Posts Tagged 'Underground Wines'

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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It’s a white day today

Reviewed offers by Cornerstone Wines, Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, Equatorial Wines, eWineasia, Le Vigne, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Connection, Wine Directions, Wine Exchange Asia, Wine Guru.

I used a rate of 1.3245 for the A$/S$ calculation in the BBI. Last post it was 1.3101. The Kiwi/S$ rate hasn’t changed much at .9893

All whites today, reds to follow….

2009 / Bilancia / Hawkes Bay / Pinot Gris – S$34.90 at The Local Nose & The Cellar Door. Bob Campbell said he particularly liked this wine and gave it “above average” score of 86 points. Its RRP is NZ$25 so a fair value on the BBI could have had it come in as high as S$44. At S$34.90  it’s terrific value.

2009 / Heart of Stone / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc – S$25 at Underground Wines. Just when you thought you’d tried all the Kiwi sauvignon blancs, up comes another one. Cloudy Bay won’t be too worried by this one. Michael Cooper gives it 3.5 stars (“very good”) but it’s the price that grabbed his attention saying that it is “fine value. I’m not going to argue with that. With a RRP of NZ$17, the price here is really quite outstanding at this end of the market.

2010 / Mt Difficulty / Target Gully / Central Otago / Riesling – S$41.50 at eWineAsia. Bob Campbell sort of damned this with faint praise.  He gave it 87 points which equates to “above average” but added “whilst very good, doesn’t live up to my memory of past classics”.  Retails for NZ$25 so the price here is fair to good.

2008 / Neudorf / Nelson / Chardonnay – S$42 at The Local Nose & Wine Guru. I’m a big fan of Neudorf and the Nelson area, often overlooked in the flood of stuff (not all good) that comes out of Marlborough. Michael Cooper agrees giving this wine an “excellent” rating (4.5) and Bob Campbell gives it 89. It retails for NZ$30 so it’s great value here. Give it a try for a change!

2007 / Villa Maria / Cellar Selection / Marlborough / Chardonnay – S$39.90 at The Cellar Door. Bob Campbell gave it 87 points and called it “stylish”. It retails around the NZ$24 mark so the price here is good, rather than great.

2010 / Woodlands / Margaret River / Chardonnay – S$42, S$37 by the half case at Wine Exchange Asia. We had to get an Aussie in the line up sooner or later. Wine Front says “very happy with it” and suggests drinking to 2013. With a RRP of A$23, the single bottle price is spot on the BBI, and the half case price is a great deal.

The wine and the place.  La Motte at Salt Rock, near Durban

“The results of a blind tasting cannot be predicted and will not even be reproduced the next day by the same panel tasting the same wines.” – Stephen Spurrier after Bottle Shock apparently.

Just the Kiwis, nothing but the Kiwis

Reviewed offers by Crystal Wines, The Cellar Door, Hermitage Wine, eWineAsia, Wine Exchange Asia, Underground Wines and Wine Culture.

I had a look at 8 wines in this review and 3 of them didn’t make the cut because the pricing was marginal at best.

That leaves the following:

2009 / Bilancia / Hawkes Bay / Pinot Gris / S$34.90 from The Cellar Door – Bob Campbell gave this 86 points, which in Bob Campbell speak means it’s OK. In fact he wrote that he really liked it. Interesting isn’t it? I’d interpret 86 points from Jeremy Oliver as meaning the wine is a complete dud, 86 from James Halliday as being just OK, 86 from Bob Campbell as being not too bad really, and 86 from Winestate as being “very good, silver medal”……but that’s a discussion for another day. You’ll just have to figure it out for yourself. RRP is NZ$25 so pricing here is terrific value.

2006 / Mt Rosa / Central Otago / Riesling / S$31.50 from Underground Wines – Winestate 4 stars (85-89 points) and Bob Campbell 86 again. Thankfully I don’t have a rating from Oliver or Halliday to confuse the issue. Anyway, RRP of NZ$22 so again, terrific pricing.

