5 Common Mistakes in Building Wine Cellar

So you’ve decided to build a wine cellar and are ready to start working on it? Well, I can assure you that’s one of the most exciting things you could do at your home, especially if you are a wine addict – just imagine how electrifying it will look when completed!
wine racks
Hold your horses though, it is not that easy! In fact, despite the expertise people traditionally have with working on home décor in Singapore, building a wine cellar still remains one of the fiercest challenges for many of them. Especially if you are new to wine cellar building, you must be very careful not to fall for some of the most common mistakes people do when building it – which I will elaborate in details below, by putting together some of the most useful information about those mistakes.

  1. The presumption about the wine cellar’s temperature

If you have never had the chance to see how a wine cellar works, you are most likely to fall for this mistake as well. People seem to think that the wine cellar will have the same temperature throughout the year, and that is a detrimental mistake which will be costly to your most loved bottles. A wine cellar will be affected by the weather outside, therefore appropriate measures must be taken in order to ensure the right temperature throughout the year.

The most popular method of controlling the wine cellar’s temperature is by installing a climate control equipment – and no, air conditioners won’t do! The perfect temperature to ensure the best quality for the wine bottles is between 13 to 15 degrees Celsius, while the humidity should be at an average of 70%, which requires a climate control equipment for the best effect.

  1. Insulation of the wine cellar

Another detrimental and major mistake people commonly do is underestimating the effect a good and qualitative insulation does to the quality wines in a wine cellar. In fact, it could well be the first and basic step you take when you decide to build the wine cellar, especially because it is very cheap if installed at the beginning. Proper insulation ensures the temperatures and humidity are kept at a desired level and, therefore, the wine inside the bottles ages at a much greater pace.

  1. The vapor barrier

The need for vapor barrier is yet another seemingly less important, but possibly detrimental factor if neglected. The vapor barrier is a must for any wine cellar, as it decidedly helps maintain the ideal storage conditions. Moreover, vapor barrier helps prevent moisture, thus also helping prevent mold and mildew infestation. Definitely a must in the Singapore’s humid weather.

  1. The wine cellar’s door

Choosing the door based on its looks, rather than is technicalities according to the needs of the wine cellar definitely makes one of the most common mistakes in wine cellar building. People are naturally focused on making their home décor look good, therefore they often neglect the specific and sensitive requirements of rooms such as the wine cellar. Choosing a door which is not tightly sealed will most likely lose all the good work done with insulation and any climate control equipment in it. A well-installed and insulated door is vital in ensuring the ideal temperature inside the wine cellar.

wine racks

  1. Racking

Although not as possibly detrimental as the above, the wrong racking of wine bottles inside the wine cellar could considerably slow the aging pace of the wine in it. People usually focus on racking the bottles in a way to look beautiful, neglecting the fact that the racking of wine bottles actually requires specific considerations based on a combination of storage solutions, case sizes and wine buying styles.

While the above are some of the most important and common mistakes you must look to avoid when building a wine cellar, the list goes on. More specifically, you must be careful with regards to the wine friendly lightning, the drain line required for the wine cooling unit, flood prevention, and appropriate flooring among other possibly dangerous factors.

Basically, if you are a newbie at wine cellar building, the potential mistakes you could run onto are so many that It is most likely that you will end up falling for at least one of them. Besides learning from them however, the most important thing is the final and completed product. You will be proud of your new wine cellar, and years will feel like centuries while you are waiting for your wine to age.

Why are Some Wines So Expensive but Others Aren’t?

Considered a luxurious good until not long ago, wine was especially considered to be a “drink of the wealthy” hundreds and even thousands of years ago. It represented the higher class and distinguished people. Relationships between empires were developed and maintained through sending wine as a gift, kings would show their power through serving the most expensive and most rare wines to their visitors, and even the population morale was kept up by using wine during celebrations and events.

In today’s world, wine is still playing a major part in the lives of many people. Most of the people tend to go with wine as a gift when invited to visit, as a show of respect – just like in the case of two of the world’s best football managers, when Jose Mourinho gifted Alex Ferguson during a match between their teams in 2009.

You might be thinking about the plenty of extremely cheap wines available in every shop, and you would be right. There are wines as low as $2 a bottle in many countries throughout the world, but the difference –as you probably already know- is not even comparable. In both tasting and health terms, wines can be so different you wouldn’t be blamed to wonder if some of them can even be considered to be wines.

