Buying wine is a fun and enjoyable process for many wine enthusiasts.
They may visit various bottle shops to examine their offerings, subscribe to online retailers’ newsletters, or even check overseas auction houses for special bottles to celebrate milestone occasions.
However, most people tend to rely on recommendations from friends or bottle shop assistants, or choose recognized brands. Some people may spend hours researching a seemingly good deal they have been offered by a retailer, trying to determine if it was a good vintage, what others think of the wine, and whether it should be consumed now or saved for a few years.
The key to successful wine buying is to have confidence in your choices, and this requires:
- having a little knowledge about the wines being offered,
- knowing what types of wines you will enjoy, and
- being familiar with the people selling the wines to you.
In Singapore, where wines are expensive and there are many choices available, it is especially important to make informed purchases.
Learning to understand the information provided on wine labels.
Understanding wine labels can be a challenge, even for those with intermediate-level wine knowledge. The labels of “old world” wines, which are produced in Europe and North Africa, often hide information about their origin due to laws governing wine production in these regions, such as the AOC in France, DOC in Italy, and DO in Spain. In contrast, “new world” wines, which are produced in countries that have been colonized, such as the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, and Argentina, tend to provide more straightforward information on their labels.
When looking at a wine label, there are several key pieces of information to consider: the origin of the wine, the vintage (year) it was made, the producer, and the grapes used. By considering these factors, you can get a good sense of what to expect from the wine and conduct further research into its quality.
Wine labels can be confusing, especially for those unfamiliar with the laws and regulations surrounding wine production in different countries. However, with a little bit of knowledge, it’s possible to determine key information about a wine, such as its origin, vintage, producer, and grape variety.
In Singapore, whenever a wine is offered for sale, there’s a tendency for the wine to come with ratings. For the general public, this is a good thing, as it gives some sort of recognition of quality by established wine reviewers from around the world. One may see ratings like: RP (or WA) 89, WS 90, JH 91 etc… these are acronyms of some famous reviewers.
– JH is short for James Halliday (and his Australian Wine Companion), who is considered the authority on Australian wines.
– RP represents the world’s most recognisable name in wine review: Robert Parker Jr.; while WA represents The Wine Advocate, which RP founded. Many use RP & WA interchangeably, but one has to note that there are many reviewers working for WA reviewing wines from different regions around the world, so WA is not necessarily RP.
– WS is for Wine Spectator, a wine publication from the USA, which reviews wines regularly via a number of staff reviewers.
This can be especially useful when trying to make an informed purchase and avoid buying a wine that you may not enjoy. To further research a wine, it’s helpful to turn to online review sites or printed resources, which often provide ratings and reviews from professional reviewers. It’s important to keep in mind that wine tasting is subjective, so it can be helpful to find a reviewer whose taste aligns with your own. By doing a bit of research and being mindful of your own preferences, you can feel more confident about your wine buying decisions and find bottles that you’ll truly enjoy.
Wine and you
To truly know what you like in a wine, tasting is key.
It allows you to educate your own palate and understand your own preferences. When tasting, pay attention to the wines you enjoy and those you do not, and try to understand the reasons why.
Tasting wines also helps you to know your supplier and their offerings better, allowing you to make more informed purchases in the future.
By regularly tasting and paying attention to your own preferences, you can build a better understanding of what types of wines suit your tastes and which ones do not.
“Wines should never be enjoyed alone!”
To further your understanding and appreciation of wine, consider tasting it with a group of friends who have similar interests. This allows you to try a greater variety of wines and benefit from the insights and observations of others. When tasting with a group, pay attention to the comments of others and try to identify any specific words or phrases that accurately describe the flavors and characteristics you noticed in the wine. By actively tasting and discussing different wines, you can gain valuable knowledge and experience that will help you make informed decisions when purchasing wine in the future.
Some regular (free) tastings offered in Singapore:
1855 The Bottle Shop – conducts fortnightly tastings (Friday evening & Saturday afternoon), join their mailing list for updates and alerts of tasting sessions
Merchants – conducts weekly tastings (quite often with appearances of their associated wine-makers), join their mailing list for updates and alerts
My Wine Shop – conducts monthly tastings, join their mailing list for updates and alerts
Wine Connection – conducts regular in-store tastings (I am unsure of frequency or where specific information are given), drop by any branch on Fridays or Saturdays, and you may be pleasantly surprised to be met with a tasting bench
Attending wine tastings organized by importers and retailers can be a great opportunity to try a variety of wines and learn more about the products being offered. These events also give you the chance to get to know the people who sell you wine and ask them questions about the producers and regions they represent. Building relationships with your suppliers can be helpful as you continue on your wine journey, and wine tastings can be a great way to bond with others who share your interest in wine.
Tasting wines at a wine dinner or event can be a valuable way to learn about different producers and their philosophies. In Singapore, both retail chains like The Straits Wine Company and 1855 The Bottle Shop and importers like Monopole and Wine Exchange Asia frequently host wine dinners and other events. Wine Family, a newcomer to the Singapore wine scene, also offers interactive online wine tastings and events. Attending these events can provide valuable insight into the world of wine, although they can also be quite costly.
Keep an eye out on our website and blog for the latest wine dinner (infrequently), guide to free BYOB restaurants in Singapore and the great wine deals!