Sunday, 19 July 2015

A New Entrant to Singapore’s Burgeoning Wine Scene

Company: wanderwine

The wine events in Singapore tend to fall into two broad groups. The first are the trade and consumer tastings organised by various producers or promotional bodies. These have an educational slant and are attended by sommeliers, wine writers and wine aficionados. Then there are the new product or service launches, commonly executed with the assistance of a PR agency. The crowd at these events are highly diverse, counting among their number models, media professionals and CEOs united by their love of wine and a good party.

Falling squarely into the second group was the media launch of wanderwine last month at the Old Parliament House. This latest entry to the wine scene was established by Alexis Lhoyer and Rishi Sood, two friends who met at the INSEAD Business School. The school is fertile ground for wine entrepreneurs – Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely, founders of English sparkling wine company Coates & Seely also met in those hallowed halls.

The differentiation factor between wanderwine and other wine merchants is that the wines are selected by a team of expert local sommeliers, or “Tastemakers” as the company refers to them. Those who have frequented Praelum Wine Bistro, Salt Grill & Sky Bar or the Hilton Hotel would already be familiar with Gerald Lu, Mohammad Fazil and Stéphanie Rigourd. Despite receiving numerous accolades and awards, they are extremely humble and friendly – in fact when I interviewed Fazil several years back he stressed that humility was the most important trait for a sommelier. Having three sommeliers results in a broader selection; Gerald actively seeks wines that have interesting or quirky stories, Fazil curates boldly flavoured wines while Stéphanie looks for wines that are off the beaten track. The wanderwine website also features a “Personal Sommelier”, in effect a search engine that allows you to specify the price range, grape variety and region for a wine.

From left: Gerald Lu, Stéphanie Rigourd, Alexis Lhoyer and Mohammad Fazil

The media launch showcased a small selection of wanderwine’s 30+ and growing wine list. One of the wines that caught my eye was a Swiss wine made from Amigne, a white grape variety indigenous to the Valais wine region. Worldwide plantings of this grape variety stand at only 43 ha, less than what a single producer from Bordeaux might own. Tasting the rare Giroud Vins “La Danse Des Etoiles” Amigne 2012 was akin to seeing a white elephant, all the more delightful because the wine was delicious, showing citrus peel and tangerine notes that enlivened the off-dry palate. You won’t have much luck finding recent vintages from this producer though. After a scandal involving lavish sponsorships, tax fraud, data theft and secret service agents, the winery has changed its name to Château Constellation. How many wines come with such juicy conversation pieces?

Another thing to note about wanderwine is their ambitious delivery service. They guarantee next day delivery within Singapore as long as the order is placed before midnight. Shipping is free for all purchases over SGD75, or SGD16 otherwise. I can see this being an attractive option for time-starved professionals who are planning a party and do not wish to spare the time and hassle of going to a physical store. Other services include wine workshops, corporate team-building events and sourcing for specific wines.

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