Posts Tagged 'champagne'

Some giant deals, and some giant wines

Reviewed 21 wines on offer by Carrefour, Cornerstone Wines, Giant (yes, Giant!), Le Vigne, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia, commenting on 12 here today.

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2010 / Dog Point / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$32 at Wine Exchange Asia – I reviewed this wine back on 14th June and said then that (at 87 points Bob Campbell), it was a good buy. Well, it was $36 then and it’s $32 now so that makes it an even better buy. Retails for NZ$25.

2009 / Murdoch James / Blue Rock / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$59 at Underground Wines – This has a good rating from Wine Advocate (90 points -“outstanding”), is drinking out to 2015, and the price here is exactly where the BBI would put it. So, fair value for a good wine. Retails for about NZ$40.

2008 / Saint Clair / Rapuara Reserve / Marlborough / Merlot / S$45.48, $34.78 by the case at Cornerstone Wines – With a price difference like that, Cornerstone certainly entice you to buy in bulk. This wine gets 85 points from Bob Campbell (“above average”) and 3.5 stars from Michael Cooper (“very good”). With a RRP of NZ$27, the single bottle price is OK but the case price is excellent value if you’re into Kiwi merlots. I’m not.

2005 / Elderton / Command / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$75, $70 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – I’m so long on Elderton Command that I won’t be buying any of this, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, if you like Barossa Shiraz, then this is one to get. There must be an ocean of Elderton Command around as you can still buy old vintages (e.g 2002 or older) at Dan Murphys in Australia. This vintage is still on sale downunder at around A$80, which means that if you shipped it in now, it would land at about S$92. So how come it’s only S$70? Well, there’s quite a bit of it in Singapore too, sitting in investment portfolios, and as the GFC bites, you can be the beneficiary of some, er, rebalancing of priorities. What would you like to know? Wine Front 95 points, Epicure 5 stars, Wine Advocate 97! That should be enough to convince you.  Look, in my opinion this is a great wine at a fantastic price that’s still got years ahead of it, and it ought to be in the cellar of any true-blue Aussie or wannabe Ocker. This is something no other country can do.  Oi! Oi! Oi!

TBA / Elderton / Barossa Valley / Cabernet or Shiraz / S$29.95 at Giant – My fingers trembles as I typed that. Fairly typically with the big supermarkets, they figure you don’t need to know the vintage, which is either a reflection of their opinion of the wine, or of you. Early vintages of the Shiraz (2005) are still selling at Dan’s downunder, and at about A$25. As a general rule, Elderton’s “plain” Shiraz and Cabernet get pretty good ratings. A quick check showed that most vintages fall into the 90+ range from James Halliday and Wine Front so these wines are no slouch. The price at Giant is very, very attractive for such a drinkable wine. I’ll be ducking down to Giant later today (it’s OK, I’ll wear my dark sunnies) to make sure that this is just plain Elderton and not their “E” brand, which is a different kettle of fish.

TBA / Hardys / VR / South Eastern Australia / Chardonnay or Cabernet or Merlot or Shiraz / S$17.90 at Giant – Once you get below the S$20 mark, with some rare exceptions, it’s hard to talk of good value as roughly $7 in the price is duty alone. You can’t expect much from what’s left in the price. From what I can see, the VR label is an export only one, so my data comes from Decanter where they give the Shiraz (of unknown vintage) a “recommended” score based on value over there. It sells in the UK for the equivalent of A$7.50, shipped and all. Get the picture. To be honest, this doesn’t look a bad deal when you consider the duty, but for a little over $10 bucks more, you’ll get the Elderton. No brainer.

NV / Hardys / Reserve / Party Pack (3 Litre) / Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz / S$69.90 at Giant – I’ve never done a review of a box before! OK, so let’s not talk about the contents as if you’re buying this, you’re not doing it to impress your wine buddies, you’re doing it coz’ it’s bulk drinking for Xmas. Well, yes. And, no. You see, the $7 a bottle duty doesn’t magically disappear simple because you put 3 litres in a box. It’s still there only now it’s about $28 of that $70 price. So is the wine worth the difference of $42 that’s left in the price? Here’s a hint. The box sells in Australia for A$17. That right A$17. For A$63, you’ll get four boxes at Dan’s. That’s A$5.25 per litre. Makes it hard to get one’s mind around S$70 for one box doesn’t it?

