Australia: New Tax Regime on Wine and Beer

April 30, 2008

It came as a surprise when I learned yesterday from my “daily wine news” newsletter that the Rudd government intends to increase taxes on wine and beer by up to 300%.

This will increase the sales price of an ordinary glass of beer by about 46 cents and a glass of wine by 63 cents. The alcohol content is supposed to be the basis of the new taxation regime.

So cheap mass wines will be as heavily taxed as a superior quality wine given the same alcohol content. The ratio of this additional tax to the overall sales price, however, will be different.

Health care seems to be the prime motive for this move. After tobacco, now its alcohol which drifted into the field of vision of the health freaks. Of course the regulators have alcohol pops in mind. It seems that young girls abuse this kind of alcohol quite a bit.

I am not sure how many bottles of fine wine are going down in binge drinking. Dry wines are maybe not the stuff for teenage drinking parties anyway.

I guess this will not solve the problem. To learn how to deal with drugs is better achieved by demystifying them and by learning how to avoid intoxication. And wine is food in the first place. If we allow young people to experience this, the dangers are minor. Just look at Mediterranean culture where you hardly can find alcohol abuse among the young which is typical for Anglo-Saxon societies. In the end, teenagers will move on to cheaper sources of booze or other drugs.

In anticipation, the finance ministers might already count the additional dollars in their treasuries.

As a boutique vineyard, I feel we will not be too concerned. Our clients are not alcohol abusers. They also can afford the higher prices (and if not the producers will have to stomach the losses). Most likely the new burden will be shared between the two groups.

Then there is bartering, more and more common in rural areas of Australia because of the various taxes and impositions. You repair my roof for a couple of cases of prime wine. I slash you paddock for your locally produced beer.

Well, we will see what these do-gooders can achieve. And don’t forget, there are elections somewhere around the corner.


Restaurants in Asia – Bon Ton, Kuala Lumpur

April 29, 2008

One of my most favourite eating places in Kuala Lumpur is the restaurant & wine bar “Bon Ton” ( I went their the other day with some colleagues for a business dinner.

The restaurant is located right in the middle of town. There is a huge parking lot in front of the place because next to it is another popular Malaysian restaurant. The decoration is in fusion style of various origins, mostly Southeastasian with some European influence. The web page of “Bon Ton” includes some nice photos of the interior (better ones than I could make). Have a look.

Since I was the only one drinking wine, I restricted myself to the house wine, an Australian Shiraz (I somehow did not ask where it came from, sorry folks, will do it next time). The wine list is very impressive and contains many prime producers from Australia, Europe and South Africa among others.

Below you can see what we had.

Prawn ravioli in spicy Thai broth with Cilantro

Vegetable platter of pita bread with roasted vegetables and lentil stew

Asian rack of lamb with potatoes, mushrooms and oriental salad

The food is excellent, the atmosphere very relaxing and inviting, the service is great and that together makes it a great place to take you family and friends to when in KL.

See you there, one day.

Bon Ton
Restaurant, Wine Bar and Catering
No 8, Jalan Conlay
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel.: +60-3-21413848
Fax: +60-3-21449289

….and then came lunch!

April 28, 2008

Sunday lunch is always a treat. Especially now, that I have to travel so much, the four of us enjoy the little time together that we have, and Sunday is prime time.

After our “late” breakfast cum brunch, we sat down to a hearty meal of “Osso bucco in bianco” (oxtail/veal in white), gratinate potatoes, celery gratinated with cheese, a fresh tomato salad and some fresh bread.

For wine, I choose a Ross Estate Barossa Valley ‘2002 Semillion (unwooded)’ with 12 % alcohol (for US $ 11.20/bottle in my local wine shop). It was the perfect wine with the food. I do not drink much Semillon, I must admit.

But ever since my friend Alan Wall has pointed me to the Hunter Valley Semillon wines, I look out for this variety and buy a bottle here and there.

I love the golden colour of the wine and its full body. It had the typical fig, lemon and pear aromas, was creamy and “fat”, a great complement to our food.