Due to the high demand and consequently, high supply, the wine industry has moved towards FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry – so much so, that the cost of producing the wine is now a minor part of the overall cost of wine for producers. Taking an example on the world’s most well-known brand, the cost of producing a can of Coca Cola is merely 30% of the total cost price, whereas 70% goes towards distribution and marketing, and we don’t want even want to think how low the cost percentage is when compared to the actual price of most popular goods.

In a classic case of business expansion, brands are facing an ever-growing amount of pressure to grow internationally and grab larger market share in other geographic regions. Recently, China has been considered as the primary growth market for high-end wines, and most popular wine brands have been focusing their marketing and development efforts towards the China market – Take Chateau Lafite’s strong expansion plan to China as a perfect indicator of how aggressively brands are targeting expansion in China. It is nothing too surprising though, as China’s large population and high buying power has been attracting most of the international business, and will continue to do so for years to come. On the negative side, such occurrences only serve to increase the pressure on boutique wineries struggling to survive. They are pushed into having to use invoice financing to sell uncollected debt from distributors in unfamiliar geographic areas, so they can finance their next harvest.

On the other hand, we have the likes of “Domaine de la Romanee”, “Egon Muller”, and “Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru” and especially the reported $195,000 “Chateau Margaus” bottle in the Dubai Airport among many other wines costing thousands of dollars per bottle. Sure enough, their actual production cost is maybe 1% of the price, but the marketing and branding efforts have ensured the psychological thought of being worth it among the buyers.

On the other side, the champagne industry is not affected by the trend of switching into a FMCG at all. Champagne remains a luxury drink and its price remains high as well. Just like the “diamond is a girl’s best friend” image in people’s heads, Champagne has similarly managed to develop a rock-solid luxurious image of its wine among the buyers. Despite Prosecco’s and Cava’s fair success amongst the younger wine drinkers recently, it is still unable to fetch the premium of what Champagne is able to do. Take Dom Perignon for example, despite the claims that he created the Champagne, it is far from the truth. However, his initial story of “drinking the stars” and claims to have invented it made a beautiful story, and it had unbelievable success – globally as well.

Basically, it is all about marketing – how you create your brand and how you relate to your potential buyers. The way you develop the product into the head of people is the most essential tool for success. Trends do not come out of nature, they are built from professionals and world-beaters.

 

Sommelier in your private party – the new essential

The latest trend in jazzing up the familiar dinner party at home is hiring your own sommelier. Going off the normal route of the usual party catering in Singapore which is centered on food, people are looking for a different experience and off the beaten track. Hiring a sommelier to spice things up in party is not only creative, but adds a sophisticated and classy touch to the party.

wine in party

Sommeliers or wine stewards are trained and knowledgeable wine professionals who specialize in all aspects of wine service as well as wine pairing. But the best sommeliers- the ones who can reveal the story behind a wine can only are found at restaurants. Lately, however, more and more former top sommeliers are heading out to become wine educators and hosting wine parties and tasting in people’s home. Hiring them to host a get-together is a sure way to add a bespoke feel to it. Wine tasting parties are a fun way to learn about wine while enjoying the great company of friends in a private setting. There are plenty of ways to host a party with a sommelier.

  1. A private cellar tasting

For those who already have an extensive wine collection, one option is to hire a sommelier to lead a tasting of wines from your own cellar. After, familiarizing oneself with the contents of your cellar, a Sommelier can suggest and carry the guest through an evening of tasting and lead the discussion on flavors and notes in the wine.

  1. Wine class at home

For those of us who do not own large wine collections, sommeliers can also provide guests with a selection of local or foreign wine and provide a learning experience to you and your guests. The sommelier will gladly provide a selection after getting a sense of your guests’ level of wine knowledge.

  1. Private dinners at home

When the occasion calls for it, sommeliers can also partner with a private dining service to offer a wholesome dining experience. The chef and sommelier will brainstorm to come up with a menu paired with the perfect wine to enhance each other’s flavours. Events like this can be a cocktail-style reception or a multi-course sit-down dinner or even if you’re just doing a simple party catering.

sniffing wine

I don’t know about you but every time after I host a party, I’d be exhausted. The expectation for the host to entertain the guests every minute of the party is just too tiring. The benefit of having a sommelier at your dinner party can help to alleviate your exhaustion.

  • A sommelier can entertain your guests while you relax and enjoy the party. Often as a host, you are the star of the night. So sit back and relax in the glory while a sommelier and a private dining service takes care of things for you. A wine tasting event with a sommelier will be truly an unforgettable experience for your guests.
  • With the help of these wine experts, there is no way that the beverages at your party are sub-standard. The sommelier will know how to pair the right wine to the amazing food that you order from your premium and luxury caterer.
  • Imagine that your guests will enjoy and relish the wine more with the help of a sommelier who will introduce the wine and explain to your guests the interesting heritage of the wine, the region it comes from and why it is a good pair with the food.