NV / Jacob’s Creek / Sparkling Rose or Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir / S$49.20 for 2 at Giant – Ah, yes, this would have been called Champagne in days gone past. But, Champagne it’s not, it’s just an inoffensive bubbly that scores around the 85 point mark from the likes of James Halliday and Decanter.  RRP is A$14 but it sells closer to A$10, even A$9. Not a bad buy, just not my type of wine.

TBA / Wolf Blass / Red Label / Moscato or Moscato Pink / S$18.90 at Giant – Run away! Run away! That’s usually my reaction when I see any wine with “pink” in its name (or Hello Kitty for that matter), and in this case maybe that’s justified. No point in talking of quality, although I do see that Epicure regularly say 3.5 stars which is OK. Sells at Dan’s in Australia at sub-$9. There’s that duty again.

TBA / Wolf Blass / Yellow Label / Various varieties / S$25.90 at Carrefour – I can pretty much repeat what I said about the Red Label, although this does sell for A$5 more at Dan’s.  But by the time you get to S$26 for the Shiraz, why wouldn’t you get the Elderton at $30?

TBA / Wolf Blass / Eaglehawk / Various / S$15.75 at Giant – I’m guessing this is where many young Singaporeans get introduced to Australian wine. I think my only advice would be drink half as much at twice the price. One bottle of Elderton or two bottles of Eaglehawk? Easy for me to say that’s a no-brainer, I’m not 21 any more. Sells at Dan Murphy’s at A$6.65. You listening kids?

And finally….

NV / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Sparkling / S$34.50 at Le Vigne – Le Vigne had this listed at S$40.55 back in November so this is a real discount. The wine regularly scores 90-92 points from Halliday, so another example of “pay a little more, get a lot more”. A great deal.

Bastard Box was born near the Barossa so the decision here today is easy. It’s the Elderton Command by a country mile.  But its little brother is also a great deal and will even tempt Bastard Box to the 5th floor of Parkway Parade (something not easy to do) to quickly secure the Elderton Shiraz. And for the fizz, go for the great deal on the Ninth Island.

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Moving quickly from the world of $10 bubblies to the higher realms of true Champagne, Bastard Box tracks sub US$150 wines that score 95 points or better, and there’s two Champagnes just in time for Xmas. I’m not saying these are available, or at this price in Singapore though. That’s for you to do your own homework on, but if you do find some, let me know.

Theses ratings and comments come from Wine & Spirits, one of my favourite and affordable (S$9.95 downstairs at Siglap Shopping Centre) wine magazines.

2002 Bollinger Brut La Grande Annee Champagne, US$150 – 98 points

“There is Champagne, and then there is 2002 Bollinger. This wine makes me dizzy, stammering in cross-eyed bliss. Taking a step back, the sustained chord of flavour comes into focus, revealing a limestone honey; scents of acacia, marzipan, apricot and golden citrus. Jamal Rayyis, one of our tasters with the broadest flavor library in his head, described the scent as loomi (dried lime) and dried apricots, as if walking into a Middle Eastern market. Flavor details aside, the wine’s richness softens the structural grandeur of the vintage, which is buoyed in a mineral bath of power.” –

2002 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne, US$150 – 96 points

“Think of standing above a well at the edge of an apple orchard, the cool feel of the earth deepening the bosky scent of the ripening fruit. This wine may take you there, then leave you to contemplate its complexity; full-on limestone-derived power, juicy nectarine and apricot scents, candied lemon and lasting spice, all of it rounded into a supple shape and a subtle mist of a finish.”

Wow, does it come any better than those two pieces of wine writing? I love it!

The other Champagnes that met the 95+ at US$150 or less were:

1999 Bruno Paillard Brut Assemblage, US$100 – 96 points

2004 Louis Roederer Brut Blanc de Bancs, US$75 – 95 points

2004 Louis Roederer Brut Vintage, US$70 – 95 points

As I said, if you see any of these in Singapore at a reasonable price, please let Bastard Box (and our readers) know (after filling your own interests first of course)!

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“Champagne is a pleasant start to the day, but the real problem is, what wine does one serve with breakfast?” – Anders Ousback writing in Wine & Spirit Buying Guide, January 1979

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Year of the Rabbit – uh, oh!

