’s close to undrinkable. If you get a chance, have a look at what Nick Stock says in the 2012 Good Wine Guide. It’s not as complimentary as my opinion.

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Want to know what others think of Aussie wines? Here’s Wine Spectator’s top ratings in their July 2012 issue. And yet again, the top wines are not only shiraz. Do we Aussies really give the Rutherglen fortifieds the credit they deserve and that others clearly see?

NV Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Rare Rutherglen Muscat – 98 pts

2006 Henschke Hill of Grace Eden Valley Shiraz – 98 pts

2009 Two Hands Ares Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale Shiraz – 98 pts

2009 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay – 96 pts

2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove McLaren Vale Shiraz – 96 pts

2009 Two Hands Zippy’s Block Marananga Barossa Valley Shiraz  – 96

The Chambers Muscat is about A$350 per half bottle. If you’re interested, drop me an email at tigerwines@singnet.com.sg and if there’s enough buyers to make a case, we’ll bring it up to Singapore.

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Newsflash!

In the August 31 issue of Wine Spectator, they cover “The Best Wine Lists of 2012” and for Australia, one of those listed is Grossi Florentino in Melbourne. I happened to be passing Grossi Florentino recently, so I ducked in to see what they had on their wine list. They’re listing two wines that Tiger Wines also sells, namely the 2010 Thick as Thieves Poco Rosso Yarra Valley Nebbiolo (in stock at S$57) and the 2009 Cape Bernier Tasmania Pinot Noir (arriving late August).

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If you’re old enough to remember, Australian radio (that’d be the HMV Little Nipper radio set) used to have a weekly “Battle of the Sounds” sponsored by Hoadley’s. Who remembers their Polly Waffle and Violet Crumble? Stuff of kids dreams.

Well, here’s the Battle of the Pinots, sort of.

They’re listed in ascending order of comparative value according to the BBI (Bastard Box Index):

2009 / Old Coach Road / Nelson / Pinot Noir / $28 at Le Vigne – The price value on this is pretty good as the wine retails in New Zealand at around NZ$17. But, Michael Cooper only gives it “average” and that means it struggles against some of the other offerings reviewed here today. Hard to find a pinot worth drinking any cheaper though.  And Michael Cooper does say “simple but pleasant…priced right.”

2008 / Seifried / Winemakers Collection / Nelson / Pinot Noir / $40.80 at Le Vigne – Also good value on a pure price comparative basis as it retails at NZ$35. Michael Cooper gives it “good, bronze medal”, Bob Campbell “average to good” and suggest drinking to 2015. “Fine-boned” he calls it.

2010 / The Ned / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / $44.90 by the case at Eve Spirits – This wine is a branded label from Marisco Vineyards. Bob Campbell gives it “above average” and calls it “charming”. Retails for NZ$26.

2007 / Bald Hills / Single Vineyard / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $74.80 at Le Vigne – A “dense, rich” Pinot Noir according to Bob Campbell and he awards it “very good”. Michael Cooper agrees and gives it “excellent”. Should drink to 2017. RRP NZ$44.

2011 / Best’s / Great Western / Pinot Noir / $41.20 at Le Vigne – I could only find one rating on this wine but it’s by Jeremy Oliver and that’s 91 pts, “silver medal”. Nice wine then.  Should drink to 2019 and with a RRP of A$22, it’s good value.

2009 / Chard Farm / Mata-Au / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $49 at Wine Exchange Asia – This is a new label by Chard Farm and it’s scoring well enough. Michael Cooper says “excellent”, the Good Wine Guide (Nick Stock) says “this is where serious quality starts to kick in”; Bob Campbell says “elegant, excellent”. Should drink through next year. With a RRP of NZ$44, good value too.

2010 / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / $31 at Le Vigne –No, that’s not a mistake and here’s why. Jeremy Oliver gives it 90 pts “silver medal”, Good Wine Guide/Nick Stock says that it fits in its “good wine” range of ratings, and Wine Front reckons it fits in their “very happy with it” range. In fact Wine Front say specifically that it’s a “pretty decent” wine. But it’s the great pricing that wins the day. RRP is A$24 so S$31 is pretty darned good.

So there you have it. A bunch of reasonable Pinots at affordable prices. Nothing startling (no 95 pointers) but we’re not talking sheep stations either. Enjoy!

By the way, Le Vigne’s prices are a special that last until 7th August.

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WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them

Today’s word is “RHUBARB” as in;

“Nice integration of rhubarb and cherry-like varietal fruit characters.” 

That’s a Pinot Noir they’re talking about so see if you can get the rhubarb in the Pinots reviewed today. 

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THE WAY THINGS WERE – 1976

You’d pay about A$120 at auction for that 1973 St Henri today

 

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NEW STOCKS

Tiger Wines has just landed the following Tasmania and Yarra Valley wines. Check the website at http://www.tiger-wines.com for more info.

Apsley Gorge 2008 Tasmania Chardonnay $59

Apsley Gorge 2008 Tasmania Pinot Noir $71

Luke Lambert 2010 Yarra Valley Syrah $62

Luke Lambert 2010 Reserve Yarra Valley Syrah $85

Mayer 2011 Close Planted Yarra Valley Pinot Noir $71

Pressing Matters 2010 Tasmania Pinot Noir $66

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“Cool nights, blustery days, plenty of rain, and yet still as sunny as you’d expect for an Australian state, Tassie is home to some of the best-kept wine secrets on the planet.” – Matthew Jukes of the Daily Mail, August 2010


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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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