Archive for October, 2012

Best’s is best – 2012 Jimmy Watson Trophy


Reviewed wines offered by Ablizz, Artisan Cellars, Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, Monopole, Singapore Straits Wine, Underground Wines, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia 

A fairly ordinary bunch of wines this week with quite a few rated in the mid 80s, and only one wine managing to get to 94 points. The keen pricing on some makes up for it, but I’d be disappointed if it was like this every week.


Congratulations to Best’s for winning the 2012 Jimmy Watson Trophy with their 2011 Bin 1 Shiraz. Not surprisingly, allocations are very skinny, so I was delighted to be able to get half a case for my Melbourne cellar through the best little wine shop around downunder, Barrique at Healesville (thank you Sean). In Singapore, Best’s is available at Le Vigne and if you want to get your trophy winner, the line starts behind me.

Whilst I’m handing out congratulations, a hearty “well done” to Michael Hadley and Michelangelos for the stunning Henschke night. Mt Edelstone ’88, ’95 and then a ’90 paired with a ’90 Hill of Grace, followed by the ’92 and ’94 Hill of Grace (we did conclude there could be no such thing as Hills of Grace) not to mention the Cyril Henschke and Keyneton Estate.


Sometimes it seems, things are meant to happen. Like the time I finished reading a book by Henry Morton Stanley about his exploits in Africa, in particular his scathing criticism of one of his staff in the Congo, only to put the book down, walk in to a second-hand book shop and find a book by that very staff telling his story of the Congo events. Likewise with Wine Grapes. No sooner have I purchased a copy than a friend brings an obscure wine from Canada called Auxerrois!. It was a 2010 Gray Monk Okanagan Valley Pinot Auxerrois, with a nose that sang of Sauvignon Blanc and a palate that hinted of Riesling, only without the acidity. That’s another A off the “to do” list. Thank you Gail.












Three wines were not included in the review for various reasons which I’ll outline but they were:

2006 / R Wines / FU / Ebenezer (NSW) / Shiraz / $500 for a magnum from Wine Exchange Asia – I have no idea whether this is a good deal or not as there are so many unusual factors. This is a wine made by Chris Ringland specifically for the US market where it was sold through Dan Phillip’s Grateful Palate (now defunct) so I don’t have any data on an Australian price if there ever was one. Jay Miller from Wine Advocate gave it 96-99 points but that was a barrel tasting. Looks like it sold for US$300 a bottle. I’m guessing it came out of an investment portfolio here, and the usual outcome is that it’s the investor who gets creamed so it probably is a good buy.

2007 / Ross Reegen / The Enforcer / Shiraz / $280 at Ablizz – This wine is even more elusive. Google it and all you’ll get is investors complaining about their wine portfolio losses. No Halliday, no Wine Spectator, no Parker, seemingly no record of who makes it, or where it comes from. You’d have to be “in the know” to part with $280, and clearly I’m not.

2004 / The Colonial Estate / Exile / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $105.93 at Cornerstone. Highly rated (Robert Parker 96 pts) but I can’t find a reliable A$ price. Another wine designed for the US market and only later vintages rated in Australia. You’d have to think that $100+ bucks for a 96 Parker wine was OK if you’re into that sort of thing.

Introducing a BBI “like” rating from this review. It’s a combination of the BBI (Bastard Box Index) which works out comparative value with the wine’s domestic retail price, and the general tasters’ rating of the wine. So, a wine that doesn’t rate well, and is shall we say “generously priced” will get fewer likes than a 95 point wine that’s offered at a great deal. Should sort out the wheat from the chaff. Let’s get started (and if you’re a retailer who reckons there’s a higher rating than the one I’ve used here, I’ll gladly amend the like-rating post post, so to speak).

