Posts Tagged 'auckland'

Are Kiwis smarter than Aussies? – Maybe Piggy Muldoon was right!

I spent a fair bit of time working and living in New Zealand in the 1980s. I met Piggy Muldoon once, and also David Lange before the days of security threats. I remember a cocktail party in Wellington where David Lange walked from the Beehive without security and wandered in unannounced like any other guest. But it was Piggy Muldoon’s quip about the brain drain that stands out. When quizzed at a door stop interview, Piggy Muldoon responded with “New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries”. You had to love Piggy.

Anyway, he may have been right, because the ones who stayed behind must be very smart indeed if the simple act of buying wine is any measure.

Lets’ look at buying wine in Australia. Once the Aussie drinker has moved on from moscato to something more sophisticated like sauvignon blanc, the choices are simple. Sauvignon Blanc = New Zealand = Cloudy Bay. End of story. Couldn’t be easier. OK, there’s Cloudy Bay Te Koko but only investment bankers would order that at a restaurant. No, for the main part it’s a simple discourse between the customer and the sommelier. “I’ll have the Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc”. “Certainly, sir”

Not so in New Zealand apparently.

The discussion might start with “I’ll have the Saint Clair Family Estate, sauvignon blanc please”

“Certainly ma’am, would that be the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve, the Premium, the Vicar’s Choice, the Pioneer Block 1 Foundation, the Pioneer Block 2 Swamp Block, the Pioneer Block 3 43 Degrees, the Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut, the Pioneer Block 6 Oh Block, the Pioneer Block 7 Berry Block, the Pioneer Block 8 Friar’s, the Pioneer Block 11 Cell Block, the Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block, the Pioneer Block 19 Bird Block, the Pioneer Block 20 Cash Block or the Pioneer Block 21 Bell Block?”

“Er, sorry could you repeat please?”

“Perhaps ma’am would like a pinot instead. We can offer Saint Clair Premium, Omaka Reserve, Doctor’s Creek Reserve, Pioneer Block 5 Bull Block, Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum, Pioneer Block 14 Doctor’s Creek not to be confused with Doctor’s Creek Reserve, Pioneer Block 15 Strip Block and Pioneer Block 16 Awatere”.

Forget the customer, think how smart the sommelier has to be! Some can probably even name the vines.

Anyway, I reckon Piggy’s point is well made. The real question is, are the up and coming Chinese wine buyers as smart as Kiwi wine buyers? I wonder what the mandarin is for Cloudy Bay?

And speaking of sauvignon blanc, in this line-up today, I won’t be:

NV / Lindauer / Brut / New Zealand / Sparkling / S$29.90 at The Cellar Door – Michael Cooper says it’s “Good, Bronze Medal”, Bob Campbell rates it “Above Average”. It’s not expensive at home at NZ$16 and not relatively expensive here either. At S$29.90, it’s pretty good value.

NV / Summerhouse / Blanc de blanc / Marlborough / Sparkling / S$47.50 at Underground Wines – This retails at twice the price of the Lindauer at NZ$32, but it doesn’t end up twice the price here. There’s that duty at work again. Michael Cooper 4 “Excellent, Silver Medal”, and Bob Campbell 86 “Above Average”. The pricing puts it into the “good value” category.

2009 / Domain Road / Central Otago / Riesling / S$46 at eWineAsia – Michael Cooper 3.5 “Very Good”, drinking out to 2015. Price is spot on with RRP of NZ$24.

2008 / Tarras / The Canyon / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$69.55 at Hermitage Wines – The ratings OK, Michael Cooper 4.5 “Excellent”, but with a RRP of NZ$42, it’s coming in a fraction too high to meet the BBI. Good wine, marginal value.

2007 / Trinity Hill / The Gimblett / Hawkes Bay / S$44.90 at The Local Nose and The Cellar Door – So what is The Gimblett? It’s 51% Merlot, 17% Cabernet, 12% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Malbec. A red then. Michael Cooper gives it 5 stars (Outstanding, Gold Medal) and reckons it’ll drink to 2015. The RRP is shown as NZ$30 so the price here of S$44.90 puts it into the “good value” category.

Here’s a comparative price test:

2006 / Felton Road / Central Otago / Chardonnay – I reviewed this a while back but decided not to post the review as at S$56 at The Cellar Door, I didn’t think it represented good value. Well, at S$74/S$70.30 Member at Crystal Wines, my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s still for sale at The Cellar Door for S$56, so if you disagree with my opinion on value, you can at least save yourself some hard earned.

And, I told you…..

Back in December, I recommended the 2007 / Kumeu River / Mates / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$49 at Wine Exchange Asia – By the time you read this, I’m guessing that Wine Exchange Asia will have closed its current offer (same price as December) but at the time I said it was terrific value. If you missed out, you’re going to kick yourself. I reckon this wine (Michael Cooper 5 “Outstanding”) could have come in S$15 dearer and still met the BBI. Too late, mate.

