OK, by now readers of this column will have figured out that I am not a fan of the practice of hoarding wine ad infinitum in order to earn a profit. Wine is meant to be consumed and enjoyed with good food and good friends, not to sit in a dark cellar to be occasionally paraded before an adoring public who generally could never afford to buy it. Sure, I think it is great if anyone can earn money from collecting wine, but I always advise clients to only buy what they know they would be happy to consume in the future should the investment road prove to be rougher than anticipated. Wine investment can be hugely profitable
and really good fun, but few are good enough to succeed at it. Having said that, collecting wine to cellar and ageing it in order to optimise its enjoyment is one of Man’s noblest pursuits. I am sure that God is a collector. I doubt he is an investor.
I mark the beginning of the Asian fascination with esoteric wines to September 2005, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao toasted UK Prime Minister Tony Blair with Lafite at a widely televised dinner in Beijing. Immediately after this, the demand for first growth Bordeaux went crazy.
Alas, like every other asset bubble the wine investment bubble has also burst. The warning signs have been there for a while and I must admit that I am annoyed with the upbeat, self-serving nonsense that has been emanating from industry doyens of how wine is not adversely effected by the global financial cesspit we have just been pushed into by the conspiring fools who dug it. That is rubbish. That which was over US$1200 per bottle only six months ago is now offered at US$700 - and prices are falling. If you don’t believe me, try asking your supplier of 2005 Bordeaux at what price he would like to re-own them. Take a restraining device as all you are likely to see is a puff of dust as he runs for the nearest exit.
For avid consumers of wine this is a very welcome development. Even for disappointed
investors it is a healthy correction that might attract new buyers and thus add market depth. Hopefully the madness has disappeared for at least another generation. It will no doubt return. Greed is a much more potent force than fear. Let’s move on.
Many readers have asked that I recommend more wines for drinking. At the risk of seeming too commercial, I am going to suggest one that I think every serious consumer of wine needs to try. But first the background story.
About two years ago the Wine Exhcange Asia team was at a fabulous dinner at Raffles in Singapore hosted by a very select group of privately owned wine houses, including such venerable names as the house of Tattinger, Sassicaia, Antinori, JJ Prum and Gaja. Glugging down as much of their wonderful produce as we could, we stopped to ask what they drank at home when not consuming their own wines. Three immediately answered that they were very interested in the wines coming from Margaret River in Western Australia. A very animated discussion then ensued so we retreated to a neutral corner and polished off a delightful bottle of Tignanello.
Soon after we went on wine safari to Margaret River. We visited everyone and tried just about everything and put together a collection of our top-20 reds and
whites that we then lined up against each other in a blind tasting. There were some absolutely stunning wines, with the very best not surprisingly coming from the more familiar names that are the flagbearers of the region: Cullens, Leeuwin, Moss Wood, Pierro and Vasse Felix. Truly world-class wine without the ridiculous Bordeaux price tags. The quality of the chardonnays was outstanding, but we were primarily here to hunt down reds.
In that category, the very clear winner was from a tiny producer that we had never heard of and that we had literally found by accident. It was the Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 of a winery called Gralyn. Huh? Who?
Some quick research revealed them to be one of the pioneers of the region, first planted in 1973. We raced out the next day and met the proprietors, Graham and Merilyn Hutton (hence Gralyn), and asked whether we could get an annual allocation for our clients. They looked back at us blankly and explained that they produce 500 cases per year of reds and that all were sold exclusively at cellar door to delighted wine tourists who then went on their private mailing list and religiously reordered annually. There was nowhere else the wine could be purchased. Somewhat deflated, we bought six dozen various reds and joined the mailing list. Ever since we have told all our clients that they simply must drop in to Gralyn should they ever travel to Margaret River. The overwhelming majority also ended up on the mailing list!
We kept cajoling the Huttons, exhorting them to let us help them expand their audience to a more international clientele. Well, I am delighted to inform that they have finally agreed to an exclusive offer to readers of HK Golfer, at a significant discount to their mailing list price.
My personal favourites are the Cabernets but the Shiraz is also an excellent wine. All are outstanding value on a world comparative basis and should be in the cellar of any serious collector. Try them in a blind tasting against your favourite French wines and I am convinced you will be converted.
For good measure, here are some snippets of what the critics have to say about Grayln and its produce.
James Halliday accorded the winery his top 5 star rating in the Australian Wine Companion and of the Cabernet wrote the following: “A very rich and supple medium to full-bodied palate, with layers of black fruits rippling within a framework of cedary French oak and fine but persistent tannis. Rating 94. To 2025.”
Robert Parker Jr, writing in Wine Advocate, hailed the wine as: “One of the finest Cabernets I have ever tasted from Margaret River.”
Ray Jordan, in the 2008 edition of his Guide to Wine, wrote: “Poised and elegant Cabernet with a delightful fragrance and perfume of minty blackcurrant and dark spicy plum. Powerhouse palate is delivered with restraint and style with the fine ripe tannins and quality oak supporting the stunning fruit. Great wine. 96/100.”
Enough said. - Robert Rees
Robert is a founder of Wine Exchange Asia, serving customers in Singapore and Hong Kong. For more information please visit wineexchangeasia.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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