Spirited co-editor Justin Choo thumbs through the exhibitor list at the upcoming ProWine Singapore 2022 – which takes place 5 to 8 September – to find an incredibly diverse range of wines and spirits on offer this year. He highlights his picks.

Several months back, Asahi Shinbun reported that Aomori apple growers attempted to recreate an apple wine mentioned in Tsugaru, a novel written by Osamu Dazai, one of the eminent Japanese novelists of his age. The fact that Dazai hailed from Aomori no doubt played into the sentimentality.

Because the novel was written during the world war, there was no record for the team to work on. They had to work off scraps; talking to people who lived in those times and pouring through history and museum records for clues. They found that indeed, apples had been used by sake brewers whenever there was a shortage in traditional ingredients. The project would lead to two bottles produced–the aforementioned Tsugaru, which was made with sake yeast, and Rasho, which differs only in that it uses wine yeast.

Whether or not there will be a future for apple wines remains uncertain. But the Aomori experiment did demonstrate the mantra that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.

ProWine Singapore 2022 highlights - Frederiksdal Cherry Wine
[Photo credit: Frederiksdal Kirsebærvin]

Popping a sling cherry

Likewise, cherry wines were homebrewed in the United States in the 1920s, during a shortage of sorts. To be exact it was the time of the American Prohibition, because you know, reasons. But cherry wine would only again gain public attention in the 1980s, and became a thing in Michigan, USA. In fact, the state pretty much became synonymous with cherry wine.

Closer to home, the cherry also became part of a Singaporean icon: the Singapore Sling. Singapore’s national cocktail became one of the nation’s most recognisable cocktail exports, with cherry brandy – specifically Cherry Heering – one of its key ingredients.

Frederiksdal Cherry Wine is a more recent creation. This product stemmed from the efforts of Harald Krabbe, Morten Brink Iwersen and chef Jan Friis Mikkelsen, who produce cherry wine in a manner more akin to traditional winemaking and matured in oak vats. While by no means making an appearance in Singapore for the first time, they will be announcing a new Singapore Sling 2.0 at ProWine Singapore 2022. No doubt with their wine used in place of cherry liqueur.

Frederiksdal Kirsebærvin cherry picking
[Photo credit: Frederiksdal Kirsebærvin]
The Danish wine is made with Stevnsbær cherries, oft referred to as the Nordic grape. Krabbe’s estate, which bore 24 hectares of it, dates back to medieval times and is considered one of the best locations for growing the fruit. While not a traditional vineyard, they share the same beliefs as winemakers who are particular about employing a natural process and adopting practices like spontaneous fermentation and omission of sulphur dioxide.

Frederiksdal’s approach to its wines, or at least the messaging around how they do it, is something that we hear often these days. As society becomes more entrenched in the comforts of first-world living, it’s natural to demand better quality from everything we consume, including wine and spirits. You need not have a certification to show that you’re organic or biodynamic; though it helps.

Nonetheless, the idea of traditional practices and more ‘natural’ wines, new flavours, and possibly healthier options, is why there’s growing interest in unexplored regions that offer the best of both worlds. Sometimes, the unexplored might just be under our noses.

Cognac François Voyer cellar aging
[Photo credit: Cognac François Voyer]

Cognacs big and small

Take the case of Pineau des Charentes, a traditional French aperitif that has been marketed as such since the 1920s, though legend suggests that it may have been as early as 1589 when a winemaker mistakenly mixed grape must with eau-de-vie. Also known as Pineau, the spirit is popular closer to its point of origin and perhaps among fans of cognac. The good news is it’s starting to grow in popularity, and is making its way to overseas markets. The Brigette et Louise Pineau des Charentes is one such example of a new offering from Les Brûleries Modernes. As with all things new, no one can resist a little storytelling. The label here is a tribute to the women of viticulture and their low-key contributions throughout history.

Unlike its little brother Pineau, Cognac is not one whose story needs to be told and retold. But that doesn’t mean cognac’s story has already run its course.

As times change, we see an emergence of new practices and preferences slowly sprouting and taking root. It’s certainly a boon to all who love spirits, perhaps, as this opens the door to an entirely new world of flavour profiles that would once be frowned upon. Consider the lighter, more floral profiles, exemplified by offerings from upstarts like Exsto Cognac to traditionalists like Hennessy Paradis Imperial, or the emergence of offerings that you would typically associate with whisky rather than cognac, such as single estate cognac or age statement cognacs.

