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Tasmania Winery Tour for the Connoisseur – April 2016

Been to Burgundy? Toured Bordeaux? Done Italy?

Then here’s your chance to experience one of the hottest (and yet the coolest) wine destinations in Australia, and that’s the region of Tasmania.

I say “hottest” because Tasmania is definitely up amongst the top of many people’s bucket list as a tour destination, famous for fine food, great wines, friendly hospitality, natural beauty and compact size, meaning that unlike much of Australia, you’re not travelling great distances to get from one experience to the next. Hot too for its luxury boutique accommodation, of which Saffire Freycinet sits at the pinnacle, not only in Australia but against the best global competition.

But for wine-making, Tasmania is the coolest place in Australia. Go any further south from Australia and you’ll end up in Antarctica. The cool-climate wines from Tasmania are starting to make the experts sit up and take notice. The prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy for Australia’s best dry red wine has been won by a Tasmanian wine twice in the last five years. The best sparkling wines come from Tasmania and its top Pinot Noir wines are amongst the best in the New World according to Andrew Jefford of Decanter Magazine.

Clearly I’m biased, but I believe the best way to experience the ultimate that Tasmania has to offer in everything connected with the wines, the vineyards, and the winemakers, together with the fine food and luxury accommodation, is to join me as I lead Country Holidays “Tasmania Winery Tour for the Connoisseur” in April, and possibly in October. This is a tour, as it says, for the connoisseur. No golf, no fishing, no museums (well OK, there is MONA, but that doesn’t really count) no souvenir shops. And no 25 person bus with karaoke. Limited to a maximum of 8 persons, the tour is distinctly different from the usual whistle-stop cellar door tour. Last year, our clients plunged a pinot noir ferment, tasted grapes fresh from picking, sat in a winemaker’s kitchen into the early evening soaking in the wisdom, the wines and the generosity of the owner/winemaker, and on one occasion, we were led scrambling through the vineyard and its surroundings hunting for wasp nests – don’t worry, it was completely safe!

And in the middle of the tour, 2 nights of indulgence and relaxation at Saffire Freycinet.

Have a look at Country Holidays website (link below) to view the full details.

The winemakers are waiting to welcome you, the wines are ready to be tasted – I do hope you can join me.

CHT SD Tasmania - Apr 2016 SG


Are you a wine snob?

Wine wankers and wine snobs. There’s been a flourish of articles written about them recently. Well, I’m sick and tired of wine wankers and wine snobs.

Yep, absolutely fed up with the folks who write the articles, as in my humble opinion, they are the wine wankers and snobs.

Standard procedure – get a bunch of people together for a blind tasting, throw in a cheapie and throw in a Grange or something like that and hey presto! – the cheapie beats the Grange every time. The mocking conclusion is that spending money on Grange is pointless because a cheapie is just as good; that anyone who does spend the money is merely trying to impress; and that they wouldn’t know the difference between hermitage and shiraz if it wasn’t written on the back label.

Well let me tell you that the folks I drink with can pick a Grange in a blind line up within a nano-second of the those famous drops hitting their front palate. Why? Because they drink Grange all the time (not me, by the way) and they know exactly what it tastes like young, old and past it; good vintages and (yes, even for Grange) bad vintages. It’s as familiar to them as Yellow Tail is to my relatives. Put a current release Grange in front of some of my relatives and they’d spit it straight out. Too tannic, too hard, not quaffable. Not familiar.

And therein lies the key.

So, who cares if some people fit the mould of “more money than sense” as wine consumers. Don’t lump all of us enthusiasts into the category of wine snobs just because we enjoy immersing ourselves deeply into the language of wine and the associated camaraderie it brings. Waxing lyrically is half the fun. As that famous philosopher Kimmi Raikonnen said “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”…

Here’s a challenge to the wine wanker/wine snob writers. Imagine you just won the $100 million lottery. Would you keep drinking exactly the same wines you’re drinking now, or would you start to experiment with some of world’s great wines, maybe ratchet up a bit in your spend. If the answer is not an emphatic “no change”, then ask yourself – who is the wine snob?



A stunning result for Home Hill Wines of the Huon Valley in Tasmania to win the presitigious Jimmy Watson Trophy with their 2014 Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir. That’s the second time it’s gone to Tasmania (the first was Nick Glaetzer’s 2010 Mon Pere Shiraz) and the second for Pinot Noir. There’s a definitive trend emerging with the Jimmy Watson. Over the last few years, a cool-climate Shiraz (Glaetzer Dixon, Tasmania), and cool-climate Pinot (Yabby Lake, Mornington Peninsula) a Syrah instead of a Shiraz (SC Pannell, Adelaide Hills) and now another cool-climate Pinot (Home Hill, Tasmania). The classic areas and varieties may be feeling the heat!

Sales of the Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir were quickly restricted at the winery to one bottle per person. Just nine people in Singapore were lucky enough to get a bottle through Tiger Wines.


Speaking of Tasmania, I thought I’d have a look at some of the Tasmanian wines you can get other than through Tiger Wines. Here’s two – the good and the downright ugly!

2013 / Freycinet Vineyards / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / $118 at Century Cellars – Let’s talk about the wine first. A personal favourite. Halliday 97. One of Tasmania’s best. Now let’s talk about the price. The Century Cellars website promises wines “at the cheapest possible price”. Tiger Wines $79. Kapow! BBI 

2004 / Domaine A / Tasmania / Cabernet Sauvignon / $59 at Wine Exchange Asia – Not my favourite vintage but still worthy of 91 from Jeremy Oliver. The pricing? Well I don’t carry the 2004 any more, but I am the distributor for Domaine A in Singapore and I couldn’t have done it for $59. Exceptional bargain. BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

As usual in Singapore, it pays to do your homework.


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

“Supple, velvety and distinctive for the lavish violet and incense overtones to the core of fresh currant and berry fruit”. 

Is that snobbish enough? Violet is a great descriptor for some Cabernets, as it was in this case.


