Posts Tagged 'Crystal Wines'



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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Merry Xmas from Down Under!

“Owyagoin Santa Claus, gee you’re a real good bloke, come in and crack a coldie, sit right down and have a smoke……” with apologies to John Vincent.

Very pleased to report that the Bastard Box vines are growing quicker than a Bondi tram, what with all the recent rains. Now all we need is some warm weather. 9 degrees centigrade on site yesterday, and it’s supposed to be summer. The four strands of electric fence are keeping out the wombats, kangaroos and deer, and the ultra-sound seems to be keeping out the possums. Fingers crossed.

This week, reviewed wines on offer at Cellar Door, Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, eWinesAsia, DFS Changi, Le Vigne, Rubicon Reserve Wines, The Local Nose, Top Wines, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia

One theme that has emerged over the last year is that there are some sellers who are consistently good in their pricing, and there are those, well, let’s just say that there doesn’t appear to be any logic. Not to Bastard Box anyway. If you’re a regular subscriber, you’ll know by now who’s consistent and fair, who’s all over the place like a dog’s breakfast, and who’s just plain greedy.

Usual caveats apply – availability and pricing can change.

Let’s start with a bubbly:

NV / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Brut / S$36.50 at Le Vigne – OK, so it’s not champagne, but neither’s the price. Usually sells for about A$27 except around Xmas when just about anything with bubbles is discounted. James Halliday consistently gives it 90-92 points. At this price, it’s Good Value.

The battle of the Pinot Gris. Two 4 star wines:

2009 / Eradus / Marlborough / Pinot Gris / S$28.88 by the case at Rubicon Wines – Bob Campbell gives it 85 points, RRP NZ$19 so price here is Good Value.

2009 / Forrest / Marlborough / Pinot Gris / S$30.50 at Underground Wines – Another 85 pointer from Bob Campbell. RRP of NZ$25. Much of a muchness between the two Pinot Gris isn’t it? I’d probably opt for the Forrest as the single bottle price looks pretty good, but to be honest, I’m not that into Pinot Gris.

It wouldn’t be summer without Sauvignon Blanc. The Cloudy Bay is the pick of the bunch here:

Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$38.90 at Le Vigne – I’d usually deduct points for not advertising the vintage, but I can’t imagine the team at Le Vigne selling you anything that was “out of date” so to speak. And look at that price! The cheapest I’ve seen it anywhere in Singapore. Great Value. RRP NZ$34.

2007 / Dog Point / Section 94 / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$59 at Crystal – Solid ratings no doubt. Michael Cooper 4.5 stars, Bob Campbell 94 points, but with a RRP of NZ$33, it just doesn’t stack up on a BBI (especially when compared to Cloudy Bay) so it gets a “Reconsider” rating. Probably expect this to be closer to S$45 than S$59.

2010 / Palliser / Martinborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$32.90 at The Cellar Door – 5 stars (95 points) from Gourmet Traveller Wine (GTW) with recommended drinking to 2013. RRP of NZ$19 so price here is a smidgeon outside the BBI. Not worth nitpicking on though so let’s call it “OK Value”.

Two Chardonnays, and the Kiwis win hands down on value:

2008 / Moss Wood / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$88 at Crystal – 4.5 to 5 stars. Halliday gives it 5 stars (95 points), Wine Front 93, and Jeremy Oliver 91. Drinking range seems to be around 2013 – 2018. This not a cheap wine in Australia (A$55) but S$88 puts it way outside the BBI. Not for me at this price.

2007 / Palliser / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$34.90 at The Cellar Door – 4.5 to 5 stars. Gourmet Traveller Wine gives it 95 points, Bob Campbell 93 and Decanter 16.2/20. Drinking to 2013. RRP of NZ$28 so price here is Great Value. Go for it.

