Posts Tagged 'Tasmania'

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?

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TASMANIA WINS…AGAIN

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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

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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.”

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I’ll be back with the wine specials soon!

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THE WAY WE WERE: 1981 RHINE RIESLING

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

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

 

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

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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 tigerwines@singnet.com.sg if you’d like to see what the fuss is about. And no, you won’t find it anywhere else outside Australia.

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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.

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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 Booze.com – 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♥♥♥♥

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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 www.winewilleatitself.com, 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.

http://www.winefront.com.au/vale-jeremy-pringle/#.U_MsbCiRBaG

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“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 (www.tiger-wines.com). 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.

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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♥♥♥♥

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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 http://www.winewilleatitself.com

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.

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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

The tale of two bays – it’s not what you buy, but where you buy

Three of “my” wines from Tasmania and Yarra Valley got a gong this week in the latest (Feb/Mar) edition of Gourmet Traveller Wine.

The 2010 Glaetzer-Dixon “Reveur” Tasmania Pinot Noir scored 95 pts with “a pinot of profound flavour, great texture, density and length…”. It’s incorrectly listed at A$30 which it isn’t. It’s A$56 on Glaetzer-Dixon Family Winemaker’s website and it’s “limited”. I’ve got 9 bottles in Singapore and 3 cases in Melbourne waiting to come up in late March. It’s S$65 including GST so if you’re interested, let me know.

The 2012 Mayer Yarra Valley Syrah scored 94, “with gorgeous spice and red-fruit flavours”. It’s listed at A$55 and you can get it from me at S$63. I’ve got a couple of cases so let me know your interest.

The 2013 Freycinet Vineyards Tasmania Riesling scored 93 with “rich and full in the mouth with a  trace of sweetness…”. Listed at A$25 and drinking for up to 12 years. I have the 2012 (Gourmet Traveller Wine 96 pts) for S$44 coming up in March and the 2013 is on order so hopefully March too. If you’re interested, you know what to do (tigerwines@singnet.com.sg).

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Gong Xi Fa Cai! It seems a bit ridiculous to be sending a blog on specials when most wine shops are shut today and some all weekend. Anyway, here goes…

? / Overstone / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $35 at Wine Connection – Let’s get straight into one of my pet hates – listing a wine but not listing the vintage. Why anyone would buy a wine via a shopping cart without knowing the vintage is beyond me, and if there’s any wine you’ll want to know the vintage on, it’s Sauvignon Blanc. It can go off quicker than Fiats used to dissolve in water. And believe me, that’s quick. There’s no help on this wine from Overstone’s website (minimalist would be the best term to describe the website) so I’ve had to turn to Dan Murphy’s in Australia to eke out any information. Dan’s has the 2013 listed (yes, Dan’s does list the vintage) at A$9.99 a bottle or A$9.49 if you buy six. So you know where this wine is pitched then. I also read that Overstone wines are exclusive to the supermarket Woollies in Australia (which includes Dan Murphy’s) so again, you know where it’s pitched.  S$35’s looking a bit much isn’t it, especially when for another S$8 you’ll get the 2013 Cloudy Bay and that sure as hell isn’t A$9.99 at Dan’s? Best I can do…BBI ♥♥♥

2009 / Pyramid Valley / Growers Collection Cowley Family / Wairau Valley / Pinot Noir / $67 at Artisan Cellars – Artisan say you have to quote “web price” to get this deal. James Suckling gives it 93 pts and Lisa Perotti-Brown from Wine Advocate 90, so it’s no slouch.  Should be safe drinking for another year or so, retails at NZ$42 so the pricing’s just a fraction over the BBI (Bastard Box Index) but fair all the same. I’m giving it…BBI ♥♥♥♥

2012 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $53.81 at Winelah! – Let’s get straight into my second pet hate for today – listing wine prices before GST. It’s naughty (don’t believe me? – check the IRAS website) and it’s annoying when it comes to price comparisons with other suppliers whose prices include GST. The wine is listed at $50.29 but actually it’ll cost you $53.81 so that’s what I’m running with. I’m going to assume you already know all that there is to know about Cloudy Bay so I’ll just mention quietly that you could have bought this vintage at Wine Exchange Asia a little while ago for $44. Enough said. – BBI ♥♥♥♥

2013 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $49 or $44 by six at Wine Exchange Asia – So the first question on any release of Cloudy Bay is “is it as good as usual?” The answer on this vintage is yes. Campbell Mattinson for one gives it 93 pts but also reckons it should be drunk this year (see Overstone above…). Pricing is spot on, and my guess is you’ll struggle to see lower than the six-pack price, so if Cloudy Bay ticks your box, then get stuck into it. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2005 / Paradigm Hill / Col’s Block / Mornington Peninsual / Shiraz / $48 at ewineasia.com – Mornington’s better known for its Pinot than its Shiraz but this is a pretty good example according to James Halliday who gives it 94 pts. Should drink to 2020 according to James. With a RRP of A$35, the pricing here is very attractive indeed (although the “Recommended Retail” of S$79.50 looks a bit ambitious), and this wine was offered up at over $65 a few years ago. I’m giving it…BBI ♥♥♥♥