Rod Chapman, the winemaker at Ross Estate, has extensive experience (including 18 years making Grange at Penfolds), and is committed to excellence. The Semillon vines at the estate are at least 35 years old and produce outstanding fruit.

Sunday Breakfast in Jakarta

April 27, 2008

My daughters have become true gourmets. They complained today that we did not have a proper breakfast and that they wanted something thrilling.

How about melon prosciutto (Parma ham)? Well, thats what we had at 10 in the morning. One could say it was a kind of brunch, ok.

Melon prosciutto and Sauvignon Blanc from Shaw and Smith

The Shaw and Smith ‘2007 Sauvignon Blanc’ from the Adelaide Hills (, we drank with it (retailing in Jakarta for US $ 20.10/bottle), was just how I like SB: crisp and clean, fresh and spicy, apricot, melon, grassy notes. The wine is unwooded and has 13% alcohol.

2007 was a rather warm and dry year in the Adelaide Hills. Late frosts affected quantities but overall the quality of the fruit was very good. Because of the higher than normal temperatures, the flavours of the Sauvignon Blancs were more in the tropical fruit and less in the herbaceous spectrum.

I wonder what else is to come today after such a brilliant start.

Chain of Ponds, Adelaide Hills, Australia

April 26, 2008

I found another treasure in our local duty free shop a Chain of Ponds ‘1999 Grave’s Gate Shiraz’, from McLaren Vale in South Australia. The homepage of Chain of Ponds (, located in the Adelaide Hills, claims that they are “Australia’s “most highly awarded boutique vineyard”. After studying the page I have the feeling that for my taste, they are already much too big to qualify for such a label, but I am easy on that.

Of course their origins (in 1985) were small but they have grown over the years in a sizable business.
I just managed to get the bottle in the last year of the drinking time frame: best drinking 2003 to 2008, it says somewhere.

The wine background is given as follows:

Frost at the commencement of the 1999 growing season wiped out Chain of Ponds estate plantings of Shiraz, hence the sourcing of fruit from McLaren Vale for this wine.

In 2001 James Halliday gave a rating of 90 out of 100 point. The wine comes from the River Series, sold for A$ 18 per bottle. I payed US $ 18.20 for it, which seems to be quite reasonable. The wine could be described as follows:

<“Deep, bright red-purple; clean, fresh juicy/berry fruit on the bouquet is followed by luscious and sweet berry fruit on the palate. Neither the oak, nor the extract, nor the alcohol (13.5°) have been overdone”.

The winemaker is Neville Falkenberg. The 1999 wine must have been made by his predecessor since Neville has been with Chain of Ponds for only the last five years. The Adelaide Hills is a premier cool climate region of South Australia, only about a 20 minutes drive from the capital Adelaide. I love Adelaide not just because my wife originates from there, and recommend it for any visit to Australia. It’s a must, seriously.

Apart from this series, Chains of Ponds has a Premium Range segment. It also produces wines from Kangaroo Island grapes. Its Italian Varietals come from the Adelaide Hills (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio). The low cost segment is called Novello Range (A$ 14/bottle). I have not been to the place but the homepage shows beautiful pictures. Another place to check out.

Red Wine Obsession in China

April 25, 2008

Recently when I was on a stop over in Singapore, I bought some portwine at one of the DSF duty free shops in the airport. The woman behind the counter was very friendly and we chatted along. I asked her which wines were her best sellers. She answered that they were grand cru wines from Bordeaux up 1000 S$ per bottle and that they were a much sought after commodity by tourist from Mainland China.

So it came as no surprise when I read the recent news about a sale of 27 bottles of French red wine by an anonymous Beijing based billionaire for the record price of about US$ 500.000 by the London based Antique Wine Company. The wines were various vintages of reds from Romanee Conti in Burgundy. According to the Antique Wine Company it was not bought for investment but to be drank. This sale is lauded for it’s indication that wine tastes in China are becoming more complex. The time of simply buying Bordeaux wines seems to be over. The broadening of wine education and appreciation is a good thing also for Australian wine producers. The recent large sale of Shiraz wines by Hanging Rock Winery is a good example for that.

