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.

Cheers


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” (www.bontonkl.com). 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.

Address:
Bon Ton
Restaurant, Wine Bar and Catering
No 8, Jalan Conlay
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel.: +60-3-21413848
Fax: +60-3-21449289
e-mail: info@bontonkl.com


….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 (www.shawandsmith.com), 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 (www.chainofponds.com.au), 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 (www.sammiranda.com.au).

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 (www.mswl.com.au). 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.

and

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