NV / Ninth Island / Tasmania / Sparkling / $37.75 at Le Vigne, cash & carry – If you’re already reading this blog, I don’t have to explain the difference between Non Vintage and No Vintage, so I won’t. With a rating of 90 from Halliday, it’s fair to say that this is a quaffing sparkler and that’s just what James infers when he says “ideal aperitif on a hot summer day”. Well, that’s every day in Singapore so best you stock up. RRP is A$27 although I’m sure it’s discounted below that but even so, the price here is (again for Le Vigne – well done chaps) the best on a pure price comparison basis. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2010 / BK Wines / Cult Single Vineyard Lobethal / Adelaide Hills / Syrah / $49 or $45 by six at Wine Exchange Asia – I’m a sucker for cool climate Syrah so can’t understand how I’ve missed this one. Halliday gives it 96, reckons it’ll drink to 2025 and says that it’s “cool climate shiraz at its best”. Good enough for me. With a RRP of A$27, the pricing here is spot-on…it’s only that some lucky *$%!! got one at Langton’s auction last year for A$17. I’ll have to be more vigilant. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2005 / Dalwhinnie / Moonambel / Pyrenees / Shiraz / $49.99 or $45 by six at Cornerstone Wines – I’m guessing this has come out of an investment holding (although I don’t know for sure) as this wine pops up from time to time across other retailers in Singapore. It’s been listed at $65 in the past so waiting for once looks like it might have paid off. Is that a warning that it’s waning? Not according to Campbell Mattinson who says it’ll drink to 2017 and gives it 93 pts. It’s still holding up at Langton’s too with the latest sale at A$47 against its initial retail of A$52 so all things considered, it looks like a safe bet. Pricing is great. BBI ♥♥♥♥♥

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THE WAY WE WERE – 1951

1951 Penfolds

It could be said that in cricket, Australia has returned to form and with Penfolds, their premium wines have certainly scored runs, although I see Treasury Wine Estates is expected to announce a profit fall of up to 20% according to some analysts.

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In stimulating the appetite, the valuable action of Australian wine cannot be entirely attributed to the tranquilizing effect of alcohol. Wine will stimulate appetite directly by acting on the taste buds because of its palatability. In addition certain components of wine have been shown by laboratory studies to have an appetite stimulating action. These include tannins, Tartaric acid and acetic acid. In general, small amounts of wine are needed for appetite simulation.

For instance, 4 oz or two standard glasses of dry sherry is sufficient.” – Wine and Health, Winestate magazine, December 1978

A Christmas bargain

It’s a bit of a mixed bag today.  Nothing makes it into a BBI 5 star deal but there’s still some good buying to be had.

Vintage unknown / Fat Bird / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / $19.95 or $18.45 by the six at Cold Storage – There’s a saying you should always avoid wines with critters on the label. Is a fat bird a critter? I don’t know, but I do know that it sells in New Zealand for about NZ$9 so you know where it’s pitched. And to be fair, it’d probably sell here for about $9 too if it wasn’t for the roughly $7 of alcohol duty sitting in that $19.95 price. So the pricing’s quite OK if you don’t mind the tax taking a big slug of what you could be spending on quality. Best to let the tax work in your favour on wines that started out a bit more premium. BBI ♥♥

2006 / Two Hands / Bella’s Garden / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / $85 or $79 by six at Wine Exchange Asia – I’m guessing this has come out of someone’s investment holding which means it’s probably been stored well. It’s a good wine too with 92 from Wine Advocate , 94 from James Halliday and 17- from Jancis Robinson. Consensus seems to suggest it’s got somewhere between 3 to 8 years left in it. Big on alcohol at 15.2% but it is a child of the period. Very hard for me to pin down a fair price on this as it initially retailed at A$60 but has slipped away a bit in the auctions scene in Australia. This isn’t Australia, so I reckon the price (especially the 6 bottle price) is fair enough but I’m playing cautious today and giving it 4 stars. It looks pretty good against any current releases of quality Barossa shiraz though. BBI ♥♥♥♥

2011 / Forrest / The Doctors’ / Marlborough / Gruner Veltliner / $28 at Underground Wines – Mediocre ratings on this, Michael Cooper 4, Bob Campbell 85 and Campbell Mattinson 86 who says “shows promise, just doesn’t quite get the job done”. Where it wins is on price. RRP of NZ$25 means $28 here gets it…BBI ♥♥♥♥

