Don’t like Coke in your Bordeaux. How about O.T. in your Claret?

Here’s a piece of trivia for you. I read this recently on the “winesandvines” website ( In California, it is illegal for winemakers or vintners to sign wine labels at their wineries or restaurants. “Wineries can’t give anything of significant value to retailers or restaurants and bars. Signing a label is considered of value….The consumer has to buy the bottle first, not as a condition of signing, and the consumer can have the winemaker sign something else such as a piece of paper.” Yep, go figure.

And whilst we’re on the subject of trivia, just reading in today’s Financial Times of a restaurant in San Francisco (Heirloom) that has a staggered corkage charge. $25 a bottle if the wine is 2003 or younger, $10 a bottle if it’s older. The idea is “to put off those who make a habit of stopping at a bottle shop en route to the restaurant”.

Of course, the thing to do in Singapore is only to dine with one of my friends who states clearly at the beginning of the meal “I don’t pay corkage, you’re not going to charge me are you?” said in a way that defies any response. We’ve never paid yet!


Is it time to give up cork altogether? I ask this because I recently had a not-inexpensive wine from France that was corked. “What’s surprising about that – many old wines are corked”, I hear you say. Well, this was not an old wine, it was the 2010 Olivier Bernstein Gevrey Chambertin which was possibly bottled in 2011. I’d bought 2 bottles, one corked, one not.  If cork is still a problem in this day and age when so much has been written about “improvements”, then probably cork is always going to be a problem. We keep saying that no other industry would accept a failure rate anywhere near that of cork and yet in the name of tradition, producers continue to use cork and many consumers continue to treat cork as a sign of quality. Consumers would be appalled if they bought meat that was off, clothes that fell apart before wearing, a phone that failed before the first call, and yet we shrug off corked wine as though it’s entirely normal – disappointing, but not unexpected. Well, I’m done. I’ll be cutting back on the number of wines under cork that I buy from now on. Thankfully, most wines from Australia and New Zealand are already under screwcap so that’s going to fairly easy to achieve.


Reviewed 12 wines for this review, commenting on 10 which are offered from Cornerstone Wines, Eve Spirits, Le Vigne, Straits Wine, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia

Very pleased to note that with only one exception (Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz), all prices were way below the comparative equivalent retail price in their country of origin.  On a pure price comparison, the K1 by Geoff Hardy wins from the next best (Arlewood) because the S$ price is the closest to its RRP in Australia, however when I take into account both price and rating, the K1 slips to a 3 star deal.

NV / K1 by Geoff Hardy / Handcrafted / Adelaide Hills / Salmon Sparkling / $25 at Straits Wine – When I started to write down the details on this wine, I was bemused by the term Hand Cut under which it’s listed on Straits Wine website. What does Hand Cut mean I wondered. Hand pruned? Hand picked?  I needn’t have stressed as the real description on the bottle is Handcrafted. I’m not convinced by that term either. Anyway, the comparative price here is excellent as the wine supposedly retails at A$18 but it’s the rating that changes everything. Huon Hooke 83 pts. I really like looking at Huon Hooke’s ratings. I don’t always agree but like Jeremy Oliver, you know where Huon Hooke stands. I guess one shouldn’t expect much in that $25 price bracket, but as I always say to new arrivals in Singapore, lift your eyes up to $35+ and see what you can get. BBI ♥♥♥