2008 / Riverby Estate / Marlborough / Dry Riesling / $42.80 at Artisan Cellars – Bob Campbell gives it 83 pts which translates as “average to good” and specifically he says that the wine is “satisfyingly austere”. It retails at NZ$20 so the pricing here is fairly full, especially when you look at the Squawking Magpie below. So as first cab off the rank, this gets a BBI  

2010 / Tyrrell’s / Brookdale / Hunter Valley / Semillon / $47.50 at Monopole – Gets 86 points from James Halliday (“fair to good”). It’s low-ish alcohol at 12% and should be drunk young according to James, say by 2013. BBI ♥♥♥

2009 / Tarras / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $49 at Wine Exchange Asia – “Above average” and “supple” from Bob Campbell with 86 pts. RRP of NZ$35 so pricing here is quite good, an overall rating of BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / Squawking Magpie / The Chatterer / Hawke’s Bay / Chardonnay / $31.50 at Underground Wines – Bob Campbell says it’s “weighty, smooth textured” and give is 88 pts (“above average”). It retails at NZ$20 so the pricing is quite a bit more attractive than the Riverby at the same retail price. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2007 / Vinaceous / Red Right Hand / McLaren Vale / Shiraz Grenache Tempranillo / $31.90 at Le Vigne – The ratings are not going to set the world on fire with 88 pts from Halliday (“above average”) and 85 from Lisa Perotti-Brown at Wine Advocate (“very good”) but with a RRP of A$25, the pricing here is very keen. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2011 / Vinaceous / Sirenya / Adelaide Hills / Pinot Grigio / $28.80 at Le Vigne – Hmmm. Raters disagreeing again. Halliday’s not keen on this wine. He gives it 83 pts, “everyday wines, price is important” and that probably hits the nail on the head. Lisa Perotti-Brown is more upbeat giving it 87 which in a Parker rating translates to “very good”. I’ll always run with the higher rating so when we look at the RRP of A$21, this comes in at BBI ♥♥♥♥

2011 / Vinaceous / Shakre / Margaret River / Chardonnay / $28.80 at Le Vigne – Halliday likes this a little less than the Sirenya (82 pts) but Lisa Perotti-Brown likes it a little more (88 pts). The pricing comparison is exactly the same, so again BBI ♥♥♥♥

2011 / Vinaceous / Salome / Various / Tempranillo Rose / $28.80 at Le Vigne – OK, so Halliday warms to this one with 87 points. Drink it now RRP of A$21 so BBI ♥♥♥♥

2009 / Vinaceous / Raconteur / Barossa Valley / Cabernet / $31.90 at Le Vigne   – Creeping up the rating ladder with 87 from Wine Spectator and 90 from Halliday. Safe drinking to 2106+. RRP of A$25 so BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

2009 / Vinaceous / Snake Charmer / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / $31.90 at Le Vigne – Halliday 90, drinking to 2018, RRP A$25 so BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

2005 / Kalleske /Greenock / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $54 or $49 x 6 at Wine Exchange Asia – At 94 pts by Halliday, this is the highest rated wine here today.  Also the highest alcohol at 15.5%! This wine was in the market at $66 for a while but not at Wine Exchange Asia. The pricing/quality combo is solid enough to see it get BBI ♥♥♥♥♥


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them – Today’s word “Elegant”

Elegant, spicy bouquet with hints of honeydew melon” (Verdelho) or;

Very elegant, confectionery style with fragrant aromas and sweet cherry berry flavours” (Shiraz Mouvedre Grenache).

There are possibly four words in wine-speak that engender an immediate negative reaction. I suggest they are “corked” “oxidized”, “brett” and “elegant”. Describe a wine as elegant, and in some circles, you will know that your reputation is in tatters by seeing the furrowed brows and piercing stares of your better behaved sniffers and quaffers. Mutterings of “potty training” and “chardonnay drinker” may be heard in the corridors.

There ARE times when it is permissible to use the word elegant when describing a wine, just don’t be the first. Wait for the lead from someone else and see what happens.



Speaking of the Jimmy Watson Trophy, d’Arenberg won it in 1969 for their 1968 Cabernet













“Fundamentally, what they [British wine drinkers] want is attractive labeling, and like every other market, there’s just – well, you take a Wolf Blass label. There’s eye-catching shelf appeal, with varietal name, and the area information and the vintage……..the only thing you don’t want to happen is to go to the California extreme where they literally tell you what socks the winemaker was wearing when he made the wine. I think that’s the sign of a fairly unsophisticated wine-drinking market.” – Tony Lord, then editor of Decanter talking with Winestate August 1982


Aglianico anyone?