Wine appeals to every sense. The hearing takes pleasure from the sound of a pulled cork, the gentle trill of the pouring wine. The sight is refined and uplifted by the rich colour. The touch answers to the stimulus of smooth glass and delights in the wrist action when gently swirling the wine in the glass. The nose takes subtle joy from the elusive bouquet and the complex aroma. And the mouth is flattered by the sheer delight of the bigness of the wine, the grape ‘body’ and the feeling of satisfaction due to the temperature of the wine, the fineness of its alcohol, the incomparable softness of its velvety texture.” – The Aesthetics of Wine, March 1946

Oops. That’s blown it.



Halliday’s latest ratings- the good news, the bad news

You have to hand it to the team at Hardie Grant who now distribute James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion. The embargo on the ratings in the 2016 edition until 29th July 2015 creates an enormous sense of excitement…and then the ratings are out! If you’re in Australia and have managed to get to a bookshop then you’ve probably got all the information you need, but if you’re in Singapore like me, and therefore an on-line subscriber, then it’s a case of wait until the website can handle the traffic. It can’t today.

I managed to get a look into some of the new ratings last night whilst the Australians slept, and without doubt the most exciting for me was the awarding of 99 points to the 2014 Serrat Yarra Valley Shiraz Viognier.

I managed to get a little Serrat last year. This year, the allocation was very, very tight but I was over the moon just to get the tiniest amount of the 2014 Pinot Noir (no slouch at 96) and the 2014 Shiraz Viognier, and that was just last week. Thank you Tom Carson and Nadege Sune. No surprise that it’s all been sold in the last 24 hours. There’s 10 very happy people out there in the Little Red Dot.

It seems somewhat cruel to publish a rating for something you now can’t get (at least in Singapore) , but here it is:

Serrat SV

(with permission from Hardie Grant)

Once the Wine Companion website is back to normal, I’ll update you on what you can get from Tiger Wines in Singapore.


“Wine is, in Belloc’s famous lines:-

‘….true begetter of all arts that be;

Wine, privilege of the completely free;

Wine the recorder; wine the sagely strong;

Wine, bright avenger of sly dealing wrong…..’

The Aesthetics of Wine, March 1946

Tasmania is hot…perhaps too hot

Tasmania is hot, perhaps too hot.

That might seem an odd statement to be made in June when much of Tasmania is covered by snow, but I’m not talking about the weather. I’m talking about Tasmanian wines being very much in vogue with mainland producers who are venturing south to procure fruit so that they can add a Tasmanian label to their portfolio.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s a testament to the quality of Tasmanian fruit and its cool-climate characteristics that “north islanders” are seeking it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Queenstown in New Zealand but the stunning scenery and proximity to ski-fields meant that it became so popular as a place to have a second home that property prices went through the roof and many locals could no longer afford to live in their own town.

In the wine industry, Tasmania is drifting the same way. The cost of fruit in Tasmania has consistently been considerably higher than on the mainland. How much higher? Oh, very much higher! In 2013, the national average price per tonne for Pinot Noir was A$870. In the same year in Tasmania it was around A$2400. I don’t have figures for 2015 for the mainland but I can tell you that during my recent visit to Tasmania, I learned that some Tasmanian Pinot Noir was bid up to $4,500 a tonne by zealous mainland producers, I even heard unconfirmed reports of $5,000 a tonne. On one hand, that’s great news for Tasmanian producers, but not every winemaker in Tasmania owns a vineyard, and so those who don’t and have in the past scoured the island for the best fruit, now find themselves squeezed out by the rush for a Tasmanian label. To secure fruit in the future, some are now looking at establishing their own vineyards.

That’s just the price of success, but there’s another aspect of this “gold rush” that is less appealing, and definitely has that air of opportunism about it. There’s a few Tasmanian Pinots (and Chardonnays) being spruiked by mainland producers at, well, ambitious pricing, and with an arrogance behind the marketing that suggest that no-one had ever produced a decent Tassie Pinot before. There are mainland producers who have invested in and are committed to Tasmania; – names such as Shaw & Smith with Tolpuddle, Yalumba with Jansz, Taltarni with Clover Hill to name a few but there are others who are in for a quick buck and will be gone as soon as another region becomes the latest fad. I only hope they don’t trash the Tasmania brand as they go.


On a completely different subject and nothing at all to do with wine, I’d like to introduce you to a long-time friend of ours, Leon Varley. We first met Leon in 1989 when he led us on walking trips in national parks in Zimbabwe, tracking black rhino in places like Chizarira NP and Kazuma Pan. We tracked 17 rhino in 1989, and when we went back again in 1991, most were gone, including the appropriately named Pinocchio.

570-33 22-10-89 Kazuma Pan

Leon and his wife Mags have been regular visitors to Singapore, usually on their way to see wildlife in this part of the world. Last year, we met them at Changi as they returned from an excursion to see the orangutan, and were surprised to see Leon walking with the aid of a stick. Somewhat laconically, Leon mentioned that he’d decided to climb Mt Kinabalu in a day, not just up, but down again on the same day, and that his knee was now paying the price.

Of itself, no big deal, except that he had committed in just three weeks time to break a walking record that he’d set as a young man (Leon is over 60) and that record was to walk 85 kilometres in a single 24 hour day.

Well, he’s at it again, this time attempting to walk from Victoria Falls to Msuna, a distance of 126 kilometres, between 9:00am on 30th June and 9:00am on the 1st July, all in the cause of raising money for wildlife protection. I’ve attached the flyer – I can say that I’ve trusted my life to Leon in the African bush so I have no hesitation in recommending this admirable cause.

Walking for Wild


Question: Do we really need sommeliers to help us match wine to our food?

Apparently not. FairPrice are offering a range of wines that take all of the guesswork out of food and wine pairing. Welcome to “Chops &Burgers” Bordeaux! Or how about “Chicken & Turkey” Cote du Rhone; or “Salmon & Trout” Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, “Cheese & Crackers” Beaujolais-Villages and “Lobster & Shrimp” Muscadet.