A wine bar in a hotel in Beijing

During a recent trip to China I learned that red wine can be drank in new, “innovative” ways some might call it. Next time you are in China order “Red wine set menue” and you will be served with a good bottle of red Bordeaux wine, a large glass with ice and two cans of Sprite. You mix it together and you are right.

Many wine drinkers heart may sink at the prospects of being invited by a Chinese friend to this type of “blending” red wine. If the cheap mass wines are being mercerized by this technique that might be a good thing. For boutique wine producers like myself it is a rather shocking prospect that my elegant Two Hills Merlot could be treated that way.

“Gan bei” (cheers) as the Chinese say.

Miranda – Sam Miranda

April 20, 2008

After posting my recent blog entry on “Cool Climate Wines” I had second thoughts as regards the accuracy of my assessment. I thought about the label issues, than visited the Sam Miranda website again (

There I learned that Sam Miranda had sold the family business (Miranda Wines) to McGuigan Simeon in October 2003. And then things fell into place. Of course the bottle I had bought must have come from McGuigan Simeon ( When I visited their website today I found the Miranda brand and learned that they also source fruit from the King Valley.

So the bottle of Miranda I had the other day came from McGuigan Simeon and not from Sam Miranda of King Valley.

However, I can maintain my general assessment.

1. Wines from the cool climate King Valley Wine Region are excellent and worth trying.

2. The “High Country” Cabernet Sauvignon from Miranda (McGuigan Simeon) was a good buy.


3. I will visit the Sam Miranda cellar door next time we are in Glenburn. That’s for sure.

Cool Climate Wines

April 19, 2008

“High Country – Cool Climate Wine” is what the label on the bottle said and that is why I bought it in my local duty free shop during my monthly ration collection.

Our own wine producing region, the Upper Goulburn Wine Region ( used to call itself “High Country” for a while, before settling a couple of years ago for the new name and regional denomination.

The ‘2005 Miranda Cabernet Sauvignon’ from the King Valley Wine Region

The wine came from Miranda (or today Sam Miranda), a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and retailed for US$ 15.30 here in Jakarta. The price suggested “a wine for every day”, nothing special but enjoyable. And enjoyable it was. In fact I loved the mid-palate weight, the structure, the aroma of dark fruit and the long and strong finish.

As always while writing blog entries I was enticed to do some more searching on the net and to find out more about the circumstances of the wine and/or the winery where it came from.

Last year I visited the King Valley for the first time. It’s a spectacular entry if you come from the Mansfield side, breathtaking views down the valley floor. This is Ned Kelly country, a kind of Australian version of Robin Hood. Vines and vineyards are high up on hill terraces, the lowest at Milawa at about 155 and the highest at the Whitlands plateau at about 800.

The cool climate allows the production of high quality grapes. The deep red clay loan soils are very fertile and well drained. In recent years a plethora of new/innovative and less usual varieties has been planted in the area such as Saperavi (from Georgia), Arneis (or Barolo Bianco from Piemont, Italy), Tannat, Petit Manseng ( a grape variety from the Pyrenees, France, producing aromatic, sweet wines), Mondeuse, Graciano, Marzemino, Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.

For more information please visit the excellent and very informative website of the King Valley Vignerons association ( to learn more about this treasure trove of Victorian wines.

One finds boutique vineyards (such as Avalon Vineyards) next to the big corporates (such as Brown Brothers in Milawa). Other well known producers are: Pizzini Wines in Whitfield, Dal Zotto Estate is Cheshunt and of course Sam Miranda in Oxley Flats to name just a few. There are a lot of Italian names on the list of King Valley wine producers.

Miranda’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot are produced in Oxley on the floor of the valley. The labels on the wine bottles on the Miranda website ( are different from the bottle I bought in Jakarta. I suppose that the “High Country” wine became ‘High Plains” wines, but I am not sure because the production dates do not suggest that this assumption is correct.