Just one Riesling, but a good one:

2007 / Granite Hills / Macedon Ranges / Riesling / S$33 at Epsilon Wines – 4.5 to 5 star. Whenever I write Granite Hills I always want to put “Knights” in front of it, as that is how I remember it. First visited the winery in about 1979 and discovered how many cases of Granite Hills you can stuff into a Lancia HPE hatchback  (lots) and Knights Granite Hills became the “house red” for quite a while.  This Riesling gets 96 points from Jeremy Oliver, 94 from Halliday and 92 from Gourmet Traveller Wine. A fairly diverse opinion on cellaring though with Oliver saying 2015+, GTW saying 2019+ and Halliday saying 2029.  Good Value at this price.

A couple of cabernets:

2005 / Cape Mentelle / Margaret River / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$80 at Crystal – 4 to 4.5 star wine. Halliday and GTW give it 94 points and 92 points respectively. Oliver gives it only 88. With a RRP of A$84, the price here comes in at Great Value. Go figure. Drinking out to 2017+.

2006 / Dominique Portet / Cuvee Andre / Heathcote & Yarra Valley / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$110 at eWinesAsia – I’ve only got one rating on this, and it’s by James Halliday – 96 points. He really liked this wine and suggested drinking out to 2020. With a RRP of A$120, price here is Great Value.

Duty free Pinot Noir:

2007 / De Bortoli / Reserve / Yarra Valley / Pinot Noir / S$77 at DFS Changi – 4 stars. An 89 pointer from Gourmet Traveller Wine who suggest drinking this year. With a RRP of A$57, (seen at A$47 at Dan Murphys this week) this wine could retail in Singapore around the S$65-S$66 mark. Duty free, one might expect it to be at least S$7 cheaper than that, or even S$14 cheaper if you assume the duty gets marked up 100% by retailers (which BBI does.) But, it’s not $7 or S$14 cheaper – it’s $7 more.  That scores it a BBI of “Reconsider”.

Last but not least, Shiraz:

2005 / Balthazar of the Barossa / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$51.50 at The Local Nose – 5 stars from Halliday (95 points), drinking out to 2020. RRP of A$45 so Great Value.

2005 / Fox Creek / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$55 at Wine Exchange Asia – 4.5 stars. Oliver 90, Halliday 94. Drinking to about 2016-ish. RRP of A$70. Yup, A$70. Terrific Value.

2007 / Maxwell / Ellen Street / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$53 at Crystal – 4.5 stars. Halliday 93 points, drinking to 2020. RRP of A$32 so BBI of Marginal Value.

2002/ Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$85 at Wine Exchange Asia – 5 stars . Oliver 95 points, Epicure ditto. Too hard to comparative price but with an RRP of A$90 on release, this looks like a good deal. Seen higher elsewhere.

2001/ Grant Burge / Meshach / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$80 at Wine Exchange Asia – ditto for the 2002, except Oliver wasn’t so keen giving it 88 points.  Regularly seen at S$90 plus, even S$95 plus in Singapore.

2003 / Standish / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$120 at Wine Exchange Asia – I’ve listed this wine before through a different seller, only there it was (and still is I believe) S$155. I don’t know much about the wine other than Robert Parker gave it 99 points.

Out of all the wines here, the Fox Creek Shiraz at Wine Exchange Asia is the clear BBI winner for comparative value.

Try before you buy in the UK. I reckon this service was offered in Queenstown, New Zealand in about 2002! See- http://www.harpers.co.uk/news/news-headlines/9526-new-wine-retailer-offers-try-before-buy-on-150-wines.html

“Before you can appreciate great Burgundy, you’ve got to cut your teeth on good Bordeaux” – Julio Iglesias speaking with Lucy Shaw in Decanter September 2010.

Where’s the shiraz in this lot? – and lessons on how to spit

[Reviewed offerings by Cold Storage, Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, eWine Asia, Le Vigne, Monopole, The Cellar Door, Top Wines, Underground Wines, and Wine Directions]

Specials are a bit slow this week. Here’s the best I could do:

2003 / Kreglinger / Vintage Brut / Tasmania / Bubbly / S$48 at Le Vigne – From the same stables as Ninth Island and Pipers Brook, this is a personal favourite. No, I don’t always buy wines on ratings, as this one only gets 88 points from Jeremy Oliver (although other vintages score much better). It’s refreshing and it’s priced right. With a RRP of A$50, this comes in with a BBI rating of  “Terrific Value”.