Well that’s done it for the sommeliers then. Next time you’re dining at that swishy, top floor revolving restaurant, you can tell the sommelier “I don’t need the wine list, just bring me the Chops & Burgers Bordeaux. And I want it fresh, no stale wine.”


I’ll be back with the wine specials soon!



Why would an Australian winery call a wine Rhine Riesling? Why not just Riesling? Well, back then, a wine labeled Riesling in Australia may not have been Riesling at all. It’s just as likely to have been Semillon or Crouchen, so to indicate to the purchaser that the wine really was Riesling, it was called Rhine Riesling. Strange but true.

1981 Krondorf Rhine Riesling


“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine” . Louis Pasteur



The results for the 25th Tasmanian Wine Show were announced recently and no surprise that there’s a few of the award winning wines in Tiger Wines line-up.

The 2002 Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged won Top Gold and “Best Late Disgorged Mature Vintage Sparkling Wine”. I have 9 bottles in stock at $135.

The 2011 Dawson & James Chardonnay won Top Gold for “2012 and older Oaked Chardonnay” and “Best Chardonnay” of the Show and “Best Wine of the Show”. Well done Peter Dawson and Tim James. None in Singapore but I have plenty that can come up in March if you order. $77 a bottle.

The 2013 Home Hill “Kelly’s Reserve” Pinot Noir won “Best Pinot Noir”, “Best Red of the Show” and Top Gold in the “2013 Pinot Noir” category. There’s usually only about 100 cases of this wine made and as you can imagine, with a show record like that following on from similar results for the 2011 and 2012 Pinot, demand definitely exceeds supply. Very excited to be able to confirm that Tiger Wines does have an allocation, although exactly what that is, I’m yet to know for sure. Last year, I got just 2 cases. If you’re interested in this wine, let me know ASAP at and I will add you to the list for divvying up once my allocation is confirmed. No guarantees that there’ll be enough for everyone though. Pricing will be confirmed later but the 2012 sold at $77.

And to top it off, Home Hill won the “2015 Pinot Noir Producer of the year”.


Sometimes you have to look outside your own backyard to see how well off you are. Like, how well off we are in Singapore when buying wine.

Arrgh! I can hear the yelling now. Well off! What with the tax and everything!

Granted, the tax is better for consumers in Hong Kong (there isn’t any) but the tax really only hurts on the cheap stuff anyway. Remember, Grange is cheaper in Singapore than in Australia. And as I’ve said before, know what you’re doing and you can regularly buy Australian wine in Singapore cheaper than in Australia. Case in point is a wine I offer through Tiger Wines. The 2010 Apsley Gorge Pinot Noir is A$60 at Apsley Gorge’s on-line cellar door. You can have it delivered to your door here for S$65. Not bad eh?

And even with the new liquor laws, you can buy wine pretty easily.

Consider the barriers to buying in some states in the US.

It is only last November in Tennessee that it became legal to buy wine in grocery stores and in some states in the US, you can’t buy direct from wineries that are out-of-state. In Indiana for example (according to Wine Spectator), “direct shipping is prohibited, with on-site exception. Wineries must not be represented by an Indiana distributor, and consumers must visit the winery in person to have wine shipped to their home, up to 24 cases per year. Retailer shipping prohibited.

In Kentucky, “…residents may have wine shipped to them from small wineries making 50,000 gallons of wine or less per year, [in Arizona, it’s 20,000 gallons per year, in New York and Ohio it’s 250,000 gallons per year], however common carriers (FedEX, UPS) will not deliver to Kentucky.” In other states (Delaware for example) “shipping by common carriers is prohibited”.

And to make matters even more complicated, there can be limits on how much you can ship to your home, for example:

Zero cases per year; Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah

1 case per calendar quarter; Arkansas

1 case per month; District of Columbia, Nebraska

2 cases per year; Minnesota, Wyoming

2 cases per month; Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

3 cases per year; Tennessee

4 cases per year; Texas

5 gallons every two months; Connecticut

6 cases per year; Hawaii

12 cases per year; Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin

18 cases per year; Maryland, Montana

24 cases per year; Idaho, Indiana

36 cases per year; New York

There’s also states where you must visit the out-of-state winery to ship or bring back home – Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Rhode Island

Buying wine in Singapore’s looking a whole lot simpler.


Here’s today’s reviews:

Vintage unknown / B3 / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $45 at Wine Connection – Not having a vintage meant I couldn’t find a specific rating for this offer but the label seems to hang around in the low 90 mark. Asking retail in Australia is A$25 so price here is fair without being generous. You can order this online and have it delivered to your door and I guess that’s when you find out what the year is. Probably bad luck if it’s 2011 from Barossa. I think you know my view on this, namely that I won’t buy if a retailer fails to quote the vintage. And if you’re already reading this blog, you probably won’t either. On pricing…I’m giving it BBI♥♥♥♥

2012/ Gibbston Valley Estate / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $55 at Wine Exchange Asia – This sounds like a pretty good wine, with Raymond Chan putting it at 18.5/20 and with a RRP of NZ$45, the pricing here is reliable Wine Exchange Asia, meaning good wine, good value. BBI♥♥♥♥

2013 / Deakin Estate / Victoria / Shiraz / $24.90 at Wine Connection – Huh, what’s this? A Deakin Estate from “Victoria” (most likely irrigated Riverland) getting 4.5 stars? Well yes, because James Halliday gives it 91 points, and Campbell Mattinson gives it 90, and at $24.90, it actually does shape up as fair value. Never mind that the RRP is A$10 and it actually sells at A$7.99! If you must buy in this no-man’s land of pricing where the tax is still working against you, then go right ahead. Thanks, all the same but I won’t. BBI♥♥♥♥