“What attractive wine categories can New Zealand be first in? The answer is not sauvignon blanc that tastes grassy. New Zealand might lead in making that wine, but it is not a financially attractive category. It has limited price elasticity, is not regarded as a premium variety that commands lofty prices, and New Zealand is ill-equipped to be the low-cost producer.” – Mike Spratt, co-founder of Destiny Bay, writing in New Zealand Winegrower.

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Not much under S$50 here. Sorry! And some arbitrage on Grange.

Just to set the record straight, for this post I reviewed a smattering of wines from Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, The Cellar Door, Underground Wines, Wine Direction, and Wine Exchange Asia. If they’re not mentioned here, it means either the wine I selected didn’t make the BBI cut (i.e. not rated well, or not particularly good value) or I couldn’t find a rating on it. Usually the latter. Bastard Box is 100% independent from any distributor or retailer – I buy from most of them (or have), I’ll drink with any of them, but I’ll still judge their prices on comparative value using the same criteria for all.

(By the way, with Xmas coming on there’ll be a fair few offerings of mixed dozens. I’m not a great fan of mixed dozens when they’re already packaged up for you. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that the good wines get paid for by the bad ones, and that the mixed dozen is just meant to hide the real pricing from you. Nothing I’ve seen changes my mind on that, but I’m willing to be convinced. It just means you’re unlikely to see a review of a mixed dozen here any time soon.)

Let’s start with the Kiwis:

2007 / Kumeu River / Mates / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$49 from Wine Exchange Asia – Michael Cooper loves this wine and gives it 5 stars. Drinking from now until 2014. Price-wise, I don’t know how WEA do it. This wine retails for NZ$52 – here it is in Singapore at S$49. Don’t “go figure”, do “go get it”!

2007 / Kumeu River / Hunting Hill / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$49 from Wine Exchange Asia – Ditto for everything I said about Mates. Michael Cooper 5 stars, drinking to 2014 and RRP of NZ$45. A comparative bargain.

Now to the Aussies:

2005 / Voyager Estate / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$52 at Crystal Wines – Oliver 95, Halliday 96 and Decanter 4.5 stars. Unusually, Oliver wants to drink this one earlier by around 2017, but Halliday thinks it will go to 2025. RRP was A$60 so the price here of S$52 is damned good.

2002 / Moss Wood / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$95, or S$85 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Oliver 95 points, Halliday 91 (he didn’t think it was developing enough under screwcap). Oliver says drinking to 2014 to 2022, Halliday out to 2015.  The RRP was A$95 so the price here of S$95 is spot on.

2007 / John Duval / Plexus / Barossa Valley / Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre / S$57, or S$52 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – I always look forward to the Singapore F1 GP because our Australian guests usually have a bottle or two of John Duval in their bags. I’m a big GSM fan anyway and this definitely hits the spot. Oliver 93, Wine Front 92, Halliday 93 (but Decanter only 4 stars). 14.5% alc. Consensus on drinking to 2015+. RRP of A$39 so marginally outside the BBI unless you get it at S$52, when it slides into the BBI. Best to get a half case then (or a whole one!).

2007 / John Duval / Entity / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$62, or S$57 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Oliver 94, Wine Front 93, Halliday 94 (but Decanter only 4 stars…) Drinking to 2016. With a RRP of A$48, the BBI would put it at about S$59-60 and that’s right where it is. 14.5% alc.

2006 / Kilikanoon / The Covenant / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$50 at Wine Exchange Asia – 4.5 stars across the board, from Decanter, Oliver (93), and Halliday (92). Drinking range from 2011 to 2020. RRP of A$40 so S$50 is right where the BBI would expect it to be. 15% alc.

2006 / Kilikanoon / Oracle / Clare Valley / Shiraz / S$65 at Wine Exchange Asia – Another solid 4.5 star wine. Decanter (4.5), Oliver (94), Halliday (92). Consensus on drinking is to 2015. With a RRP of A$79, the price here is outstanding. 15% alc.

How about some Grange for the Xmas stocking?

Too expensive? Depends where you buy it, I suppose.

2001 / Penfolds / Grange / South Australia / Shiraz – S$550 at Epsilon Wines or S$399 at Wine Exchange Asia – Oliver 95, Parker 98. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more. Drinking out to 2031 or 2035 depending on who you believe (or whether you care!)

2002 / Penfolds / Grange / South Australia / Shiraz / S$429 at Wine Exchange Asia – Even better, Oliver 97, Parker 98. Oliver says 2032+, Parker says 2050. See if you (and the wine) can last that long.

So, what’s the best comparative value in that lot?

In the whites, the Kumeu River Mates is a terrific buy. In the reds (putting aside the Grange which trades in a stratosphere of its own), the Kilikanoon Oracle, followed closely by the Voyager Estate.