ProWine Singapore 2022 highlights - Domaines Francis Abécassis ABK6 Cognac
[Photo credit: Domaines Francis Abécassis]
The family behind Domaines Francis Abécassis is certainly one of those who do believe in the inimitable character that single estate cognac can create, and stand behind this belief with cognac offerings based on origins. An example of this is the new ABK6 ABECASSIS XO and ABK6 ABECASSIS VSOP, which feature the eaux-de-vie of Saint Preuil Estate in Grand Champagne Cru. The cru represents the best of what cognac has to offer, and perhaps it’s this romanticised view of terroir that allows bouilleurs de cru like Pierre de Segonzac – the last completely independent cognac house in Grande Champagne – and François Voyer to continue to showcase the beauty of their vineyards and their craft, through decades-old cognacs such as the Cognac XO Sélection des Anges and the XO Gold, respectively.

Still flying under the radar

It might seem like a stretch to describe Grand Champagne cru as underrated, though the court of public opinion is a cruel one.

But how else would one explain Tempranillo? Ubiquitous, and the temptation is always to explore the more exotic varietals when given a choice. And yet, the archetypical Spanish grape is widely considered to be one that somehow flies under the radar. Perhaps it’s time for a reminder – much like how Casado Morales Laderas Sur Carácter is returning after a brief hiatus to critical acclaim. Rioja might seem run-of-the-mill in today’s context, where options abound to the point of suffocation. Yet there’s something to be said about a ‘humble’ Gran Reserva like one from Valduero, that sells the category’s potential.

Let’s also hope that it won’t take too long before we start to see the promise and possibilities stemming from the sustainable movement. Wines designed to be eco-friendly have garnered somewhat of a bad reputation in the early years, but it’s an entirely different ball game now. Perhaps it is no longer seen as a matter of choice? A rather sombre sentiment, but at the same time, it should be heartening to see a collective mindset for a common good, especially in France, which is effectively the public face of wine.

ProWine Singapore 2022 - Cave de Ribeauvillé veinyard
[Photo credit: Cave de Ribeauvillé]
Cerise Cannelle is an umbrella for several estates that offer wines made via organic or sustainable farming, which includes Champagne Premier Cru Damien-Buffet (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), Le Castelas (organic Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Village Signargues and a Châteauneuf du Pape) and Domaine Grand Chêne (Gaillac). In Alsace, there’s Cave de Ribeauvillé, a cooperative of 44 winegrowers committed to sustainable or organic farming, which was certified ‘High Environmental Value” level 3 – an environmental certification for farms – since the 2018 vintage.

While France doesn’t have a national programme to promote sustainability, Australia does. It’s a testament to a collective, progressive mindset that has made Australia such a presence in the wine world. That, and the diversity of the site climates in the wine-producing regions in the country. The second-smallest state, Victoria, is home to more regions and wineries than the rest, and along with that, a delightful collection of wine styles. It was a fact not lost on Remy Martin, who established Chateau Remy in Victoria Pyrenees during the early 1960s. Known today as Blue Pyrenees, the vineyard is known for its sparkling wine made with Methode Traditionnelle – perhaps a great alternative for the bubbly given the current champagne shortage.

Thumbing through the list of wine exhibitors that will be at Prowine Singapore 2022 on Monday, it is perhaps to wine’s greatest credit that there is no lack of diversity. There were so many more noteworthy mentions we had to omit from this story for length! Tsugaru and Rasho are nothing more than a blatant bait and switch; but they do remind us that the flame of idealism burns long and bright.

And many dreamers will be waiting to share theirs with you.

Find them at ProWine Singapore 2022

    • Cerise Cannelle (1E4-01)
    • Frederiksdal Cherry Wine, Heap Seng & Co (1D9-05)
    • Les Brûleries Modernes, Yiyi Ma-Ladrat (1E2-04)
    • ABK6 Cognac (1E3-01)
    • Cognac Pierre de Segonzac (1E4-04)
    • Cognac François Voyer (1E2-03)
    • Cave de Ribeauvillé (1E4-08)
    • Bodegas Casado Morales (1E6-07)
    • Blue Pyrenees Estate (1E7-09)

ProWine Singapore 2022 takes place from 5 to 8 September. Members of the trade can sign up for a pass here.

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