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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, 22 April 2010 09:50

WSA Singapore: Two bottles a Day keep Customs Away

A pragmatic decision by the Singapore Customs to allow two bottles a day duty-free for wine shows and competitions, could also be adopted in India to help foreign producers enter the samples or for tasting at designated wine shows, writes Subhash Arora who was judging at the WSA Wine Challenge recently.

It is another matter that about 35 samples did not finally make it through Customs as the documentation did not meet the specs. ‘Some people sent more than two bottles with documents showing no payment of duties, assuming all samples would be free of duty,’ said Roderic Proniewski, the Singapore based French wine specialist who organised the Challenge on behalf of the Singapore Exhibition Authority Pte. Ltd.

‘Wine for Asia was able to get the exemption last year after Hong Kong announced duty free status for wine imports,’ explained Roderic. ‘The authorities allowed duty free import of 2 wine bottles a day for an approved wine show.’ This means that if a winery brings 10 labels and enters 3 of them in the competition, the 4 day event would perhaps entitle 86 bottles (10*2*4+3*2) free of duties. Wine for Asia is a wine-focused show held every October. The current event is seemingly indispensable for the food industry in the South-Eastern Asian countries it had more space booked than last time.

The recent earthquake in Chile also took a minor toll on the competition while the Iceland ashes prevented several European exhibitors, especially those coming through Germany, Italy, Austria and France, from being present on the opening day of the exhibition on April 20. Compared to only 400 samples received 2 years ago (it is held every 2 years), 700 were registered this year. Despite the natural calamities, 587 still made it to the competition, spread over 2 days.

Joel Payne, author of the German Wine Guide and President of FIJEV- Circle of Wine Writers, was the Chairman of the Jury. A professionally organised competition, it had its own typically unanswered questions- whether to let the judges know the country, price range, or the vintage. But a positive feature was to allow them to discuss each wine after the 5 panelists had given the points on a simplified sheet, on a 100-point scale. Of course, this made the process slightly slower, especially when the palates were biased towards  the New World or Old World, the oakiness of the wine (no separate category for oak- fermented wines, giving the judges a free hand to express their personal tastes). However, Payne handled any major disagreements with diplomatic dexterity.

The judges were generally from different Asian countries and included gran’ old master of wine, John Salvi MW, Cape Wine Master Sue Van Wyk from Australia- who has been conducting the Michelangelo Wine Awards for 13 years in South Africa and was President of one of the panels. The Panel A, presided by Subhash Arora from India had perhaps the most interesting judges. Parini Chitrakorn (Thailand) a qualified wine educator, Diane Tan (Singapore) a trained sommelier now working under Roger Lienhard, the former General Manager of Hyatt Regency Delhi-now the Vice President of  Resort World Singapore, Claudio Salgado (Hong Kong) the Brazilian sommelier who ‘opened ‘ the Grand Hyatt in Delhi over a decade ago and also brought in the concept of ‘La Cava’ from the Mezzanine Restaurant  at the Hyatt in Singapore, Ned Goodwin from Japan with tons of experience buying wines for the parent company in Tokyo having 65 restaurants with different cuisines; he has cleared his MW papers and has submitted his thesis. Of course, Sue Van Wyk and wine journalist and author Jung Yong Cho from Korea, presiding over the other two panels felt the same about their jury members.

It would be fair to say that each wine got the best possible human attention and evaluation from each panel. Saint Claire from New Zealand must be a happy winery on getting the Best White Wine Award for its Premier Block Sauvignon Blanc- another of their Sauvignons also got a Gold- they are consistent winners at several competitions including the India Wine Challenge. 

Competitions like the India Wine Challenge and wine shows are an attempt to help popularize wine in India and the government will not lose significant amount of revenues by allowing exemption to the genuine imports for such events. But the fillip it will give to the industry and the resultant increased revenues on higher sales far outweigh the minor shot- term loss of revenue. Unfortunately, the government departments work within constraints and the fear of censure from the vigilance department and no one wants to bell the cat but with changing dynamics of doing business, it may be prudent for the government to consider such pragmatic steps.
 Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) and Wine and Spirits Asia (WSA) Kick off

Despite the Eyjafjallajökull Effect which left many exhibitors fuming and frustrated in their home countries, the extremely popular food and hospitality trade event FHA, claimed to be the largest food and hospitality trade event in Asia, brought back the images of SIAL and Anuga. The Mecca for those in the food or hotel industry had many familiar faces from India. Executive Chef Saby from Olive and Chef Vikram from Ai Restaurant were only a couple of many familiar faces. Apparently an Indian team from Olive was there taking part in the pastry competition.

The Sopexa stand was the worst hit by the ash effect although the organisers were hoping to make it in time during the following days. There were a few persons missing from Austria, Italy and other exhibitors from France. A major surprise was the towering presence of Spain in the FHA Hall No. 7 section alog with wine producers whose wines were not under display in the WSA where most wine companies were present. While many visitors presumed that all the wine exhibitors were clubbed together in one hall (no.6), there was a huge wine presence also in Hall no.7 in the FHA side-this included Italy, USA and Australia among others. Besides, the wine section in Hall 6  had been pushed way to the back of the hall behind the food stands hogging the space in the front, leaving many wine exhibitors disgruntled, surprised and wondering why all the wine companies had not been  accommodated in one hall with the proper façade.

Despite the few negative natural unavoidable factors the FHA and WSA organisers have held their grounds of optimism. If there were reasons for anxiety, they did not show on the face of Mr. Stephen Tan, the CEO of the Singapore Exhibition Services. Though he may have aged a few years during the last few days, Stephan managed a smile when delWine asked him about the effect of the recent volcano. He said, ‘it is rather unfortunate-but we have done our best and these are reasons beyond the control of any human being. We can only hope that the effect is not drastic on attendance or the business prospects.’

Subhash Arora

For an earlier article, visit


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