2009 / Moss Wood / Ribbon Vale / Margaret River / Semillon Sauvignon Blanc / S$44 at Crystal Wines – Don’t have much on this one. Halliday 95 points, drink to 2013, 14% alcohol. RRP is A$26 so this one gets a BBI rating of  “OK Value”.

2009 / Pierro / LTC / Margaret River / Semillon Sauvignon Blanc / S$53 at Crystal Wines – Oliver 90 points, Halliday 94 points, drinking to 2013-14. With a RRP of A$31, this gets a BBI rating of “Reconsider”. Interesting eh, given that both are from the same retailer.

2008 / Jim Barry / The Lodge Hill / Clare Valley / Riesling / S$42 at Monopole – Halliday gives it 93 points, but Decanter didn’t rate it highly, giving it only 15.5 points (out of 20). Drinking to 2018 according to Halliday. With a RRP of A$20, the BBI on this is “Marginal Value”, especially when compared with the Pikes at S$29 from Wine Directions in the last post.

2007 / All Saints / Rutherglen / Durif / S$35.90 at The Cellar Door – It seems you’re either into Durif, or you’re not. I don’t mind the occasional one, especially with some age on it. This is too much of a generalization, but I think of it as a sort of black, inky shiraz. Oliver rates this one at 91 points (4.5 stars) and suggests drinking between 2015-2019+. With a RRP of A$24, the BBI on this is “Good Value”

2008 / Water Wheel / Memsie Homestead / Bendigo / Red (Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet) / S$29 at Crystal Wines – I’ll be right up front and say I don’t like this wine. I’ve got some in my cellar, and it’s always overlooked when hunting around for something nice. Maybe I’ll drag it out when my relatives next visit. I’m not alone. Wine Estate give it only 4 stars and Wine Front 4 too (87 points), but Halliday is stumping up with 90 points. Halliday suggests drinking out to 2017. With a RRP of A$14, the BBI gives it a rating of “Good Value”, but it won’t be enough to convince me to stock up. Just a personal choice.

Where’s the shiraz? (sounds like an Elton John song….) Not here, I’m afraid.

2008 / Wolf Blass / Presidents Selection / South Australia / Shiraz / S$44.95 at Cold Storage – You might recall that this is the wine we got a roadside stall in rural Vietnam for about S$35. It’s a four star wine for sure (Wine Front 88 points) and I have it on good authority that Presidents Selection, which is not sold as such in Australia, is closer to Yellow Label than other Wolf Blass brandings.  So……if it is close to Yellow Label, then the RRP would be about A$16, giving the price here a BBI rating of “Reconsider”.

We often hear people say when shocked by the price of wine in Singapore, “oh, it’s the tax you see” and I have to bite my tongue every time I hear it. Yes, yes, it can be the tax, but only at the lower end of cheaper wines. The tax can even work in your favour if you’re prepared to lash out and spend above $30 bucks, and if you really want to splash out, have a look at how the tax creates a very favourable arbitrage on Grange and the like. Hundreds of dollars worth, so please, no more, “it’s the tax”. Unless……. you really are buying at the wrong end.

Let’s have a look at two examples. Not stunning wines. The Grant Burge is 4 star for sure; the Angove’s, I’m prepared to bet it’s no more than 4 star either.

2009 / Angove’s / Butterfly Ridge / Colombard Chardonnay / S$30 at Top Wines – I say S$30 because it’s listed at Top Wines at S$28 before GST (something they’ll presumably fix, and quickly – you never know who might be looking at this website) so I’ve added the 7% for correctness.  Well, this wine retails (at most) in Australia at A$7. That’s right, A$7. If you take out the margin, the GST and the WET in Australia, I’m guessing the wholesale price is around A$2.20. Now, if we convert to S$, add the freight, add the alcohol tax, add the Singapore GST and mark it back up by 100% (that’s fair), we’ll get to S$25, give or take a few cents. That’s how you get an A$2.20 wine to S$25 – it’s all mark up on the tax and on-costs and very little to do with the wine. For the record, the BBI rating on this particular deal would be “Marginal Value”.