2012 / Brand’s Laira / 1893 Foundation / Coonawarra / Shiraz / $30.50 from The Wine Palate – I saw this whilst walking past the shop in Katong V. Nice shop, helpful staff which can be something of a novelty in some wine shops here. Nice range including Torbreck and Yangarra Estate along with the usual Margaret River regulars. Huon Hooke gives it 92 and says it has “delicious flavour” Well, at $30.50, I don’t think you need ask for more than that. Looks like a no brainer to me. BBI♥♥♥♥

2007 / Two Hands / Ares / Barossa Valley – McLaren Vale / Shiraz / $110 by the bottle, $99 if you buy 6 at Wine Exchange Asia – About as far removed from the Deakin Estate as possible. Retailing at A$165 down-under. Wine Advocate gave it 91 (“outstanding”) but thought that at US$136, it was overpriced. Well, that’s been taken care of then! Nothing subtle about the wine, it’s a biggy, but there’s good value here. BBI♥♥♥♥♥


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them – Today’s word ASPARAGUS

“Palate held big flavours with upfront grassy asparagus characters that commanded attention. A wine for the admirers of the New Zealand style and there are many.

This was a review of a Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc and I think I can taste it now. There’s no mistaking asparagus. I wonder if it does next morning what real asparagus does?


“The yeast species Brettanomyces bruxellensis, is better known in wine circles simply as brett…..It imparts an assortment of distinctive aromas and flavours, which can fluctuate significantly in intensity. At lower levels, some find it pleasantly spicy, with cedar and earth undertones. Higher concentrations smell of sweaty saddle leather, barnyard, burnt plastic or Band-Aids, often turning austere and metallic on the finish” – Daniel Sogg writing in Wine Spectator, March 2006

One for the ratings chasers…

I’ll get back to reviewing what’s on offer by everyone else out there in Singapore but for this post, I’ll be unashamedly concentrating on what’s on offer by Tiger Wines, and that’s because there’s been such a rush of great ratings over the last month or so that I just can’t keep them to myself.

Let’s start with The Wine Front, one of my favourite ratings websites. Here’s what they’ve been rating that you should be able to get your hands on through Tiger Wines:

2012 / Holyman / Project X / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / A$90 – rated 95 by Gary Walsh – I’ve got 4 dozen of these ready to come up in January. Rare as hen’s teeth. It’ll be offered here around the $105-$110 mark when it gets here. Get in early!

2013 / Holyman / Tasmania / Chardonnay / A$45 – rated 96 by Gary Walsh – 4 dozen of these too, although half have gone already to pre-arrival orders. Will list here just short of $70.

2013 / Mayer / Big Betty / Yarra Valley / Shiraz – rated 94 by Gary Walsh – a handful in stock in Singapore and a handful in Melbourne. $66 will secure.

And from James Halliday, only the one recent rating covering my stock, but a pretty nice rating it is:

2014 / 3 Drops / Mount Barker / Riesling – rated 96 by James Halliday – it’ll be leaving Perth tomorrow so should arrive end of next week. Expect it to be around $40ish.

I picked up a copy of Jeremy Oliver’s 2015 Australian Wine Annual when I was in Melbourne recently. In Jeremy’s Top 100 wines, he listed the following Tiger Wines stock:

2002 / Radenti / Tasmania / Sparkling – rated 96 – This is Jeremy’s top sparkling. OK, so not strictly in stock as it’s available only from cellar door and it does have a limit per customer but if you want some, I’ll talk with the good folks at Freycinet Vineyard. But…it won’t be here until January. And in case you wondered, yes I’ve got mine.

Huon Hooke & Gourmet Traveller Wine have also just released “The Wine Guide 2015” and in this day of digital everything, it’s still nice to be able to get a solid, hardback publication to browse through. Here’s the important bits (to me!) that I gleaned from the Top Rated section by variety:

2013 / Bay of Fires / Tasmania / Riesling95 by Huon – I’ve got 24 bottles of it ready to go at $48. Delighted to have some of the Bay of Fires range here.

2012 / Tolpuddle / Tasmania / Chardonnay96 pts – currently out of stock but will be re-ordering. Last listed at $88.

2012 / Freycinet Vineyard / Tasmania / Chardonnay96 pts – I’ve got 14 bottles in Singapore @ $58. A bargain.

2013 / Bay of Fires / Tasmania / Sauvignon Blanc95 pts – 13 ready to go @ $48

2004 /Arras / Grand Vintage / Tasmania / Sparkling97 pts – 12 bottles @ $87. Put it up against Champagne and watch the smiles.

2002 / Arras / EJ Carr Late Disgorged / Tasmania /Sparkling96 pts – Who’d have thought you’d ever be able to buy this in Singapore. Well, you can. I have a dozen at $135 each. A bargain compared to vintage French fizz. And oh yes, it is stunning. Jeremy Oliver thinks so too and gives it 95.

2004 / Arras / Blanc de Blanc / Tasmania / Sparkling95 pts – 24 bottles of this @ $94. Halliday gives it 97!

2012 / Freycinet Vineyard / Tasmania / Pinot Noir95 pts – Just 4 left in Singapore @ $79. A whisper that the 2013 has just been rated 97 by Halliday. I’ve got some coming, probably will come up in February. Let me know if you’d like to be put on the allocation list.

2012 / Tolpuddle / Tasmania / Pinot Noir95 pts – I’ve got 9 bottles @ $99.

2012 / Waterton / Tasmania / Shiraz95 pts – A Tassie shiraz in Huon’s top list? Yep, that’s right. 18 bottles @ $67.

More recently, Huon Hooke has reviewed the new releases of Hickinbotham Wines and it’s a stunning collection:

2012 / Hickinbotham / Clarendon Vineyard Brooks Road / Shiraz96 pts – RRP A$75

2012 / Hickinbotham / Clarendon Vineyard The Peake / Cabernet Shiraz96 pts – RRP A$150

2012 / Hickinbotham / Clarendon Vineyards / Trueman / Cabernet95 – RRP A$75

I’ll have small volumes of each of the Hickinbotham coming up in the first quarter.