It may be coming up to the Year of the Rabbit but that’s no need to treat consumers as rabbits. I do hope that some of the pricing seen in the last week or so is not representative of the year to come. I know the A$ is high, but hasn’t anyone heard there’s a wine glut on? Ditto for New Zealand where things are possibly even more dire than in Australia. Will Lyons wrote in the Asian Wall Street Journal this week:

“…2011 will continue to see an oversupply of grapes, particularly in countries that have experienced a sustained wine boom. I fear some of those growers who planted vineyards in New Zealand to cash in on the phenomenon of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will realize the economics don’t add up.”

What with the glut, and the collapse of a major US distributor last year, there’s a lot of wine washing around in the hands of liquidators, and harsh as it might seem for the growers, that can mean tremendous deals for buyers. Last week in Australia I bought several cases of 2006 The Colonial Estate Eclaireur Old Vine Grenache forA$8.99 a bottle. That’s a 92 point Wine Spectator wine that listed at US$28 before the collapse of the distributor.  At A$8.99, I’ll take a punt on it (and did) (See http://www.getwinesdirect.com)

Instead, in Singapore, some distributors/retailers still seem to think that “ignorance is bliss” and as buyers we are all ignorant. It’s going to come as a shock when they realise (or care) that buyers can have Halliday’s ratings and pricing on their i-Phone for next to nothing, and thats there’s a growing number of websites dedicated to hunting down the best deals.

Bastard Box will continue to hunt out the good (mainly), the bad and the ugly (occasionally) in Singapore.

Let’s kick away with some Kiwis:

2008 / Ata Rangi / Crimson / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$48 at Crystal Wines (S$45.60 member price) – 4 Stars – You’ll know I’m a big fan of the flagship 2008 Pinot Noir but it sells for about S$72, so this “lesser” label comes in quite a bit below that. Michael Cooper gives it 4 stars and Bob Campbell gives it 87 points, but both comment that it’s still a good wine and a good price, where it sells in New Zealand at NZ$32. The BBI reckons it could list here at around S$43-44 so the price at Crystal is OK, but only just. You’ll be better off hopping down to The Cellar Door in VivoCity where you’ll get the same wine for S$36.90. Think about it.

2006 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Chardonnay / S$49 at The Cellar Door – 4.5 Stars – Bob Campbell gives it 91 points. It retails for NZ$35 so the price here is pretty close to where the BBI would expect it to be. Drinking out to 2016.

2010 / Soho / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.50 at Underground Wines – 3.5 Stars  from Bob Campbell (83 points) so don’t expect too much. It’s only NZ$17 at home.  The price here is OK, but for an extra S$10 you could have got Cloudy Bay just before Xmas.

And now to the Aussies:

Let’s talk about wine because talking about cricket is just too painful. All out for 98! Wow, what a Boxing Day.

2007 & 2008 / Angove / Long Row / Riverland / Chardonnay / S$31.03 at Top Wines (that’s after adding GST which isn’t included in the quoted price)  – 3 to 4 Stars – Wine Estate gives it 3 stars, Halliday gives it 87 points. Not top line then, but neither is the price, at least in Australia. There it retails (a loose term at this end of the market) for A$9.75. At that price, you can forgive a lot of sins, and frankly it’s what you’d expect to pay for a Riverland chardonnay. But the “normal” price in Singapore is S$36 (oh, plus GST making it normally S$38.52) and that’s a whole different equation. Even at S$31.03, this falls too far outside the BBI to gather any recommendation, rating aside. Pass.

2009 / Dominique Portet / Fontaine / Yarra Valley & Pyrenees / Rose / S$34 at eWinesAsia – 4 to 4.5 Stars – Had one of these earlier in the year and found it quite agreeable. Halliday gives it 92 points but Wine Front only 87. Drink it this year though. Great for a pre-dinner drink outside.  With a RRP of A$20, this is good value.

2002 / Lengs & Cooter / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$99 from Profiters International – 4.5 Stars – I don’t get it. This wine on release was A$45, and even now my research shows you’ll pay about that to get it now. So why the “Usual Price” of S$120 discounted down to S$99? For the record, Halliday rates it 94 points, drinking to 2013. I must be missing something.

“We will always have the time to make love and drink Champagne, and we will do it even more. Champagne’s only competitor is Viagra.” – Pierre-Emmanuel Tattinger, CEO of Taittinger


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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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