“A quarter acre of grape vines isn’t a working vineyard. At best, it’s a hobby; at worst, it’s an affectation……..Like a child, a vineyard needs love and maintenance and constant vigilance. As with children, a very small one isn’t necessarily easier to manage.” – Tony Lee writing in The Age, 24th August 2010. Could have been talking about Bastard Box!

Promises unfulfilled

An interesting excursion to Saigon and surrounds, and an interesting experience with Australian wine in Vietnam. We dined at Shri in Saigon CBD and managed to sample Torbreck Juveniles and Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge at a reasonable price considering the view. We later ventured to Mui Ne, a beach resort about 250kms north of Saigon to stay at the Small Luxury Hotel of L’Anmien. Things looked promising when I checked their wine list, with a good smattering of Australian and New Zealand wines at fair restaurant prices. Even better, the resort had an impressive looking cellar (see below) so it hit all the right buttons. Ah, promises unfulfilled.

We ordered a Hewitson Lulu Sauvignon Blanc, (sorry, out of stock), a Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (out of stock), a Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay (ditto) a d’Arenberg shiraz, a d’Arenberg pinot (ditto) and so it went. Each time we picked something it was met with “but we do have the Berri Estates Shiraz”. I couldn’t – someone might see us – so we opted for pretty much the only other wine on offer, a “vin ordinaire” Beaujolais.

The next day we stocked up on a couple of bottles of Wolf Blass President’s Selection from the shack across the road (screwcap thankfully, given the storing conditions). It was $8 a bottle less than at Cold Storage in Singapore!

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A real mixed bag this weekend. Maybe the sellers are holding off to launch their festive specials. Presumably we’ll see some of those emerge next week – there is one great deal starting on Monday, but it is very limited, case buy only, and cash & carry:

2009 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$39.90 at Bottles & Bottles, Parkway Parade – I’m not going to bore you with the write-up on the wine. If you know it (and who doesn’t), you’ll know this a great deal.

The best of the rest:

2007 / Kumeu River / Estate / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$39 from Wine Exchange Asia – A mixed opinion on this one. Decanter only gives it 4 stars (15.9 points) and it retails in the UK for GBP19. The Kiwi rater Michael Cooper gives it 5 stars, and says drink between now and 2014. It retails in New Zealand for around the NZ$38 mark so the price here of S$39 is excellent, and makes it the best comparative value of the wines reviewed here today by a fairly big margin.

2008 / Pierro / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$95 from Crystal Wines – Pierro chardonnays are usually outstanding and this vintage is no exception. Jeremy Oliver gives it 96 points, James Halliday gives it 96 points, and Wine Front gives it 95. The lowest rating I have is 4.5 stars from Epicure.  Fairly consistent opinion on the drinking, with 2015 seeming to be the common end date.  The retail price seemed a bit all over the place so a quick check on-line currently gives it at A$75 which makes the asking price here (on special as well) a fair way outside the BBI. I reckon S$82 would be closer to the mark, but you’ll form your own opinion on whether you want to buy.

2007 / Moss Wood / Ribbon Vale / Margaret River / Cabernet Merlot / S$60 from Crystal Wines – A solid 4.5 star wine, with Oliver giving 94 points, Halliday 93, Wine Front 91. Fairly consistent opinion that it’s drinking out to 2017ish.  With a RRP of around A$41, this too is a little outside the BBI. Not much, but still outside.

Two Robert Parker 99 pointers for the Xmas stocking:

2003 / Standish / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$155 from Epsilon Wines – To be frank, I’d never heard of Standish, but that doesn’t matter because Robert Parker had, and he gave it 99 points. Recommended drinking between 2018 to 2040. I have no idea of whether this is a good price. I think there is/was only one bottle available but I’m thinking that a Parker 99 point Barossa shiraz at S$155 would be worth a punt.

2003 / Torbreck / Run Rig / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$290 from Epsilon Wines – Another Robert Parker 99 point wine, with exactly the same drinking window as the Standish, i.e. 2018-2040.  James Halliday gave it 96 points, Jeremy Oliver 93, and Wine Front 94.  None of them are quite so bullish on the drinking window though, with Oliver suggesting drink within the next couple of years, Wine Front by 2019, and Halliday by 2023. It’s 14.5% alc. You can currently get a bottle on-line in Australia for A$239, so if you’re serious about filling that stocking with an older vintage wine, then you’ll decide on the price without my help.

Hopefully next week, we’ll have a wider range of specials for you that won’t break the bank.

“…..wine is a subject with no practical dimension, in contrast to cooking and gardening. You can’t chop it, steam it, sauté it, plant it or weed it. All you can do is understand it and appreciate it, which are intellectual pursuits with a sensual dimension.” – Andrew Jefford, writing in Decanter, 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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