No longer do you have to look at the gongs and think – I wish I could get that wine in Singapore!


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them

Today’s words – Red Candy

Amazingly complex, offering a seamless, sophisticated mix of ripe blueberry, currant and hard red candy flavours, with a firm, loamy earth foundation”.

I had a look on Wikipedia to see if candy can be soft, and yes it can, so the reference to hard red candy is quite specific. I think you can taste it now. Did you guess the grape though? It’s Cabernet Sauvignon…


And just in time for that Xmas party…

Say you are giving a party outside (or this is practical inside too) spread a long table with a gay cloth, put candles in empty wine bottles and light them. Make a centerpiece of the wine bowl, place your glassware nearby and the food in small dishes filled with bite sized pieces…the ‘wine bowl’ can be anything you possess, even a washing up dish if you decorate it prettily enough. Covered with cellophane, clusters of plastic grapes tied on (easily got at most shops today), or any artificial fruit or flowers.” – Wine Talk, Mrs Rada Penfold Russell, Penfolds Advertising Director approx 1978

Sula and Grover, here we come…

We’re off to southern India again to drive an Ambassador (possibly someone’s taxi) around Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It’s our third time so either we’re crazy or there’s something very special about these trips. A couple of photos might help you to decide. Sign up for next year at

0196-LB 6-10-09 Calicut to Cochin0477-LB 10-10-09 Kurumba to Ooty141-DB 29-10-10 Munnar to Coonoor0061-DB 4-10-09 Calicut

On the wine front, two bits of news. Firstly, Tiger Wines is bringing up the full range of Arras premium sparkling wines from the EJ Carr Late Disgorged to the Brut Elite NV 701. They don’t get much better than this in Australia. We’re also bringing up te Bay of Fires Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Pinot Gris 2014 and Riesling 2013. Have a look at for details.


The two month promotion on Stefano Lubiana wines is still running at Mezza9, until the end of October, and we recently supplied Tetsuya’s Waku Ghin restaurant with wines from 5 Tasmanian producers for a Tourism Australia event. The wines that went to Waku Ghin were the 2008 Apsley Gorge Chardonnay, 2006 Domaine A Cabernet, Freycinet Vineyards Botrytis, the 2013 Pressing Matters R9 Riesling and the 2010 Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir. A great selection.


Here’s some current deals:

2005 / Jasper Hill / Georgia’s Paddock / Heathcote / Shiraz / $85 a bottle or $79 in a six pack from Wine Exchange Asia – Rated 94 by James Halliday on release and sold for A$72 at that point. Still drinking through to 2020. Last auctioned at Langtons for A$55 so if you bought it at that price, it’d easily cost you S$85 to get it here. Save yourself the trouble and buy local. BBI♥♥♥♥

2012 / Shottesbrooke / McLaren Vale / Cabernet / $36 a bottle or $33 in a six pack at Wine Directions. 91 from Campbell Mattinson, sells for A$20 downunder, another solid buy. BBI♥♥♥♥

2014 / Pike’s / Traditionale / Clare Valley / Riesling / $36 a bottle or $33 in a six pack at Wine Directions – I’m a sucker for Riesling so I’d buy this except I’ve got a cellar full of Riesling and my wife doesn’t drink it. 94 from Gary Walsh who says, yes it will go for another 10 years but why wait? Retails at A$26 so price here is very good. BBI♥♥♥♥



“Parties, where only wine is served as a beverage, are still novelties at this stage in Australia, unlike Europe, England and now California. Remember that wine can be drunk at any time of the day or evening, still or sparkling. Iced Chablis or Moselle for instance, is a lovely refresher, say at noon. Wine is healthier and cheaper than spirits. The teenager (!) should be encouraged to understand about wines, it is especially suited to their forms of entertainment, and to their budgets.” – Wine Talk, Mrs Rada Penfold Russell, Penfolds Advertising Director approx 1978



Minchinbury Sparkling Burgundy did the trick, apparently

Yes, Tiger Wines is a one man band! If you’ve wondered how those Tasmanian wines get to Singapore, here’s how the journey starts for some shipments. I can get 30 cases in there, put the car on the Spirit of Tasmania (no surprise, they have a good Tassie wine selection in their restaurant), grab a sleep across the Bass Strait, repack the wine for protection and then off to Melbourne airport and into the care of DHL.

2014-07-18 Miena2


You’ve probably never heard of Mount Cathedral Wines but they’ve managed to get caught in James Halliday’s radar. In the 2014 Australian Wine Companion, he listed them as one of the “Ten Dark Horses” and awarded the winery a 5 star rating. Every time I visit Australia, I invariably drive past the turn-off to the winery so it makes sense to call in, collect some wine, and bring it up here for others to enjoy. I’m starting with:

2012 Chardonnay (JH94) $46

2010 Merlot (JH94) $46

2012 Merlot (JH94) $46

2012 Cab Merlot (JH95) $46

2010 Reserve Cabernet (JH95) $63.

Give me yell on if you’d like to see what the fuss is about. And no, you won’t find it anywhere else outside Australia.


Congratulations to Rick Burge and his Burge Family Winemakers on getting 5 star status and 95 points for his 2012 Olive Hill Shiraz in the 2015 Australian Wine Companion.


Some ordinary deals here, nothing much to get too excited about, just a few.