2007 / Grant Burge / Summers / Adelaide Hills / Chardonnay / S$30 at Epsilon Wines – 4 stars from Decanter and Halliday, and the same price as the Angoves. Only this one starts with a RRP of A$24, not A$7. On a comparative value basis (i.e. the BBI), this wine would get a rating of “Terrific Value”. So, the real issue is, do you believe that retail prices reflect the quality of the wine? That’s up to you – I’ll just tell you the story.

But wait, there’s more! If you want to learn how to spit “with elegance”, have a look at:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcvujq_comment-cracher-le-vin-avec-eleganc_webcam

And finally, is there no respect? The 2008 Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz, having just been listed as the number 7 top wine in the world by Wine Spectator, has been discounted down from A$20 to A$14.99 (at winestar.com.au)!

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless thirsty.” – Lily Bollinger in 1961, on drinking champagne.

Now we’re starting to motor – some real deals here, a cracker sparkling shiraz, and a Top Ten in the World for less than $40 bucks!

[Reviewed wines from Wine Exchange Asia, Crystal Wines, The Cellar Door, Epsilon Wines, The Local Nose, Le Vigne , Wine Culture, Top Wines, eWinesAsia,  Wine Directions, and Cold Storage.]

It wouldn’t be an Australian Xmas without sparkling shiraz. My all time favourite is still the 1985 Seppelt Show Reserve (I still have some for this year) but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth.  Trying to buy decent sparkling shiraz in Singapore (as distinct from red lolly-water) can be a challenge. Not impossible, just a little hard at times.

Well, your troubles are over! Bastard Box has sniffed out a terrific deal, just in time for Xmas. Have a look at this:

NV / Peter Rumball / SB18 / Coonawarra / Sparkling Shiraz / S$30 at Top Wines – Peter Rumball only makes sparkling reds, and for sheer consistency, they can’t be beat. If you’re from down-under, you probably know them already. Rarely rated, often enjoyed. No argument from me, I’ve ordered mine already. (Peter V, if only we’d known! – sorry mate) RRP of A$20 so the pricing’s right, but who cares! I can taste mine already.

Now to the rest:

2003 / Caledonia Australis / Gippsland / Chardonnay / S$49.50, or S$37 by the case at eWinesAsia. I only have one rating on this, and that’s Halliday at 94 points. I favourably reviewed it in an earlier blog when it was on sale at S$40.25. With a RRP of A$25, the single bottle price is a bit steep, but the case price is pretty good. Drinking to next year, 13.5% alc.

2008/ Cape Mentelle /Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$48 at Crystal Wines – Plaudits across the board – Halliday 96, Epicure 4.5, Gourmet Traveller Wine 96, Decanter 17. Drinking to about 2016, 2017. RRP of A$42 so S$48 is a good buy. 13% alc.

2009 / Pikes / Traditionale / Clare Valley / Riesling / S$29 at Wine Directions – Now here’s a real deal. Oliver 92, Halliday 94, and with a RRP of A$23, this is a great price. And you know how much I love Clare Valley Rieslings. S$29 for Pete’s sake! What are you waiting for? Drinking from about 2012- 2022, 12% alc.

2001 / Lake’s Folly / Hunter Valley / Cabernet / S$98

2002 / Lake’s Folly / Hunter Valley / Cabernet / S$94

2004 / Lake’s Folly / Hunter Valley / Cabernet / S$95

Each of these is available at Wine Culture – The 2001 is rated 96 by Jeremy Oliver and 94 by Wine Front and even though it’s the oldest, it’s the one that still has some legs. To 2014 according to Wine Front, to 2021 according to Oliver. The 2002 is rated 95 by Oliver, 93 by Halliday but definitely drink now. The 2004 is rated 92 by Oliver, 90 by Halliday, and also drink now, right now. No point in looking at the RRP which was around A$45-50 at the time of release. On-line in Australia, the 2001 is A$105, the 2002 A$85, and the 2004 A$70.  That makes the pricing here pretty attractive, but the 2001 is the pick of the bunch in price, rating and longevity.

