Recently concluded Wine For Asia 2005, at Singapore was a gold mine for those who find wine a four letter exciting word. There was also a silver mine and a bronze mine, for where else would you get the opportunity of tasting about a 100 award winning wines from Decanter Awards, MundusVini (International Spirits Award) and Wine for Asia Awards? … and that too at your own pace and without anyone coming between your palate and wine.
True, the top-end chateaux of Bordeaux, the Burgundies or Italian Super Tuscans, the Barolos and other top-end wines and their producers were generally conspicuous by their absence but the emphasis of the show seems to be on the young and easy drinking wines, a category that would also be on the top of the importers' list for the Indian market.
There were some superb wines from New Zealand, (it was also delightful to see a downward price trends of their otherwise fine but expensive wines and making them more approachable for the pocket) Australia, Italy and South Africa. Bordeaux tasting of 21 chateaux wines of 2001 vintage conducted by Poh Tiong, the editor of Wine Review and a familiar face at wine events in India and other wine shows was truly a sensory experience. The Food and Wine matching seminar by the export manager of Lungarotti from Central Italy was just one of many fine seminars that one could feast on, besides several guided and unguided tastings.
The surprise appearance was a rather large contingent of producers from Argentina which included Trivento (imported by Global), Famiglia Zuccardi (imported by R & R), Marta's Vineyards and host of others. The price and quality ratio of some of these wines was astoundingly good and Argentina can give a run for money to the popular wines from Chile. Singapore being a hub also offers a great opportunity for importers and restaurant owners to tie up with the local distributors and have them consolidate a variety of wines in small quantities for them.
Display of over 10000 labels by producers from 22 countries may have been rather miniscule for some of the approximately 15000 visitors, normally accustomed to visiting Vinexpo or Vinitaly But it was quite manageable to visit various stalls over the three days (10-12 Nov.) and have a one-to-one chat with producers and winemakers while tasting the range of their wines.
Apple of the eye was, of course, the INDIA pavilion erected for the first time at an international wine show. Although Indage and Sula were really the only wine producers present (Abhay Kewadkar of Grover was only visiting the show and perhaps checking it out for the next year). But two of the three biggies participating were quite encouraging. Vinsura and Sigma had contracted to participate but decided to cancel out at the last minute and perhaps missed out an opportunity to locate a distributor and get cracking at this niche market. Apparently, the media was quite tickled with Indian presence too. The front page feature on the Show focused more on Indage and Sula and gave them more than the fair share of coverage, with the former being covered in the prime time TV too. The buzz generally was that the Indian wines will perform well, especially if they keep the prices reasonable and especially with the restaurants serving Indian cuisine.
The India Pavilion was an Initiative of the Indian Wine Academy committed to promoting Brand India and showcasing India as a wine producing nation to the rest o the world. During a telephonic talk with the anchor of the BBC Asia radio show in London, I mentioned to the interviewer that India was participating in an international wine show for the first time. He called me back in five minutes to re-check and reconfirm what I had said. He didn't even know that India produced wine!
Observing the number of people crowding around the Indian stalls, one can venture to guess that there is an opportunity here to create a niche into this fast growing community of wine drinkers in an otherwise tiny nation compared to ours. Growing annually at 20% and almost twice the size of Indian market Singaporeans consumed 7.4 mill litres of wine in 2004. They are already consuming two litres per capita compared to three in Japan and only .22 litres in China. To get the right perspective, we are supposed to be drinking an immeasurable 0.1 litres per person.
First time visitors to Singapore are invariably reminded of the good ‘ol Bollywood song, ‘Sun lo ji sun lo, sun lo ye baat, jeewan main ek baar aana Singapore' . If you are also a wine lover, the charming city with some of the finest wine ‘n dine restaurants and bars will beckon you to come again… and again, next November…and the next, for the future editions of Wine for Asia expo.