2010 / Casa Freschi / La Signora / Adelaide Hills / White Blend / $59 at – This white blend is made up of either every grape you love, or every grape you hate. It’s a mixture of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. Who would have thought? Huon Hooke didn’t think much of it giving it only 81 points but he did talk about oxidation so maybe it was a spoiled bottle (but its shouldn’t be if under screwcap). Lisa Perotti-Brown of Wine Advocate was kinder at 90 but suggested drinking by 2014. So, not much time left then. With a RRP of A$29, the pricing here looks a little ambitious. BBI♥♥♥

2012 / Saint Clair / Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / $45 or $42.20 by the six pack at Cornerstone Wines – I’ve never quite worked out why Saint Clair need to give their wines two identifying names. I would have thought that either Pioneer Block 14 or Doctors Creek would get the tractor to the right paddock but apparently not. I suppose there could be two Pioneer Block 14s or two Doctors Creeks but Marlborough’s not that big, surely. Bob Campbell puts it just into his “above average” range and with a RRP of NZ$34, the pricing is pretty good, but I’m still giving it…BBI♥♥♥

2002 / Lakes Folly / Hunter Valley / Cabernets / $79 at Wine Exchange Asia – The older they are, the harder they are to value. This came on the market at A$45 and took a bit of a roller-coaster ride on the secondary market in Australia. Halliday gave it 93, but he also said drink it by 2010. Hmmm. What’s going on here? Well, someone must know something that James didn’t when he reviewed it on release as the last auction price, this year, was A$58 and the trend is up. On that basis, I’m giving it…BBI♥♥♥♥

2012 / Two Hands / Gnarly Dudes / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $51 at Straits Wine Company – Not the greatest Two Hands (Huon Hooke 91, Wine Advocate 89) but it’s a fair price and it’s only a young’un. BBI♥♥♥♥

2004 / by Farr / Geelong / Shiraz / $69 or $59 by the six pack at Wine Exchange Asia – The first of the wines today that’s managed 95 points, this time from James Halliday, with Campbell Mattinson at 91. Campbell says you should have been drinking this watching the 2012 Singapore F1 GP, whilst James thinks you could still (just) quaff it at this year’s race whilst barracking for Daniel Ricciardo. James didn’t say that about Ricciardo, I did. Tough call this one but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. BBI♥♥♥♥

2012 / Hentley Farm / Caretaker / Shiraz / $45 each if you buy two at Straits Wine Company and only until 31st August. With RRP of A$20, it’s got fair pricing and fair ratings (Halliday 92, Wine Advocate 89) so it gets fair stars. BBI♥♥♥♥

2011 / Mills Reef / Elspeth Trust / Hawke’s Bay / Syrah / $59 at Wine Exchange Asia – Bob Campbell 93 which is in his “excellent, top quality” range and that’s what he says about this wine; “classy, elegant wine”. RRP of NZ$45 so good pricing here and deserves it stars. BBI♥♥♥♥

2006 / d’Arenberg / The Dead Arm / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / $69 at Wine Exchange Asia – How much Dead Arm ended up in investment portfolios in Singapore? A lot I’m guessing! I reviewed this vintage back in 2010 and it’s still around. The investor is the loser and if you like your McLaren Vale shiraz, you are the winner. The last Langton’s auction price on this downunder was A$55. Add the buyers premium and delivery and you’d be talking around A$70 to get your hands on this wine. S$65 is looking pretty good isn’t it? Life’s not that tough in the “far east” after all (just don’t tell anyone). Oh, I forgot to mention, Gary Walsh 95, Wine Advocate 95+, James Halliday 95 blah, blah blah…BBI♥♥♥♥


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them.

Over the last 12 months or so, I have often referred to one of my favourite wine websites, in fact I referred to the blog and Jeremy Pringle in my most recent post. Sadly, Jeremy is no longer with us.

Please have a look at the link for a better farewell than I could ever give.


“The most memorable moments can be had right in your own home, with a chafing dish. Imagine just two of you, with HIM right there beside you, cooking in the light of the flames from under the dish and from the hearth, plus a delicious bottle of Minchinbury Sparkling Burgundy or Dalwood Hermitage Claret to keep that flame aglow in your heart.” – Wine Talk, Mrs Rada Penfold Russell, Penfolds Advertising Director approx 1978


“Thick with oak, thinned with bourbon…” Love it.

James Halliday’s latest Wine Companion magazine included a booklet entitled “Wow Factor Whites” and I’m pleased to say that two of Tiger Wines offerings appear therein. The first is the 2007 Colvin Wines Hunter Valley Semillon which gets 96 points. I’ve got a tiny amount coming up but I don’t know the pricing yet so keep an eye on the Tiger Wines website ( The other is the 2013 Kate Hill Tasmania Riesling which gets 94 points. It will sell here at $56.

I’ve got some more of the delicious 2011 Dawson & James Tasmania Pinot Noir @ $79 (Halliday 96) but it’s going quickly.


No 5 star deals today. In fact only one 4.5 star deal. Some deals look decidedly average with probably a record number in the sub 4 star bracket. Oh, well.

For some, but definitely not all the deals, the pricing is actually OK, but they’ve been let down by sitting in that no-man’s land of a sub-90 rating.

Here goes:

2013 / Matchbox Wine Company / Clare Valley / Malbec / $66.34 at Artisan Cellars – Frankly, I don’t understand the logic of the pricing. This is new wine to the market from a relatively unheard of producer. It’s rated 87 by Mike Bennie so it’s OK at the retail price of A$25, but at S$66? What was that phrase in the classic Australian film The Castle? “Tell him he’s dreaming”. I think the wine deserves better and should sit around the $47 mark. BBI♥♥

2013 / Tamar Ridge / Devil’s Corner / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / $49 at Crystal Wines – This sometimes sits under the Devil’s Corner moniker, sometimes under Tamar Ridge but either way, it’s from the large Brown Brothers holding in Tasmania. Huon Hooke gives it 89 and it retails at A$21 although you’ll see it lower at the discounters. The pricing is on the limit of just OK, so combined with the rating, the best I can come up with is…BBI♥♥♥

2011 / Elephant Hill / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $55 at Wine Exchange Asia – It’s often useful to read the words that accompany a rating as they sometimes don’t seem to line up. Bob Campbell writes that this Pinot Noir is “deliciously drinkable” but only manages to give it 87 points. With a RRP of NZ$34, the pricing here is spot on. BBI♥♥♥

