Wine at your doorstep

Wine at your doorstep

Chatting over wine, two Frenchmen based in Singapore mulled over the possibility of starting a wine-of-the-month club here.

It was not just idle chit chat either.

The duo, Mr Eric Joubert and Mr Vincent Morello, both 30, have launched The French Cellar (www.thefrenchcellar.sg), roping in experienced sommelier Nicolas Rebut, 38, who is based in France, to choose the wines.

What they want to do is make it easy for people to enjoy wine from their home country.

Mr Morello says: "We have, I think, 20,000 winemakers in different regions of France. I love wine, but I will never know everything about it. It's very complex. Chateau Margaux is good, but which vintage is best?"

Similar subscription programmes are popular in France and the United Kingdom. Here, if subscribers like what they are sent, they can buy more bottles at a discount.

Since Oct 1, when the duo launched the service, The French Cellar has signed up 56 subscribers. They will receive two bottles in the middle of each month and the first bottles are scheduled to be delivered next month.

There are three programmes on offer.

The most popular one is The Vineyard Gems, which costs $89 for one month, $85 a month for those who sign up for three months and $79 for those who stay on for six.

Next up is The Tasting Voyage, costing $159, $149 and $145 a month for month-long, three-month and six-month subscriptions respectively.

No one has signed up for The Cellar Icons, which costs $1,270, $1,250 and $1,230 a month for month-long, three-month and six-month subscriptions respectively. This category features rare vintages from more prestigious vineyards.

The wines will come with tasting notes and food pairing suggestions from Mr Rebut, who has years of experience in the wine trade.

He runs a wine consultancy business and was head sommelier at Alain Ducasse's Le Louis XV in Monaco from 2002 to 2005 and at Le Meurice, a luxury hotel with a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, from 2005 to 2010.

"In Asia, as it is in France, it is difficult for people to choose wines," he says. "It is not easy to decide what bottle to select with so many which all look the same and, on top of that, every year there is a new vintage."

He works with Mr Morello and Mr Joubert to decide which wines from which regions they want to feature each month and will source wines from smaller producers or those whose wares are not available here.

"We will travel from Bordeaux to Languedoc, from Alsace to Burgundy, from Champagne to Provence and so on. A part of France will be brought to Singapore every month."

Mr Joubert and Mr Morello, who were both active in the wine clubs of the French business schools they attended, have obtained licences to import and distribute the wines.

Mr Joubert, a graduate of the prestigious HEC (Hautes Etudes Commerciales) business school, came to Singapore four years ago because two of his best friends were here. He worked for online businesses until setting up The French Cellar.

Mr Morello, who has been here since 2010, has a doctorate in biochemistry. He enrolled in the MBA programme at another prestigious French business school, Essec (Ecole Superieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales), which also has a campus in Singapore.

He did a six-month internship here as part of his course and, after graduating in 2011, came to Singapore to work as a scientific officer in a pharmaceutical company.

The two bachelors have invested $50,000 to set up the business and are planning to focus on it full time. Mr Morello says: "You can't do it at night or on weekends."

The hope is to grow the business beyond wine subscription by helping people pick wines for weddings and other occasions, or sourcing for particular vintages that wine lovers are looking for. Eventually, they want to offer the subscription service in other countries in the region too.

One of those who signed up is biologist David Tan, 32, who bought a six-month subscription for The Vineyard Gems as a birthday gift for a good friend.

He says he used to sign up for similar programmes while living in Britain.

"I like the fact that there is an element of curation and they give tasting notes. That's a big bonus for people who want to learn about wine," he says. "I think there is quite a wine-drinking culture in Singapore and this will find a fan base quickly."

hsueh@sph.com.sg
www.facebook.com/tanhsuehyun


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