It’s my job to keep track of what people are saying about Tasmanian wines and here’s some quotes from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012 magazine from October:

Last year we called Tasmania an up-and-coming region and it continued in that direction with Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, not to mention fizz, all showing the benefit of their maritime origins.” – Anthony Rose

Riesling was once again a standout, with delicious young wines from Eden Valley, Clare Valley and Tasmania….also impressive was so-called ‘new wave’ Chardonnay, primarily from cooler regions such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and Tasmania” – Michael Hill Smith MW

The Regional Trophy for Sparkling over GBP10 went to Jansz Premium NV Cuvee from Pipers River in Tasmania, and the Regional Trophy for Chardonnay over GBP10 went to 2008 Penfolds Yattarna. “Penfolds claims Yattarna is the cutting edge of cool-climate Australian Chardonnay. Given its sources, primarily Derwent Valley in Tasmania, with contributions often from Adelaide Hills and Henty in Victoria, the claim appears justified.


Are you into books? I mean real books, not e-books. The ones you can feel and not have to worry about the battery going flat. Well, I am into books and I’ve just purchased one that ticks all the wrong boxes for the e-readers amongst us. Firstly, it’s costly (around $200) and secondly, it’s heavy. Very heavy actually, coming in at 2.6 kilos which is about the weight I need to lose after being at the Bathurst 1000. It’s pretty scary when you see and feel what 2.6 kilos is like. The book is of course Wine Grapes, authored by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz. If you’ve been reading any of the reviews, you’ll know by now that the Americans are aghast that their beloved Zinfadel, also begrudgingly acknowledged as Primitivo, are both actually Tribidrag from Croatia.  You’ll know that Cabernet Sauvignon is the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, but did you know that Australia has 5 unique varieties? Aha, I thought not!

They are Cienna, Cygne Blanc, Taminga, Tarrango and Tyrian.

Or that outside of Italy, Australia is one of the very few places to grow Aglianico?

FYI, Westend Estate Wines from Griffith have it at A$14.95 a bottle.


Reviewed wines offered by Crystal Wines, Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, The Local Nose, Wine Direction, Wine Exchange Asia

11 wines looked at today, 6 commented on – of those that are not here, some are 2012 releases not yet rated, and some are special export releases that are hard to pin down with certainty.

As usual, in ascending order of value:

2011 / Ata Rangi / Summer / Martinborough / Rose / $39.90 at Eve Spirits – Bob Campbell gives it 85 pts (“above average” category) and says that it’s “very attractive”. With a retail price of NZ$18, the offer here is OK without being startling.

2011 / Oyster Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $39.90 at Eve Spirits – Wine Spectator gives it 85 pts which translates to “very good”. This is definitely a “drink now” buy. With a RRP of NZ$20, the pricing is spot on. It’s a tough world out there in Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc land though, as you can get (or you could if you were quick) 2012 Cloudy Bay for $44 from Wine Exchange Asia

2008 / Katnook / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon / $58 at The Local Nose and Crystal Wines – I belong to a wine group that has regular themed tastings. One theme that pops up from time to time is “when raters disagree” and note should be taken that this wine qualifies with bells on. Let’s look at the high end – James Halliday gives it 94 pts (“outstanding”), Wine Front gives it 94 pts (“excellent”), but Huon Hooke gives it only 85 pts (“below bronze”) and Wine Spectator only 83 (“good”). Your call, but the value is OK. Drinking for a while yet, say 2014 -2020.

2009 / Tarrawarra / Yarra Valley / Chardonnay / $38 at Wine Direction – The price on this goes down to $31 for more than a case. Wine Front reckons it’s OK with 92 pts (“excellent’) and Huon Hooke gives it a bronze equivalent. The RRP is A$22 so offer here is quite good. Drink by around 2014.

2005 / Shottesbrooke / Punch / McLaren Vale / Cabernet Sauvignon / $47 at Wine Direction – Halliday 95 pts, drinking to 2025, terrific value (RRP A$38) so what’s not to like?