2006 / Lindis River / One by One / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / $80.25 at Artisan Cellars – First reviewed this wine (at this price and this same vintage) three years ago so I’m guessing it’s not walking out the door. Could it be the price? RRP was/is NZ$40 so it’s certainly no bargain. Rating is OK though at 18.5 from Raymond Chan which by my calculation works out at about 94 in the 100 point scale. Your call. My call is…BBI♥♥♥

2010 / Matahiwi Estate / Wairarapa / Pinot Noir / $36 if in a six pack at Wine Directions – So far, this is the best deal on a pure price basis but the rating of 85 by Bob Campbell pulls it back. But hey, $36 for Kiwi Pinot? What more do you want? BBI♥♥♥

2011 / Fairhall Downs / Marlborough / Pinot Gris / $38 by the six pack at Wine Directions – I could have just cut and pasted the commentary on the Matahiwi Estate. Same, same. BBI♥♥♥

2001 / Henschke / Mount Edelstone / Eden Valley / Shiraz / $130 single bottle, $120 in a six pack (if there’s any left) at Wine Exchange Asia – Ah, those were the days. I remember my first taste of the Mount Edelstone. It would have been around 1994 and it became the wine of choice at our Boat Club’s board meetings. $36 on the restaurant wine list. Keep in mind though that I was buying 1990 Hill of Grace for $48 at the supermarket at the time! I’ve still got some. Gee, it’s hard to work out value on some of these older wines, especially with the market so screwed up by all those investment wines that still keep flowing on to the Singapore market. I don’t believe that Henschke ever got mixed up in that, so there’s never been a ridiculously cheap Henschke here as far as I can tell. This wine retailed on release at around the A$60+ mark and last traded at Langton’s this year at A$86. Theoretically could be pitched lower than this, but where else are you going to find some in Singapore? Robert Parker gave it 95 and said drink to 2021. Campbell Mattinson gives it 92 and says drink it now, right now. You choose your raters. I’m giving it BBI♥♥♥♥

2012 / Wither Hills / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $31.90 at Eve Spirits – This really wins on price because it’s another 85 point wine (Bob Campbell). RRP of NZ$25 makes the price excellent, so maybe this is something you stick in your fridge for those times when in-laws visit and any Kiwi Savvy will do. BBI♥♥♥♥

2010 / Thompson Estate / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / $61 at Fairprice – OK, I’ll admit it. I blew it. I should have told you about this a week or so ago when it was on special at Fairprice for $42. Now THAT was a deal. But that was then and this is now, so it’s gone back to $61 and the opportunity has been lost. At $61, it’s a fair price (groan) and it gets good ratings from most. James Halliday 95, ditto Huon Hooke, but Jeremy Oliver didn’t like it at all giving it 85. Again, you choose your raters. At least they are consistent in saying it’s still got many years ahead of it. BBI♥♥♥♥

2004 / Fox Creek / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / $55 by the bottle, $50 by the six pack at Wine Exchange Asia – And so, as we often do, we come to one of the investment wines. This one retailed at around A$70 on release but was last seen at Langtons at A$51. Here’s a wine where raters don’t agree. Halliday says 93, drink to 2019; Jeremy Oliver says 95, drink to 2024; Campbell Mattinson says 88, drink two years ago. Again, your call, but I’ll give it…BBI♥♥♥♥


WINESPEAK 101 – How to waffle with the best of them.

Continuing with the theme that not all raters are sycophants, here’s more from one of my favourite raters, Jeremy Pringle of

Big boy juice. Even men will need shoulder pads. Diesel fumes, prunes, vanilla custard and pulverized cloves. Thick with oak, thinned with bourbon…”

A 15% shiraz of course, but surprisingly not from the Barossa but from Padthaway. Sign up to Jeremy’s free site, and add a bit of colour to your own winespeak.


The saliva production difference between the sexes is an important one, as having less saliva makes women more sensitive to sourness, bitterness and astringency, which makes a male assessment of a particularly astringent pinotage problematic for women and vice versa.” – Neil Pendock writing in Wine, April 2011

Yes, you can buy Australian wines cheaper in Singapore than in Australia

Some outstanding value out there today. Get into it!

2013 / Marisco Vineyards / The Ned / Marlborough / Pinot Gris / S$39.90 at Eve Spirits – I found a rating of 17/20 from Raymond Chan so scrubs up OK if not outstanding, With a RRP of NZ$20, the S$ price here is about right so a fair deal – BBI ♥♥♥

2012 / Ata Rangi / Summer / Martinborough / Rose / S$39.90 by the 12 bottle case at Eve Spirits – With a RRP of NZ$18, my BBI reckons this should be priced at S$39.90. Well, how about that. Best drink this now though, certainly before 2014 becomes 2015. With 18/20 from Raymond Chan, I’m giving it 4 stars – BBI ♥♥♥♥

2013 / Huia / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$42.90 at Eve Spirits – Another 18/20 by Raymond Chan, RRP of NZ$25 so pricing here very fair. – BBI ♥♥♥♥

1999 / Tahbilk / 1860 Vines / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$59 by the 12 bottle case at Crystal Wines – The highest rating I could find on this was 93 from Gary Walsh at The Wine Front. Jeremy Oliver & James Halliday are both at 91. They all agree that it should drink to 2019. When it was released, this wine retailed at A$110. So, what’s it worth now? A lot less apparently as the last sale at Langton’s Auctions was A$48. No point in using the initial RRP so I’ve used the auction price as a guide to value and my BBI still comes up showing it as a very good price indeed. I had this wine recently and I was very pleasantly surprised by its drinkability. I’ve often found the Tahbilks disappointing, but the 99 I had was definitely rewarding. At S$59, I reckon it’s worth a place in your wine fridge. – BBI ♥♥♥♥

2011 / Rockburn / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$55 at Wine Exchange Asia – What’s not to like about the better Central Otago pinots? This one gets 18.5/20 by Raymond Chan and has an RRP of NZ$40. That makes the value here pretty good and so I’m giving it 4.5 stars – BBI ♥♥♥♥