Miranda’s “Snow Road” label wines (low price end of A$ 12.-/bottle) show some “bizarre” blends (blends I would never consider to buy) such as ‘Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc’, or ‘Merlot Pinot Noir’. Rare varietal wines are presented under the “Symphonia” label.The flagship of the collection is certainly the “Sam Miranda” range of handcrafted wines exclusively sold at the cellar door.

Apropos cellar door. On a travel website I found under the heading, “Australia’s most unusual wineries”, a further hint why it might be worthwhile to visit the Sam Miranda Winery (

Allow me to cite from this source. It says about the Miranda cellar door:

“From an architectural viewpoint, the new cellar door at Sam Miranda winery is a standout. Designed by well-known Sydney architect, Alex Popov, this modern marvel literally towers over Victoria’s King Valley — 40ft to be exact. From the car park you’ll enter via a subterranean passage, giving you the feeling that you are submerging into an underground cellar. Contrary to your expectations, however, the passageway opens up to reveal a bright, airy tasting room which is lit up by light streaming in from the 40ft light tower which stands sentinel above the bar. But it’s not just the architecture that’ll catch your attention, the wines here are superlative.”

Well, if possible I will get some more of Miranda’s wines from my local bottle shop and next time we are in Glenburn, we might decide to go on a day trip to the King Valley and check out some of the wineries there.

“Ze Lawen – Zur Lauben – At the arbour” – Trier at its best

April 18, 2008

In the dialect of Trier “Ze Lawen” translates into high German as “Zu den Lauben” which can be transcribed into “At the arbour” in English.

What is it, you might ask.

Well, it is a part of the city of Trier. In the 18th century it was a small fishing village at the outskirts of the city just beyond the ancient city walls. Later it was transformed into garden arbours used by city folk to spend their Sundays where they relaxed in the shade of their small garden houses.

Today, “Ze Lawen”, located directly north of the Kaiser-Wilhelm bridge, consists of a small stretch of beautiful historic buildings along a very picturesque strip of the Mosel river. Over the years many of the fishermen’s houses were turned into small country inns, eateries, bars and restaurants with a great variety of local foods and drinks on offer. Actually if you look for a culinary delight in Trier you have to visit this part of the city. Needless to say that you can enjoy all the many famous Riesling wines produced along the Mosel and the surroundings valleys of Saar and Ruwer.

I will take you on a quick walk around this part of town (only a 200 meters stretch). Below, thats what it may look like in summer, in the background the Mosel and the red sandstone cliffs.

With friends eating out in “Ze Lawen”

During my recent visit to Trier I took some more photos. One can, for instance, find some stone mason work depicting scenes from Roman times, usually the delivery of rental payments as below.

The patron saint of Trier is St. Peter. He is usually depicted holding the city keys and the bible as below.

Now we enter from the north. The first “Wirtshaus” cum restaurant is the “Schwarzbierhaus” to the left. Further on is another well known restaurant: “Pfeffermuehle”.

Other must visit places are “En de Lauben”, “Alt Zalawen”, “Mosellied” and “Bagatelle” (bistro/cafe), a restaurant where we had the most amazing food and wine degustation last year (a summary you will find in this blog).

The entry to the “Schwarzbierhaus”

The old lintels of the door frames shown belwo, usually also in stone, demonstrate that it was fishermen who once lived in these old houses. The most popular motives are fish or gear from fishing boats.

I hope this enticed you to put the city on you map. See you again in “Ze Lawen” one of these days. Its always worth a visit.

Wine Bars in Trier – Palais Walderdorff’s

April 12, 2008

There are so many good wine bars in Trier. This time I would like to introduce you to the Palais Walderdorff’s just across the cathedral in the heart of town. Its consist of a wine bar, a cafe and a restaurant and is a great place to visit.

The Walderdorff’s entry in summer 2007

I was pleasantly surprised to also find a wireless internet access, free of charge which made it even more convenient to drop by have a drink and surf the net.

The inside of the Cafe, opposite the entry to the Vinothek


The Vinothek has a great selection of local Mosel, other German and international wines. I drank a local Rielsing which was delicious of course.

Palais Walderdorff’s
Domfreihof 1a
54290 Trier