Want to learn more about wine in Singapore and taste over 100 varieties from top producers around the world? Check out the upcoming Wine Discovery Weekend, mama!
Wine is many a mama’s drink of choice, but it can be tough keeping on top of developments in the wine world. We’d love to taste them all but honestly our top choice often ends up being the one with the best price at the supermarket (preferably in bulk!). Last year Singapore’s first online wine retailer, Ewineasia, created Wine Discovery Weekend to make high quality wines accessible to a Singapore audience that might not otherwise know about them. We’re giving away two pairs of tickets to this year’s Wine Discovery Weekend on 17-18 October!
Featuring 100 wine labels from 40 wineries around the world, this year’s weekend has the theme “Discovering Exceptional Wines for Everyone”. You’ll not only get to taste all sorts of fantastic wines, mama, but there will also be interesting (and useful!) master classes with a bevy of international wine experts.
We sat down with local wine writer, trained oenophile and master class presented Edwin Soon, renowned creator of The Asian Wine Lexicon, to find out a bit more about his innovative approach to pairing wine with an Asian palette (and using local terminology to describe wines in an interesting and accessible way – lotus paste, wolfberries, and dried kumquat, anyone?)!
What’s your background in wine tasting? Where did you receive your oenophile training?
I was trained as a winemaker/oenologist at Roseworthy College Australia and also interned at a California winery under the auspices of the University of California in Davis, USA. Blind tasting was a very important part of the training and profession. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work with James Halliday (Australian wine author and judge) as his tasting attendant when he was tasting Australian wines for his Australian Wine Companion – in the sense that I had to prepare and pour the wines for him to blind taste. Needless to say, I was curious and after his sessions, I too would taste the wines before clearing it up. Hence my foundation had been in Australian wines.
What prompted the idea behind The Asian Wine Lexicon?
When I got to France to work, I noted that the French describe wines differently to Australians and Americans. Yet the vocabulary used to describe wines, just like for Australia, American and the UK, is based on European, Australian American and mostly temperate climate fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
When I returned to Singapore and tried to describe wines using Occidental terms of reference that I had picked up in Australia, the US and France, I drew blank looks. Then one day, I described a white wine as having flavours of rambutans and mangosteens and the audience response was resounding – lots of “yesses” and “ahs” and “of course!” etc. I then commenced describing wines using references that locals can identify with.
What are some of the most common “Asian wine descriptor” equivalents? How would you describe a Pinot Noir, for example, or a Chardonnay?
Western – Marmalade, butterscotch, lemon, peach
Asian – Mango, tangerine, guava, Chinese pear. Of course there are also shared descriptors such as lime, apple, and pineapple
Western – Mushrooms, cherry, beet, forest floor, truffles
Asian – shitake, Jinhua (dried) ham, cinnamon, clove
At the master class at Wine Discovery Weekend I will be sharing how to describe wines from ewineasia.com.
Do you find certain wines are particularly drinkable in Singapore given the hot, humid climate?
Appreciating wine is no different from the enjoyment of food. People think that in hot and humid climates, they should drink only light alcohol and white wines. It would imply that for the same reasons, one would only eat salads and not enjoy roasts and stews! It would be equally ridiculous to serve stews cold to compensate for the hot climate. As such all wines are equally enjoyable in Singapore — however it is important that wines are served at the correct temperature.
Sometimes, wine that’s served too warm becomes unpalatable – this is because the server read that wine should be served at room temperature – however the room temperature that is recommended is the European room temperature, and not the Singapore room temperature.
Which wines pair best with your favourite local dishes?
Given that local dishes might feature spice, its advisable to stay with lower alcohol wines or wines with some residual sweetness. However that’s not to say big Cabernets or Barolos cannot go with local dishes.
Here are some of my favourite pairings:
Try the Isole e Oleana Chianti Classico with maybe ngor hiong. Or go for a Champagne Boizel NV with Hainanese chicken rice. Or roast duck with a Pinot Noir from Mt Difficulty.
Any key advice for buying wines here in Singapore?
Ratings and critics may point you in the direction of certain wines but ultimately, you should drink only what you like! Certainly use the ratings and critics’ reviews to narrow down or pinpoint the styles that you like but after that, your taste is the deciding factor. Hence tasting blind (and not being swayed or influenced by the price, label or name of the wine) should be the way to buy wines that suit you. You are going to drink the wine (not the label), hence taste is paramount.
The Wine Discovery Weekend is a good place to start because you have over 100 labels and you will meet 11 wine producers and representatives who can all give you more insights about their wines. It’s probably the next best alternative to travelling to the wine country!
Thanks Edwin! Mamas, for your chance to win one of two pairs of Wine Discovery Weekend Walkabout Tasting tickets (a $90 value!), just enter your deets in the form below.
Wine Discovery Weekend’s walkabout tasting and masterclasses will be held on Saturday 17 October from 11am – 6pm at APS Lifestyle Gallery, 9 Muthuraman Chetty Road, Singapore 238931. And Sassy Mamas get an exclusive 15% discount! Just enter the discount code WDTSSM15 at checkout. Click here for the full schedule and to register, mama!