All I need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the evening. I’ll definitely give this a try!

 

 

Can SMS Marketing a 90’s technology help vineyards to grow?

The wine industry has always relied on the old school distribution and reseller model where each geography region or country has a distributor that takes wines from the vineyards in bulk and sell them to retailers in the region. Due to this model, the prices of wines are significantly higher for consumer and majority of the profit do not go to the vineyards that bear the most risk in the business. Some wine-makers have cleverly depend on technology to sell directly to consumers by using the subscription model that has been popularized in recent year by Birchbox. While others uses a slightly more traditional marketing method such as SMS marketing to inform customers when the new wine has come of age. These methods help to cut-off the middlemen in the business thereby increasing the profit.

Since my last update, I’ve been doing a lot of research around vineyard as a new type of property investment. Through these research, I learnt that wine-making is a very risky business. Your income for years to come is highly dependent on the year’s yield and quality. Technique for wine-making is secondary compared to mother nature. But, I’ve stumbled upon a few new technology that helps vineyards to control the quality of wine and in small ways make micro-changes to the growing environment of grapes. There are technology that helps improve almost every step of the wine-making process from growing the grapes to ultimately in marketing the wines.

Refractometer to determine ripeness of grapes

Wine-maker using refractometer to determine the sugar level of grapes

Why SMS marketing but not other form of marketing, you may ask? Well, most people that drinks wine are above a certain age like myself. And with age, the familiarity with new age technology such as mobile apps or emails decreases. SMS is an old enough technology for majority of the wine lovers to be familiar with. Hence, it is a good medium for the target market.

One way is to utilize this technology is pre-order of wine samples or wines. As you know, every vintage of wines may differ and you may not like a particular year’s vintage. So wine-makers can have a wide coverage of information push to the customers by sending a more traditional marketing method that is SMS to their customers. With a direct contact with the customers, the wine-makers can rely less on the mercy of distributors to promote their wine. Wine-makers can inform customers of the grapes quality and when to expect the wines to be ready. Majority of wine lovers are not comfortable in purchasing wines online (less familiar platform) so enabling purchase using a more familiar platform to the customers may work. Once the customers placed the order via SMS, the wine-makers can have the customers mail cheques to the wine-makers directly. And the wine-makers can start having wine orders before the wine is ready. Once the wine is ready, the wine makers can then ship to wines directly to the customers. Of course, there is a need to ensure that the minimum orders will make business sense to the wine-makers. But, this is a great way to use a platform that is familiar to the wine customers, do away with the middlemen and increase the profit of the wine-makers.

Technology is great to ensure the quality of the wine produced in vineyards. But I think there is room for creativity in how to market wines to consumers. Frankly, the old distribution model is out of date. However, a lot of vineyards are using technology such as Facebook to engage their customers when their customers may not be on or are not familiar with the platform at all. I think there is a middle ground technology that can be explored and that answer may just be SMS.

The New Age Property Investment

Recently, I made a trip to Malaysia for a property investment conference. It’s been almost 2 years since I have been there so it’s quite an interesting experience. Of course, as someone who loves wine, I can’t help but to check out the local wine scene. To my delight, I was not short of choice! I went through the list of wine bar in KL and decided to go for a quirky Chinese decor wine bar. It was a laid back bar with a large selection of wines. What impressed me most about this wine bar was the 20 selection of wine by the glass menu. I always like to try different wines and frankly, getting a bottle when I was traveling alone, did not sound like an appealing option. So by the end of the night, I had 3 glasses of wine ranging from the traditional French Bordeaux wine to the new world South African wine. It was an enjoyable evening.

Now, you may be wondering why did I choose this title of the post. In the 2 days that I was in Malaysia, I learnt that there is an strong appetite for overseas investment in Malaysia. I saw multiple ads on newspaper on properties for sale in London, New York and most interestingly vineyard investment. As a wine lover, this really intrigued me. So, I begun my research and learnt that Asia is indeed the up and coming wine region. There are relatively new vineyards that are challenging the norm (and the weather) to grow grapes around this region. Many of you may know Bali as a fantastic tropical island holiday destination. Little did I know that there is a vineyard in that island!

The more innovative wine makers started making wines from local fruits. I’ve tasted peach wine from Australia a while ago and it was a good dessert wine. I’ve also written about the wine made from Durian in a university in Singapore. That idea has yet to be tested in the market but nonetheless, intriguing. On the other hand, there are vineyards in Thailand that uses the traditional European Cabernet Savignon, Chenin blanc, and Shiraz grapes. Some of these vineyards have been produced better quality wine over the years.

