A look of pleasant surprise on the winners’ faces. That was the recurring theme of the night as the honour roll of 30 wine retailers and their top-notch labels was rattled off at the G Top 100 Wines ceremony.
But the incredulity need not have been. After all, the blind tasting format, rigorously applied, is meant to throw preconceptions out of the window and turn up gems where few but the most dedicated wine lovers look.
And so even the smallest of retailers can win big with the right wine. Case in point: C&C Drinks Shop, a tiny affair in Woodlands Close that is strategically placed next to a glut of bridal shops, spotted the understated 2013 Davey Estate, Shingleback Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle cruised into the Top 100 – at a price point even more palatable than its silky, rich finish.
In the words of the 26-year-old proprietor Charmaine Lui: “A lot of great (wines) are often overlooked and thus we want to bring (them) to our customers at a price that won’t hurt their pockets.”
Indeed, the passion of the retailers was among the great contributors to the convivial buzz of the night. Take for example the co-owner couple of Sensus Wine Studio, which stocks exclusively Spanish wines.
“We took a simple holiday to Spain and we really fell in love with it – the people, the country, the food.. it’s all very down-to-earth and they’re really friendly,” said MD Choo Boon Seh, explaining why the firm has stood by promoting solely Spanish bottles for the past ten years. Raking in a big haul of eight awards, including the Sweet Wine of The Year win, vindicated their decision, as Choo felt that even in 2016, the wines are under-recognised when compared to French and Italian labels.
“A lot of consumers discover Spanish wines only (while) in the context of Spain and when they’re having Spanish food – so now that there are more Spanish restaurants, there’s been slightly more appreciation… and we hope more and more (Spanish) restaurants open.”
On top of uncovering great wines, the G Top 100 Wines is also a reliable barometer of the consumer and industry sentiment. One trend stood out in 2016 – the near-absence of rose in the top 100, making it the most under-represented category. Longtime and former panellist Daniel Chia remarked that Singaporeans’ perception of the misunderstood wine is that it’s a simple affair for casual drinking; this runs directly counter to global trends that show appreciation and the growth of rose by 20-30 per cent. Likewise, panel member Gerald Lu linked it to retailers’ lack of confidence in the product this particular year, possibly due to poor performance and a lack of demand.
Conversely, the riesling, Portugese and Spanish submissions performed strongly this year, leading head panellist Edwin Soon to happily conclude: “There are always suprises in store, even for the most seasoned wine drinkers.”
The assembled guests and industry figures later adjourned to the banquet room, where a delectable food spread, wine vendors and a live band kept the cheery mood going late into the night.