2007 / Standish / The Relic / Barossa Valley / Shiraz Viognier / $69.99 at Cornerstone Wines – There are some wines that you just know there’s a story behind them. I don’t know what the story is, but this wine seems to have been abandoned by Australian raters since the 2002 vintage. Was it only sold in the US after 2002? Wine Advocate gives it 94+ which is a high ranking in their scale. It hasn’t appeared at Langtons for auction since 2011, so no help to me there. It’s a mystery. What I do know is that this wine has appeared in the Singapore market at prices much, much higher than what’s being asked here now, sometimes double this. Personally, I don’t think this would be my type of wine (I don’t like the big wines designed for the US market on the back of Parker ratings) but on a price/quality basis, it looks good – BBI ♥♥♥♥

Vintage unknown / Penfolds / Bin 2 / South Australia / Shiraz Mouvedre / $39.95 at Cold Storage – What? Cold Storage I hear you say! Yes, indeed. Assuming it’s the 2011 release, it’s a good wine from Penfolds getting 92 from Halliday and 91 from Huon Hooke. RRP in Australia is A$38 so the deal here is very, very good. Put it away for a couple of years and you’ll enjoy it more. This was a special deal but I’ve lost the date of the paper so it may have passed. If you did buy it, I think you got a bargain. If the deal’s still on, grab some. If it’s gone back to $54, then it’d drop back to 4 stars but it’s still actually a fair price. BBI ♥♥♥♥

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NEW RELEASES

There’s been ratings galore thrown around for a very exciting bunch of new releases over the last month. Here’s a sample of what Tiger Wines  ( http://www.tiger-wines.com or tigerwines@singnet.com.sg or +65 96610429) follows:

THE WINE FRONT: If you don’t subscribe to their blog, you’re missing out on some of the best and up-to-date discussion on wines covering not only Australia, but a great selection of Europeans as well. Almost daily updates on tastings from Gary Walsh, Campbell Mattinson, Mike Bennie and a host of other commentators. Great stuff. Go to their website at http://www.winefront.com.au and start enjoying now. I have no association with WineFront other than I’m an enthusiastic subscriber!

All the ratings below are by Gary Walsh from The Wine Front:

2010 / Luke Lambert / Yarra Valley / Nebbiolo / A$55 / 95 points – It’s only just been released but I’ve got some (just got it today!). If you’re interested, email me and I’ll work out a price for you landed and cleared here.

2012 / Luke Lambert / Yarra Valley / Crudo Rose / A$28 / 95 points – Ditto, as per the Nebbiolo.

2012 / Mayer / Granite / Yarra Valley / Pinot Noir / A$55 / 94 points – Yep, got a tiny amount of this too. Email me for pricing and timing.

2012 / Holyman / Tasmania / Chardonnay / A$45 / 94 points – I don’t have it but I’m a bee’s whisker away from it. If you’re interested, you know what to do.

2012 / Holyman / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / A$50 / 96 points – If you want some, I I may have to dip into my personal purchase!

2012 / Chatto Wines / Isles Vineyard / Pinot Noir / A$45 / 95 points – I have it on personal account, yell out if you’d like me to get some for you.

The Dec/Jan issue of GOURMET  TRAVELLER WINE  had these reviews:

2012 / 3 Drops / Mount Barker / Pinot Noir / $28 / 94 points – Coming up in January and S$39. A bargain.

2001 / Arras / EJ Carr Late Disgorged / Sparkling / A$130 / 96 points – A very, very limited number for S$188.

2011 / Bellwether / Tasmania / Chardonnay / A$50 / 96 points – I’m chasing some as we speak. If you want to join me…you know what to do.

2012 / Freycinet Vineyards / Tasmania / Riesling / A$25 / 96 points – It’s waiting to come up and it’s S$44 (inc gst). Not a lot of it, so don’t muck around.

2011 / Goaty Hill / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / A$34 / 90 points – Here now at S$55.

2012 / Pooley / Coal River Valley / Pinot Noir / A$60 / 95 points – I don’t handle Pooley, but of you’re interested, I’ll see if I can get some for you

2002 / Radenti / Tasmania / Sparkling / A$55 / 97 points – A special release by Claudio Radenti of Freycinet Vineyards. Not available wholesale and only available via Freycinet’s website. If you want some up here, yell out (quickly), as I’m getting some.

2010 / Spring Vale / Tasmania / Pinot Noir / A$40 / 95 points – Will definitely be getting some, in the meantime I have just 4 bottles left of the 2009 (Halliday 92) at S$52.

NV / Stefano Lubiana / Brut Reserve / Sparkling / A$34 / 92 points – here now and S$43. Perfect for Christmas but be quick. We finish deliveries on the 8th.

2012 / Waterton / Tasmania / Riesling / A$29 / 93 points – I’ve got the 2009 (Halliday 96) in Singapore and it’s $58.

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1989 Xmas

 

Ah, how times have changed. The young’uns amongst us probably wouldn’t appreciate that when the fax machine first came out, most places locked it up at night behind a clear cover. Life before the urgency of an email, text or Twitter. And $199 was a fair bit in 1989.

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If we’re after a true varietal expression, Tasmania offers us better quality than any other Australian region.” – Glenn James, white winemaker for Foster’s Wine Estates quoted in Gourmet Traveller Wine, January 2008

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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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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