Is vineyard investment in Asia really taking off? Short answer to that is, I don’t know. But we know that the wine consumption in Asia has been increasing steadily in the last decade. Premium wine demand has increased exponentially particularly in China. In fact, the owner of the famous Chateau Lafite has invested GBP 10million in a winery in Shandong, China. The demand of wine in Asia is expected to raise in the next few years with rising income level and increasing quality of life in Asia. With the decrease in production of premium wine in Europe. Assuming, the demand of wine maintain at a steady increment. We can expect that the price of wine will be higher as supply declines. As premium wines prices go up, the demand may adjust itself to be lower. When that happens, it is likely that the demand will shift to more affordable wines from relatively newer region.

 

Tech startups revolutionising wines online

Wine businesses have always been the most traditional of businesses. After centuries of viticulture, we still use grapes, and we still grow them on trellis, train them and prune them as winemakers of yore did. Lately (which in the slow-moving world of wine means decades), new world winemakers have really started coming into their own, confidently adapting new tools and practices that increase yields and improve flavours, including using massive steel tanks with temperature control, artificial tannin powder, and most gallingly of all, selling wines outside of the hermetic, intimidating confines of a dedicated wine store on online wine stores.

E-commerce is of course nothing new, but wine stores in general have had a terrible time making the transition online. Massive collections are dumped into online catalogues with little consideration of how to organize them or present them to the average uninspired wine consumer. In the past year or so, even this has changed tremendously. Companies like drync, vivino, & wine-family (pragmatically based in co-working spaces like this one) are just a few of the next wave of wine companies going online that promise to make the process of choosing wine and appreciating wine more accessible and less intimidating than an outraged maitre’d tut-tutting your appalling wine taste.

angry maitre d

These online stores are not only providing tasting notes and food pairing recommendations, all beautifully worded and expertly supplemented with photos, but also allow logged-in users to give their own 2 cents on the wines that they have drank, giving prospective buyers more than just the resident sommelier’s opinion to go on. Companies like vivino push this idea to its very limits, allowing users to create wine reviews complete with photos of products that aren’t even on the website’s database. After all, it is practically impossible for any single company to keep track of all the wines that are produced year after year, much less rank and review them reliably. Thus, crowdsourcing opinion is a supremely wise decision.

The consequence of all this crowdsourcing and democratisation of the sommelier’s art, is that wine appreciation becomes much more accessible. An old problem for wines made from grapes penetrating new cultures is that they were previously not part of the local culture and that it requires experts like sommeliers a long time to educate the dining crowd to appreciate and consume more wine. With the ready availability of knowledge online, and the ability for people to experiment in the comfort of their own homes away from the embarrassment of getting it wrong in a restaurant, we can expect more people to pick up wine drinking.

All this promise of a bright future for wine can be attributed strongly to the proliferation of wine knowledge online and how deeply the internet has become a part of our everyday lives. There is no corner of the wine business that is exempt from the change wrought by the internet, but that is not a problem but rather an accomplishment to toast to.

Moët & Chandon Champagne – The Power of Marketing

The movie ‘The Great Gatsby‘ directed by Baz Luhrman showcase the lavishing lifestyle of New Yorkers during the pre-depression times of America.

 

The-Great-Gatsby-2013-movie-poster

But did you know that the prominently product placement of Moët & Chandon champagne was not paid for?

Moet & Chandon Imperial

I was surprised when I discovered this point as I thought that most product placement in movies are sponsored by the brands. But, for this movie, the director want to showcase the real lifestyle during the 1920s of American and indeed during that period of time, when stock market was booming, many young ambitious Americans were celebrating their success with Moët & Chandon champagne. But why Moët & Chandon champagne?

This goes back to the power of marketing. Moët & Chandon champagne was probably the first champagne house that adopted modern marketing tactics. In 1866, Moët started commissioning popular entertainers and musicians to endorse the champagne. They were also commissioned to compose songs and lyrics that extol the virtues of champagne. With that, of course, the Moët & Chandon champagne were heavily marketed. During the raise of industrial revolution during the early 1900, champagne was successfully marketed to the raising middle class and the elites at that time. Even the author of ‘The Great Gatsby’, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”  quoted from The Atlantic postThat is why Moët & Chandon was a very popular choice of champagne and was heavily featured in the movie.

According to Bottles of Joy, Moët & Chandon is also the first champagne maker to go public. Moët & Chandon merged with other champagne and luxury brands to form Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy, making this company the world’s largest luxury brand company.

