Serving the Queen, and now Singapore

Serving the Queen, and now Singapore
Simon Berry, chairman of Berry Bros & Rudd (BB&R), UK oldest wine and spirits merchant.

They've served the British royal family since the reign of King George III, and now the UK's oldest wine and spirits merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd (BB&R), has set up shop in Singapore. That means wine lovers here now have access to over 4,000 bottles offered by the family-owned company - including those served at Buckingham Palace.

And, while that might sound like awfully expensive wine, BB&R's chairman, Simon Berry, says the reverse is true.

"Buckingham Palace is not just the Queen's house. It's where heads of state meet, and there's a lot of entertaining done there - whether it's for a reception of 300 people, or for lunch parties of four. So it's a bit like a hotel; you need to have a wide range of wines, (most of which) are probably not the most expensive, in fact."

He would know - as Clerk of the Royal Cellars since 2008, Mr Berry heads a committee tasked with choosing wine for the Queen. No amount of prodding will make him spill on the British matriarch's drinking preferences, though.

"The most important part of (my appointment) is looking after the Queen and the royal family as we would private customers . . . That includes being incredibly discreet about it - we won't talk to wicked journalists about what (any of our clients) have bought from us," says Mr Berry with a grin.

Much like other foreign firms, BB&R is looking to use the Republic as a launchpad to the rest of Asia. In particular, the company is hoping to grow its presence in the key markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

But the company is also eyeing Singapore for its own domestic market. In addition to the scores of high net worth individuals here - of which there are certainly plenty - BB&R is also interested in cultivating the burgeoning wine scene in Singapore.

"The Singapore market itself is arguably the most sophisticated wine market in the whole of Asia," says Mr Berry, who thinks Japan might come a close second. "People are now much more interested in niche (bottles).

It's not a question of saying: 'Look at me, I'm drinking the same (wine) as all my friends.' It's now a question of saying: 'I know enough about this, and you, my friend, know that I know enough about this. And I'm going to come up with something you've never tried before'."

Introducing customers to rare and fine wine is exactly what BB&R has done in Britain for the past 316 years. And with its new office and tasting room at Amoy Street, the company is now itching to do the same here.

As part of a series of educational seminars, BB&R plans to fly in some of its eight Masters of Wine, who are best described as wine wizards who have aced gruelling blind-tasting tests. It also wants to reach out to the average Singaporean as well, through affordably priced bottles starting from S$25.

But for richer millionaire and billionaire folk, BB&R will not disappoint either. Its most expensive offering, a Magnum of 1971 La Tache, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, will set you back a cool £26,500 (S$55,670).

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