2007 / Arlewood / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / $52.90 at Le Vigne – Here’s another one where raters disagree, although this time Huon Hooke seems to be on his own. He gives it 85 pts (just below bronze) but Lisa Perotti-Brown from Wine Advocate gives it 91 (“outstanding”) and Halliday gives it a “highly recommended “ rating. This wine was just written up in the November issue of Decanter where it achieved a solid 18.5 pts, the equivalent of 95 under their scoring system and an “outstanding” moniker.  I’ve put in my own order because according to Decanter “just 700 dozen bottles were produced of the final wine of this era for Arlewood” referring to the sale of part of Arlewood’s vineyards to Vasse Felix. RRP of A$40.

The Arlewood gets the gong today by a fine margin to the Shottesbrooke. I’m getting mine before it’s gone.


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them – Today’s word/s LEMON PEEL

Fresh and juicy delivering an exuberant mouthful of lemon peel-accented pear, almond and apricot flavors”.

The wine is Viognier, not often drunk on its own, but next time I do, I’ll look for that lemon-peel flavour



At Tiger Wines, we’ve just brought in a limited supply of 2010 Dawson & James Tasmania Pinot Noir which we’re selling for $63 (inc gst). The wine comes from the Meadowbank vineyard near Hobart but Dawson & James are Peter Dawson and Tim James from South Australia who have a wealth of experience in the industry. As Gourmet Traveller Wine commented in its April/May edition on this wine “there’s no substitute for experience”. And to top it off, Halliday gives it 96 pts. Email for more info.


Wine Talk advocates the drinking of wine as you like it, not rigidly ruled by a set of standards if it doesn’t suit you. Ice the Sherry when you want it cold, put the red wine in the refrigerator for a little while if your room temperature means a Death Valley heatwave. Drink what you like best with the foods you like best. Too much has been written on how to drink wines, and not enough about how to relax and enjoy them.” – from about 1978, Wine Talk, by Mrs Rada Penfold Russell, Penfolds Advertising Director at the time.



Sparkling Rinegolde – for the first time you met your future mother-in-law

Another brief report as I’m heading back after a long weekend at Bathurst. What a fantastic race! Less than half a second between 1st and 2nd after 1000 kms and the winner down to half a soft drink can of fuel.  A record crowd too and no rain, even though it was bitterly cold in the wind. Bathurst presents a challenge when it comes to fine wine and anyway, race weekend is all about beer consumption, the more the better according to the “ferals” on the top of the mountain. Coopers produced a special 50th anniversary brew which seems to have sold out by mid-week before the race, and along with other 50th memorabilia, the marketing guys seemed to think selling out 3 days before the race started was a great result. Sure saved us some money!

From our own stash of wine, we tried a terrific 1998 Glaetzer shiraz and the 2010 Galli Estate Pamela Chardonnay from Sunbury. A beautiful wine that deserves every one of the 97 pts Halliday bestowed upon it.


Reviewed wines on offer by Straits Wine Company, Wine Directions, Wine Guru

I looked at 5 wines for this review and could only come up with 2 on which to comment. Slim pickings indeed.

2006 / Carlei / Green Vineyards /Heathcote / Shiraz / $65 from Wine Guru – 91 pts from Halliday makes it “highly recommended”. The alcohol may be a touch high for some at 14.9% but it should drink for a few more years yet. The thing that bothers me on this wine though is that it looks like it retails at A$29. That makes S$65 seem a bit ambitious so I’m wondering if I’ve got the right wine. The promo says “Carlei Green Valley” but there’s no Green Valley in their range that I can see, and even though Carlei is at Yarra Valley, their shiraz seems to come from Heathcote. All very confusing.

2008 / Sidewood Estate / Adelaide Hills / Shiraz / $40 at Straits Wine Company – A modest 89 pts from Halliday (“recommended”) and drinking to 2016. With a RRP of A$25, the value here is quite good.

That’s it I’m afraid.




A favourite of blue-rinse aunties at $1.90!


One of the major trends in the wine scene over the last year has been enormous growth of discounting…the reasons are many. The move to reduce prices arose partly because of the oversupply of wine – particularly red. Vineyard plantings made over the last ten years are now coming to fruition – but unfortunately too much and too soon. Enormous quantities of wine need to be shifted and there are many big wholesalers who are happy to do the work.” – Discounting –Desirable or Disastrous, by Peter Simic writing in Winestate magazine, December 1978!



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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