1998 / Tahbilk / Reserve / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$73 at Epsilon Wines – Jeremy Oliver gives it the highest rating at 95 points, Wine Front at 94, Halliday at 90. Drinking out to 2020 if averaging the raters. Hard to price this one retail as it listed at A$70 but it’s been around a while. There’s at least one on-line price of A$54, so assuming there’s no WET to get back (it’s old stock) the pricing looks OK. It’d cost you about S$83 to buy it retail on-line in Australia and ship it up.

2003 / Penfolds / Grange / South Australia / Shiraz / S$379 at Wine Exchange Asia – There’s still time to urge that this should be in your stocking. I won’t bore with heaps of ratings, just one. Oliver 96 points, drinking 2023 to 2033. This vintage initially listed at A$550 but is now on-line at A$465. If you’re into Grange, the price here will make your mates down-under want to re-locate.

2007 / Flametree / Frankland River / Shiraz / S$48 at The Local Nose – Interesting this one. The 2008 is an absolute stunner, but the 2007, apparently not. Wine Front gave it 86 points (4 star), WineEstate gave it 3 stars (ouch!) but Halliday  gave it 90 points, bringing it into the 4.5 star range. The alcohol is high-ish at 15.5% but my real problem with this wine is the price. With a RRP of A$25, the price here of S$48 puts it a fair way outside the BBI. I’d say wait for the 2008, and wait for the price to come down.

2008 / Battle of Bosworth / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$39 at Crystal Wines – Who says raters don’t disagree? They sure do here. Jeremy Oliver gives this wine an unflattering 82 points (3.5 stars), James Halliday gives it 92 points (4.5 stars). If you believe Halliday, then this is a good buy. With a RRP of A$25, the price here of S$39 is absolutely spot on with the BBI. Drinking to about 2014, 14.5% alc.

2008 / Schild / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$40 or S$37 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia – Same old, same old, you say. Wine Front 90 points, drinking to 2014, 14.5% alc. With a RRP of A$20, the single bottle price is OK, but the half case price is spot on with the BBI. Same old, same old, eh? Have a look at http://www.foodmag.com.au/news/south-australian-wine-listed-as-top-ten-in-the-wor

and see if you think it’s still ordinary!

2008 / Torzi Matthews / Frost Dodger / Eden Valley / Shiraz / S$45 at Wine Directions – A hard act to follow the Schild isn’t it? Sort of like Rubens Barrichello to Michael Schumacher. You might be good, but someone else keeps stealing your thunder. Well, this wine can stand on its own – 94 from Halliday, and 92 from Wine Front, drinking to roughly 2016, 14.5%alc. RRP of A$30 so S$45 is spot on the BBI.

“Australia has long been known as the world’s most important source of this wine [Riesling] after Germany, but great Australian Riesling no longer has to come from either Clare Valley or Eden Valley. Riesling lovers can choose from particularly fine wines made in places such as Tasmania, Great Southern and Henty.” – Jancis Robinson writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine,  January 2008

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!

————————————

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.

Fair crack of the whip!

Got a flyer this week from a retailer who gets mentioned favourably in this blog fairly often, but this time, well…..

The promotion is a boxed set of six Kilikanoon wines, all reds from 2006 with an asking price of S$930. I’m not going to suggest that I could replicate the complete boxed set, but I could go close, finding four of the six wines on sale in Singapore right now.  Problem is, and it’s a very big one, is that on just three of the wines in the box, I can buy elsewhere and save over S$260 on just those three wines alone!!!!