2009 / Thorn-Clarke / Shotfire / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $48.15 at Cornerstone Wines – The pricing on this is acceptable (RRP A$20) and so is the rating of 94 from Halliday, 91 from Oliver. Should go for another  5 -10 years easy.  To be honest, on any other day, this wine might well be placed a lot further up the rankings, but the competition today is fierce. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2008 / Fairhall Downs / Single Vineyard / Marlborough / Chardonnay / $35/$31 by half case/case at Wine Directions – Great pricing, solid rating (Michael Cooper 4 stars) and still drinking to 2015. RRP NZ$30. Safe buy. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / Pikes / The Dogwalk / Clare Valley / Cabernet Merlot / $31/$29 by half case/case at Wine Directions – Huon Hooke says it’s “not complex but full of flavour” and gives it an acceptable 88 pts with drinking for another 10 years yet. Great pricing again (RRP A$20) so BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / Arlewood / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / $30.40 cash & carry at Le Vigne – In today’s battle of the Cab Merlots, this one sneaks in front with even keener pricing (same RRP of A$20 and the $30.40 is a single bottle price) and an extra rating point (Halliday 89). That is just sneaking in front, isn’t it! Drinking for another 5 years, described by Halliday as “racy and taut”. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2012 / Shaw & Smith / Adelaide Hills / Sauvignon Blanc / $42 ea. or $39 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Campbell Mattinson from Wine Front gives it 90 points and says it’s “bang on”. It’ll drink to 2014 and with a RRP of A$28, pricing is pretty damned good.  BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / TarraWarra Estate / Yarra Valley / Pinot Noir / $34/$32 by the half case/case at Wine Directions – Keen pricing again, Halliday 90, drink to 2015. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2009 / Majella / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon / $45 ea or $42 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – There’s not much to say about Majella Cabernet’s that hasn’t been said already. One of the great value wines downunder at RRP A$33.  Here is no exception, and with a Halliday 95 pt rating, drinking out to 2020, what are you waiting for?  BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / Shaw & Smith / Adelaide Hills / Shiraz / $55 ea. or $50 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Yes, Shaw & Smith do make a Shiraz and it’s a highly regarded wine. Halliday 96, Oliver 91. Will cellar for 5 to 10 years. BBI ♥♥♥♥

…and now for the drum roll.

2010 / Majella / Coonawarra / Cabernet Sauvignon / $45 ea. or $42 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – With these last three wines, its really quibbling around the margin, but with 96 from Halliday (and 93 from Oliver), it just tips into the 5 star category, and so it should. Drinking to at least 2030. BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

So, what’s it to be? $25 on an 83 pt fizzy or $45 on one of Australia’s best Cabernets? You’ll remember the quality long after the price has been forgotten.



We’ve all heard the stories about Coke being added to Bordeaux in China, and I’m betting your reaction was a bit of a giggle or a sneer at how unsophisticated these newly arrived wine drinkers are. Well, let’s not be too quick to pass judgement. Have a look at the advert below from 1910. Yes dear folks, O.T. (a Melbourne soft drink maker) suggests adding O.T. to Claret or Chablis. Oh, and it’s not flatulent producing if that was one of your concerns.

1910 OT






















One of the wineries I visited in my last trip to Tasmania was Chartley Estate, and I’m guessing you’ve never heard of them. The winery sits on the west bank of the Tamar River within walking distance of Holm Oak, Waterton and Tamar Ridge’s Kayena vineyard.  Their wines have been gradually increasing in quality to the point where they now are regular winners of silver medals and into the 90s in Halliday ratings. Definitely a winery to watch.  I’ve been bringing in their wines for 12 months now and still have a few bottles of their 2011 Riesling (Halliday 92) at $43 and their 2011 Black Crow Pinot Noir (Silver medal RHWS) at $49. Have a look at and if you see anything you’d like, give me a yell at and I’ll get a S$ price for you, gst included and delivered to your door in Singapore. It may not be as much as you think.

Image 2





Cork is vulnerable to chemical compounds that can ruin the taste of wine. The main culprit is 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA, a chemical compound that, when it bonds with mold in cork, can taint a wine with the clear and unequivocal smell of moldy newspapers. Trouble is, each of us has a different level of sensitivity to TCA taint. Some of us are supersensitive to it; for others it doesn’t even exist” – James Laube writing in Wine Spectator, 31st March 2006


1 Response to “Don’t like Coke in your Bordeaux. How about O.T. in your Claret?”

  1. 1 Graham Hayward April 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Am I the friend you refer to??? G.

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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