Since Chinese New Year is coming up soon, maybe it’ll be a good idea to share this nice and affordable bottle of champagne with my family during reunion dinner.

Moet & Chandon Imperial

Celebrating the launch of the Fleet Wine Database, and the champagne sparkling matchup

Wine appreciation is good for the soul. Few activities as popular as wine drinking require the sort of attention and focus in your senses that contemplating a fine wine requires. I could name a few alternatives like listening to classical music, reading poetry, sculpting clay, but all those require more skill and practice than my lazy ass is willing to pick up.

First, what is fleet wine database. This is my personal pet project to write about wine-related knowledge and share it with the world. There is no shortage of wine blogs, wine magazines, or even wine blog awards. However the truth is there’s always room for more. In a world where places as far flung as Bali, Thailand, India, China, Slovenia are producing wines, I can believe that there’s always room for an alternative perspective on all things grapey with alcohol.

So just what are we looking to talk about on this fine blog? Really it’s just my musings on the wines that I’ve drank recently, as well as anything interesting that I learn about the history and culture behind wine. It might be somewhat arbitrary to call this a wine-only blog, so I may expand my repertoire to drinks from other cultures as well from time-to-time.

To kick things off, let’s think about the coming celebrations to usher in 2014! If you have yet to choose your customary bottle of champagne to pop as the clock strikes twelve, you’re the perfect subject for reading my ruminations.

I live in Singapore, and an unremarkably inconspicuous liquor store opened down the road from where I live recently. On my last visit a couple of weeks ago I saw Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne on sale at S$64. I know that the same bottle sells for $99 (or more) at the local grocery chains. This set me thinking, just how much extra are we paying for champagne? Is there any real difference in quality between a quality bottle of sparkling wine and a similarly priced champagne? The question probably isn’t a new one, but I haven’t yet read any opinions about this in the Singapore context. This matters tremendously since alcohol in general is so expensive here.

A glass of wine that costs €3 at a bar in London would cost S$15 in a similar one here. Hence, one can’t be too careful with the limited finances one has for wine.

For comparison, I have a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut NV (S$90), and a bottle of Trivento Brut Nature Sparkling Wine (S$25). This is a classic David vs Goliath matchup! Moet is arguably the world’s most famous Champagne brand, while Trivento is a fairly decent Argentinian brand, not known for charming the pants off anyone.

trivento-sparkling-brut-nature-mendoza-argentina-10400331 Moet & Chandon Imperial

First off, I tried the Moet. The packaging really is a piece of work. It’s curvy bottle’s allure and classy motifs insist to me that anyone who knows what champagne is about must surely fancy it. And at first, the generous bubbles and pretty golden hue are really captivating. When I take my first sip, I have to admit to myself that it is thoroughly enjoyable. When researching what good champagne tastes like, I constantly encounter descriptions about zesty acidity, dryness, delicate white fruit like peach and pear. There was plenty of acidity in its dry depths, and sufficient pear aromas to check your list. However (and surely you knew this was coming), something didn’t sit well with me. Someone wiser than me once said that a good wine makes you want to drink it more. Every mouthful is enjoyable because your palate craves more of the tantalizing flavours. It is like the scent of flowers. You smell it, and then you keep sniffing around for a bit, trying to catch another whiff of the flower’s aroma. Moet, simply put, did not do that for me.

By this time you may think, it’s already obvious what the conclusion will be. I won’t keep you waiting for the answer either. I enjoyed the Trivento Sparkling Wine much more than the Moet. I wouldn’t even say that the Trivento was better value than the Moet. It was simply better.

Trivento’s Sparkling Wine reads Brut Nature on its label. This means that it has 0 grams of sugar per litre. Moet is Brut, which is less than 12 grams per litre. Surprisingly, the Trivento feels sweet. I say feels because it smells sweetly floral, and has the flavours of pear also, but if you really think about it, it doesn’t seem to taste sweet at all. It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but it is in fact a swan. Another noteworthy thing about the Trivento was that it had notes (there’s a fancy word) of brioche, which is a fancy word for bread. There is a delicious bread-dough smell that freshly baked bread carries, and well-made sparkling wines (and champagne) has it. In this case, Trivento had it in bucketloads, while I never tasted the same in Moet.

Well I suppose, for us, that settles our first ever wine argument. Sparkling wine can be better than champagne (even the famous ones). However I reserve the right to rave about champagne one day when I discover one worthy of the name (and appellation). For now, ditch the champagne and spend half that on a vastly superior bottle of sparkling from the hills of Argentina.