Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tulleeho at Wine For Asia, Singapore

Wine for Asia: Day 1

Tulleeho is flying a lonely flag here, as the sole Indian stall and visitors to our stall are disappointed to find no Indian Wine, for quite a few have heard of Sula and Grover's. There are equally as many people who are quite amazed to hear of wine from India. Bollywood however is known by everybody and we're requested by some visitors to bring in some Bollywood stars. "Which ones?", I ask and he declines to reply, although our taxi driver informs us that Shahrukh Khan was in Suntec City yesterday.

We're visited through the day by a flurry of visitors, everyone from Gavin, the Global Sales Director of a Wine Investment fund, who's interested in getting high net worth individuals in India to invest in a wine portfolio, as they do in art and other "alternate investments" as the term goes to Chris from the intriguingly named Pengwine. Pengwine's premise is simple, they have a range of wines from Chile, each named after different varieties of penguins. People can't be bothered he said to remember names of varietals or clever wine names, but Penguins on the other hand are different, so people will remember that they preferred the King over the Chin Strap!

Chris is setting a Pan Asia hub for wine logistics in Singapore and is interested in getting Chilean producers over to India, hopefully using Tulleeho as a conduit.

Suntec, has 350 exhibitors spread across 3 halls and there's a wide variety of stalls at hand. Our neighbours are the Goygol Wine plant from Azerbaijan, for Baku has more than oil to offer the world. Goygol makes a range of wines, still and sparkling as well as Xan vodka, which uses wheat spirit as a base. Their sparkling wine called Kolleksion is made using the Methode Champenoise, and is a blend of the "Pkatitselli" and "Bayanshire" varieties of wine. They also have Araz, a white table wine, Chinar, a rose and Madrasa, a red wine.

I take the opportunity of a break to head across to an intriguingly named stall named Corporate Grape. Corporate Grape run by Erica Babbage promotes boutique wines from Australia's Barossa Valley. I tasted 2 of the wines on offer, the 2008 Yanyarrie Riesling and the 2006 Catharina Shiraz, both from Hahn Barossa Vineyards. Indian audiences can also hope to taste them both when Erica is down for IFOWS in Delhi in January. She drops in to our stall later in the day to grab a wine bag, as we've got some nicely designed wine gift bags as gifts. She promises a bottle of wine in exchange!

Bump into Yatin Patil from Reveilo and we discuss his upcoming tasting room at his vineyards in Nashik and our plans to get wine tourists from Mumbai down there. Subhash Arora from the Delhi Wine Club is also around as is Pramod Krishna, the Secretary General of CIABC. There's also Sandeep Dass, a former petroleum trader, who when posted in Paris with Shell, had a boss who taught him more about wine than petroleum, and Sandeep switched over to investing on behalf of individuals in wine. Sure seems like a growing business.

Another break leads me to the Portugal pavilion where I try Wines from Pocas Junior, from the Douro region. I try the white, the red and the Reserve, and they're all very good and I top this up with a few sips of the Tawny Port, which is excellent.

Wine for Asia: Days 2 and 3

MP Asia, the Organisers of Wine for Asia have put together a lunch for some of their partners to thank them and discuss their plans for 2009. I gather that the current ogranisers jumped into the picture for the 2008 show fairly late and hope now to have enough lead time to make a grand success of the 2009 show which is expected to be far bigger.

At lunch I exchange notes with Tommy Lam, the President of the Sommelier Association of Singapore. Apparently it's the turn of an Asian this year to head up the World Sommelier Association, so things look bright this year for bringing Sommeliers in Asia closer together. Christian Dworam who looks after Wines from Austria is also there. Christian says that India is still some way away on Austria's radar, but he's keen on hosting Indian journalists for a Austrian wine summit to be held in 2009. Applications invited here! Also at my table are a trio of photo clicking Argentinians, a mix of wine makers and representatives from economic Ministries.

Luigi Bazzani, the owner and wine maker from Warrenmang Vineyards in Victoria is across from us, notices that I'm looking thirsty and heads over with a glass of his Cabernet Shiraz. He's keen on entering India also. He runs two restaurants in addition to his vineyards and thus claims more intimate knowledge about wine and food pairing. Well, I am grateful for his neighbourly gesture and reciprocate with a few of our Wine Bags.

One of the more interesting stalls at WFA is the enticingly named Marilyn wines from Napa Valley - Their Marilyn Merlot is a homage to Marilyn Monroe as the vintage is released each year on June 1st, her birthday. Hate Merlot, but love Marilyn? They also have a Marilyn Cabernet! Added attraction, the labels have photos of MM. Now that's a wine label I'd like to keep!

The Magma Bistro stall is a big hit, as they have ovens turning out fresh pizza - accompanied with a glass of German white, this is the must visit stall of the Expo, as is the Amici stall, where through the day select canapes are served up with a glass of wine.

Nancy Gontier is from the Vaucluse, the region Peter Mayles made famous in a Year in Provence and it's sequels. I met her at a networking exhibition for French wine producers being held at Raffles Hotel. Sopexa Singapore had organised the same and Gregoire, the Project Manager had extended an invite to me. Nancy hates Paris and she can't wait as she says to get back to her vineyard in the Vaucluse. As she explains a wine maker needs to be close to the soil and there's no place better than the Vaucluse and her Domaine de la Camarette vineyards! There are a host of other producers including several from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, who are also represented by Sud de France, their marketing arm. You have to admire the French. Not only do they have Sopexa as an apex governmental organisation to relentlessly promote French agricultural produce, but individual wine regions also have their own marketing arms!

Heard of Wines from Brazil? I hadn't, and had the pleasure of interacting with Gopi, Trevor and Andy from Nathan and Peridot, who represent a host of Brazilian wine producers and the State marketing arm, Wines from Brazil in South East Asia. As Gopi explained, they're a bit reluctant to enter India at the moment. He felt that Indians were looking for cheap wine and that Brazil was consciously taking the high road as far as wine quality goes. I did my best to reassure him in re the limited sensitivity in an Indian 5 star hotel to the right side of the menu! Hopefully, we'll see some of their excellent wines in India soon. The Sauvignon Blanc I tasted was excellent.

Exhibitors are allowed to sell wine after 12 pm on Day 3 and signs quickly go up across the fair - most wines ranging between 30 and 50 Singapore dollars and representing a great bargain especially as import duties in Singapore are high leading to high prices for wine in retail. Day 3 also allows consumers to visit, after paying an entry fee and at the end of the day, you witness swarms of people heading back with cases of wine. For wine lovers in Singapore, the fair must be a high point for the ability to taste some excellent wines from around the world, interact with the producers and purchase some fine wine.

Looking forward for a bigger and better WFA 2009 including some more Indian participation!


Vikram Achanta