2008 / Mount Edward / Central Otago / Riesling / S$42, S$38 by the half case from Wine Exchange Asia – OK, now we’re getting down a bit. Bob Campbell 80 points, but the comparative value is good by the bottle, great by the half case. RRP NZ$25.

2007 / Te Mania / Nelson / Sauvignon Blanc / S$39 at Wine Culture – It wouldn’t be a Kiwi review without at least one sauvignon blanc, and this is it. I have a soft spot for this region. It lives in the shadow of Marlborough a bit like Padthaway does to Coonawarra, but I’d say keep it on your radar. Bob Campbell gives it 84 points and with a RRP of NZ$19, the pricing here is spot on the BBI.

2008 / Drumsara / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$48 at Wine Exchange Asia – Can’t say as I’ve ever had a Drumsara, and to be honest. I’d hardly heard of it. Bob Campbell has, and he gives it 84 points with particular mention of its favourable cellaring potential (although no specific recommendation). With a RRP of NZ$38, the price here is great value, so I’d say give it a try.

The Mt Rosa is probably the pick of the bunch today, with the Bilancia close behind.

Just catching up on my summer reading and I see in the Winestate Annual Edition 2011 that Ian Lim, Business Manager and Chief Sommelier at Singapore Straits Wine Company won the Asia-Oceania section of the ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale). For many, many years, we were Sunday night regulars at a local restaurant (now closed) and Ian had our palates worked out so well that the wine would be chosen and ready before we arrived, and rarely a disappointment. Good on yer’ mate! A well deserved win.

Have a look at the article below on PET vs Glass bottles. Who’s going to be the first to bring along a PET bottle to a tasting?

http://www.europeanplasticsnews.com/subscriber/featured2.html?cat=1&featuredid=1286353564

And finally..

“75 per cent of New Zealand’s wine export growth [over the last two years] has been in bulk wine. We have handed control or are in the process of handing control over to the buyers of that bulk wine and, in Australia and the UK, those buyers are largely supermarkets. We are in the process of turning supermarkets from our very important customers into our competitors” – Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers quoted in Winestate Jul/Aug 2010.

 

You’ll have to pick & choose amongst this lot. A trio of Heathcote wines though.

Reviewed wines on offer by Crystal Wines, Epsilon Wines, eWineAsia, Parklands Wine, Peccavi, Profiters International, The Cellar Door, The Local Nose, Underground Wines, Wine Connection & Wine Exchange Asia

There must have been something in the Xmas pud. There’s no other way I can explain the irrational pricing that has emerged. There’s some good deals here today, but there’s some pretty ordinary ones as well, and a couple that are well, best forgotten.

First off the rank, the Kiwis:

I had a look at the NV Overstone Brut Sparkling from Wine Connection but couldn’t find a rating anywhere, so we’ll leave that for another time.

2010 / Summerhouse / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$30.50 from Underground Wines – Only 3.5 stars for this wine (Bob Campbell 84 points) but the price is right as it retails for NZ$22. Good value if you don’t care about ratings.

2007 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Sauvignon Blanc Semillon / S$39.90 from The Cellar Door – Is that a misprint? Surely it should be just Sauvignon Blanc? Well, no. According to Bob Campbell, Pegasus Bay makes New Zealand’s only Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. He likes it enough to give it 93 points (4.5 stars). It retails at about NZ$28 so the price here is exactly where BBI would expect it to be. Spot on value, for something a little different.

2007 / Cloudy Bay / Marlborough / Chardonnay / S$55.25, S$52 by the case from Crystal Wines – This is on special at Crystal, down from their Usual Price of S$65, which is odd given it’s listed on their normal retail price list at S$63. Let’s not quibble over a couple of bucks in the advertising blurb and focus on the wine. Michael Cooper gives it 4.5 stars and suggests drinking out to 2014. Bob Campbell loves it, and gives it 95 points (5 stars). Reckons it one of the best wines to come out of Cloudy Bay. It retails for about NZ$40 so the single bottle price of S$55.25 is fine, but the case price of S$52.00 really is good value.