Here’s the comparison, after allowing the discount from S$1055 a box down to S$930.

2006 / Kilikanoon / Attunga / Clare Valley / Shiraz / In the box, S$335 – on offer now at Wine Exchange Asia for S$185!

2006 / Kilikanoon / R Reserve / Clare Valley / Shiraz / In the box, S$143 –  on offer now at Wine Exchange Asia for S$95!

2006 / Kilikanoon / Oracle / Clare Valley / Shiraz / In the box, S$130 – on offer now at Wine Exchange Asia for S$65!

Something’s not right is it?

On a brighter note, Anna Pooley from Tasmania has just been named Young Winemaker of the Year. Have a look at:  http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2010/11/17/186611_food-wine.html

And, an imperial of 1947 Cheval Blanc has just been sold for US$304,375. See http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AF4UA20101116

Now to the wine reviews:

2009 / Eradus / Awatere Valley / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$32 from Wine Exchange Asia and also from Rubicon Reserve Wines – Tried this for the first time this week and wow, it is different from your usual Marlborough sav blanc. Not quite as spritzig as say Cloudy Bay but full of very interesting fruity flavours. Michael Cooper liked it enough to give it Best White Wine Buy of the Year on his Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines 2010. Bob Campbell didn’t like it giving it only 83 points. It retails for NZ$19, so the pricing here is fair rather than outstanding but I think it’s worth a try just for the change from the run of the mill.

2009 / The Doctors / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$26 at Underground Wines – This wine only gets 3.5 stars from Michael Cooper so it wouldn’t normally appear here, but it’s only 9.5% alcohol, so I reckon it could be perfect to serve to the in-laws staying with you over Xmas.  The pricing is quite keen too as its RRP is NZ$22.

2010 / Kilikanoon / Morts Block / Clare Valley / Riesling / S$33 from Wine Exchange Asia – A Halliday 95 pointer with a RRP of A$35. A no brainer – get some.

2009 / Frankland Estate / Isolation Ridge / Frankland River / Riesling / S$40 from Crystal Wines – To be frank, I’ve struggled to find value in some of Crystal’s recent Aussie offerings but this one hits the mark. 95 points from both James Halliday and Jeremy Oliver and both agree it will last out to 2020 or a smidge beyond. With a RRP of A$30, the pricing is spot on here.

2008 / Ata Rangi / Craighall / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$52 from Cellar Door – Bob Campbell gives it 93 points, and Michael Cooper gave the 2007 5 stars. Worth a punt. RRP is NZ$38 so the price here is right.

2006 / Leeuwin Estate / Art Series / Margaret River / Chardonnay / S$105 from Crystal Wines – This wine collects ratings like people collect credit card receipts. Lot’s of them. Halliday 95 points, Wine Spectator 94 points, Gourmet Traveller Wine 96 points, Jeremy Oliver 93 points. All agree it should last out to 2017 to 2020. With a RRP of around A$95, the price here is right on the edge of the BBI for value (in fact if you’re prepared to hunt around, I think you’ll find this about S$6 cheaper elsewhere)

2006 / Kilikanoon / The Duke / Clare Valley / Grenache / S$55 from Wine Exchange Asia – Decanter gives it a Silver rating (4.5 stars) as does James Halliday with 93 points. Drinking to 2016. With a RRP of A$69, the price here is a stunner. 15% alc.

2007 / Cape Mentelle / Margaret River / Shiraz / S$48 from Crystal Wines – Cape Mentelle is always a fairly safe bet and this vintage is no exception. Jeremy Oliver 94 points, James Halliday 96 points, with drinking out to 2019 or 2027 depending on who you follow.  RRP of A$39 making S$48 a good buy. 14% alc.

And in case you’ve not kept up with what’s been happening down under:

“Amontillado sherry is now medium dry apera, Oloroso is medium sweet apera, tokay is now topaque, tawny port is now just tawny and vintage port is now vintage fortified red”

Off to Vietnam for a week so expect to see the next posting around 26th November. Happy drinking!


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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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