2013 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$48.90 by the 12 bottle case at Eve Spirits – I’m not even going to comment on the ratings as you’ve probably already made your mind up that you love Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, or you’re so over it that no rating will entice you back. It’s all a matter of price really. This is about the middle of where Cloudy Bay ends up when on special so a fair deal. Maybe not the sharpest you’ll have seen, but a long, long way better than many I’ve seen. Think about this price the next time you’re asked to fork out S$150 at that lush hotel. Oh, you’d want to drink this now too. – BBI ♥♥♥♥

2012 / Chandon / Yarra Valley / Pinot Noir / S$44.90 at Eve Spirits – Chandon used to be marketed here as Green Point (which is the location of the vineyard in the Yarra Valley), but I think they may have dropped that now in favour of just Chandon. Jeremy Oliver wasn’t overly impressed (87) but James Halliday and Gary Walsh have it in the low 90s. RRP of around A$33 so fair pricing again. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2001 / Tahbilk / Reserve / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$37.50 by the 12 bottle case at Crystal Wines – Here’s another wine that’s dropped a bucket load in value from its initial release price. On release, it was A$70, now at auction it’s A$31. It’s not a bad wine (Jeremy Oliver 92), in fact that makes it a very good wine, so I guess consumers just didn’t think the value was there initially. I’ve seen this in the past in Singapore at S$50 too. It will last another 15 years or so if you can resist. After this vintage, the wines were rebranded as “Eric Stevens Purbrick” rather than “Reserve”. Worth considering, especially when you know what you can get for $37.50 at a supermarket. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2006 / Elderton / Command / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$80 by the bottle, S$69 by the half case (6 bottles) at Wine Exchange Asia – A personal favourite, despite me slowly moving away from big Barossa shiraz to cool climate syrah. Like an old pair of slippers (the western type!). Comfortable, familiar, warm and slightly old fashioned. It gets 94 across the board from Walsh, Oliver and Halliday, and they all agree it should drink to at least 2020. RRP of A$95 so what’s not to like about S$80, or even better still S$69. On any other day, this would have won best value hands down. But today, against very strong competition…BBI ♥♥♥♥

2002 / Tahbilk / Eric Stevens Purbrick / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$50 by the 12 bottle case at Crystal Wines – Again, the raters are in agreement. Campbell Mattinson 94+, Jeremy Oliver 95, James Halliday 96. Do I need to go on? Drink to 2020. Retailed on release at A$70. Now? A$36 at auction. I say, “so what!”. Surely there’s space in your fridge. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / Sandalford / Estate Reserve / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / $45.90 at Eve Spirits – OK, so Campbell Mattinson and Jeremy Oliver can’t get overly excited by this (87, 89) but Halliday can and gives it 95. This wine is currently for sale at the winery at A$45. That’s right A$45. I often say to people in Singapore that if you do your homework (or let Bastard Box do the homework for you) you can sometimes buy Australian wines here cheaper than you can in Australia. I usually get that slightly askew look that says “he’s been here too long, the man’s gone troppo.” Well, here’s the proof. You can buy at the cellar door for A$45 or you can buy it in Singapore for about the equivalent of A$39. I rest my case…BBI ♥♥♥♥

2009 / Desert Heart / Central Otago / Riesling / S$32 at Wine Exchange Asia – This one had me confused. Bob Campbell wrote glowingly about this wine but gave it only 85/100. So I looked elsewhere and found Raymond Chan giving it 19/20. RRP of NZ$24, Terrific comparative value. I’m giving it…BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

2002 / Tahbilk / Eric Stevens Purbrick / Nagambie Lakes / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$50 by the 12 bottle case at Crystal Wines – Wow. Campbell Mattinson 95. Jeremy Oliver 95. James Halliday 96. It will still be drinking when I’m dribbling into my mushy senior’s dinner. Initially retailed at A$70 and has held up better than the other Tahbilks here today. A$50 at auction. Buy another fridge if necessary. BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

2010 / Thorn-Clarke / William Randell / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$59.99 by the bottle or S$49.99 by the 12 bottle case at Cornerstone Wines – Wow again. Gary Walsh 94, Jeremy Oliver 93, and James Halliday 97. Choose your drinking window. Jeremy Oliver usually stretches the longest but this time he’s at 2030 and Halliday is at an incredible 2050. It won’t be my dinner that’s mushy by then. And here’s the rub. Yes, yes, you’ll say I’m rabbitting on, but you see, this wine is still for sale at the winery for A$60. That’s S$70. Yours for S$20 bucks less. Enough said? BBI ♥♥♥♥♥


WINESPEAK 101 – or how to waffle with the best of them

This occasional section usually focuses on just a single word in the world of wine-speak, but today it’s a bunch of words. And for those of you who think raters only write good things about wine, prepare to be educated. This is by Jeremy Pringle, who writes what I think is one of the best free blogs on wine around. Check him out at

Anyhow, here’s the review:

Ah, average wine…kind of full-bodied yet lacking in substance. Utility not luxury. Black fruits and gum leaf. Uncouth tannin. Fades quickly – on the palate and from memory – 84 points”

If you’d like to know the wine, visit Jeremy’s website and search “alkoomi”


Here’s Tiger Wine’s current promotion:

2006 DA Cabernet


“To regular wine drinkers, wine is not just a beverage like tea or coffee. It is a magic that makes plump oysters more tangy, the onion soup more friendly, the duck richer, the veal cutlet more urbane, and the melon more exotic. The average young man attempting to explore this great avenue of pleasure is often frightened away because of the aura surrounding the wine judges art. A man may hesitate to judge, discuss or even drink for fear of committing some ghastly social error. The same man might try a tropical fruit, and unhesitatingly assert ‘I say it’s Mango, but what the hell”. When he buys a bottle, however, of fine vintage wine in a restaurant, he often becomes paralyzed with fright.” – Wine Talk, Mrs Rada Penfold Russell, Penfolds Advertising Director approx 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