2008 / Pencarrow / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$29.90 from The Cellar Door – If you’re looking for a rating, you might also try looking under Palliser, as this wine is a junior label from there. A bit junior in the actual rating as well, with Bob Campbell only scrounging up 83 points for this wine. With a RRP of around NZ$17, the pricing here is a bit marginal from a BBI benchmark.

Now to the Aussies, head down with the Ashes gone and a one run loss to you know who in the one-dayer. Not to mention the floods……

2007 / Torzi Matthews / Eden Valley / Riesling / S$33 from Epsilon Wines –  A solid 4.5 star wine. Epicure 4.5, Jeremy Oliver 90 points, James Halliday 94 points. Opinions vary but should keep out to 2015 at least, possibly 2020. RRP is around A$25 so pricing here is keen, great value in fact. You might see it a bit cheaper elsewhere from time to time but here, today, this is a great deal.

2005 / Dominique Portet / Heathcote / Shiraz / S$56.50 at eWineAsia – Dominique Portet has the cellar door in the Yarra Valley but they also offer a couple of Heathcote wines. The 2005 Shiraz is rated 94 by Halliday, with recommended drinking out to 2020. RRP of A$45 so price here is good value.

2005 / Fox Creek / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$107 (UP S$120) at Profiters International – Wow! If you go to my blog of December 21st, you’ll see that Wine Exchange Asia had this wine on offer at S$55. I said then it was a great deal. Profiters International must know something about this wine that Robert Rees and I don’t.

2008 / St Hallett / Faith / Barossa Valley / Shiraz / S$47.10 at The Local Nose – A solid but not outstanding wine. Oliver 86 points, Wine Front 91, and Halliday 90. Drinking to 2013 or 2019 depending on whether you follow Oliver or Halliday. Sub A$20 down under, RRP of A$19 in fact. That makes the price here a fair way outside an acceptable BBI, a fair way. Not for me.

2005 / Trentham Estate / Heathcote / Shiraz / S$36 at Epsilon Wines – Halliday gives it 94, Wine Estate only 4 stars, but it’s a stayer (drink to 2025) and the pricing’s right. With a RRP of about A$28, price here is great value.

2008 / Battle of Bosworth / McLaren Vale / Shiraz Viognier / S$42 (S$39.90 Member) at Crystal Wines – Wine Front give it 92 points, and reckon it will drink out to 2015. RRP of A$25 so price here is OK.

2005 / Dominique Portet / Heathcote / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$55 at eWineAsia –  Er, is that three Heathcote wines in one blog? Halliday wasn’t quite so wrapped in this one, giving 89 points, drink to 2015.  With a RRP of A$42, this is right where I would expect it to be. Spot on.

2005 / Rockford / Rifle Range / Barossa Valley / Cabernet Sauvignon / S$61 at Parklands Wine (recommended by The Local Nose) – Not much difference of opinion between Oliver and Halliday on this one (Oliver 86, Halliday 90) but Oliver reckons drink it now, Halliday says 2014. It’s academic for me as I won’t be tempted. With a RRP of A$35, this misses an acceptable BBI by a long shot. I’ll pass.

2002 / Majella / The Malleea / Coonawarra / Cabernet Shiraz / S$75, S$70 by the half case, at Wine Exchange Asia – well, this time you really are going to have to ignore the ratings, or choose who you favour. Jeremy Oliver says 88 points, drink last year. Halliday says 94 points, drink to 2022. You make the call. Had a RRP of A$66 but that’s a while ago. I’ve seen prices for this anywhere from A$48 to A$75 down under.

“Unreliable thermostats and air-conditioners are the main cause of damage to wine cellars and rate well ahead of the wrath of a maligned partner or the light hands of an uncontrolled teenage party boy.” – Andrew Caillard MW writing in Gourmet Traveller Wine July 2007

 

 

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

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.


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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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