You can argue the case that the best labels of wines and spirits are already available here in Singapore. Does that mean there’s nothing else to look forward to any more? Absolutely not.

Despite the gloom around the world, Asia remains somewhat unfazed by recent global events; its appetite for wines and spirits remains seemingly undiminished and is projected to grow at a steady rate of 5.19% (CAGR 2023-2027, from Statista).

We’re even seeing a diversification of portfolio in the fine wine market, according to Liv-Ex, which based its findings on its user base. To surmise, it’s perhaps borne of a desire to seek better value from outside of the usual suspects and – we’d like to think – a rekindled sense of adventure.

And much like how collectors are moving away from the tried-and-tested domain of Bordeaux, the spirits world is slowly stepping out of the shadow of regular headline makers, Scotch whisky and Japanese whisky. Sales for whisky are not slowing down; on the contrary, the global numbers say otherwise: whisky continues to grow annually by 5.18% (CAGR 2023-2027, from Statista).

Better value

However, when what were once affordable sippers – think $200 Yamazaki 18 at Duty-Free, cheap indie label Caol Ila – are being snapped up and treated like collectors’ items, it makes perfect sense to cast the net wider in (relatively) uncharted waters.

Testament Wine hails from North Dalmatia.

There probably has never been a bigger market for sipping spirits, and that in part is thanks to the whisky boom. Globally, tequila is growing at a rate of 4.71% (CAGR 2021-2028, from Research and Markets) while rum is growing at 4.81% (CAGR 2023-2027), for example. A straw poll of any whisky drinker is likely to reveal that they do have alternatives outside of barley spirit. The idea of ‘malternatives’ has been bandied around jokingly for years, but these days it’s gone beyond discovering affordable substitutes.

The diversity arising from a healthy global competition means that producers need not feel pressured to market themselves as ‘purists’ or ‘traditional’ to be taken seriously. On the contrary, they need to do more to stand out in an already exciting crowd. The long and the short of it is that consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries.

Much remains undiscovered

To say that the world of wines and spirits is massive feels like a ridiculous understatement. For the average wine and spirits enthusiast, much of their world remains undiscovered. Given the inevitability that many producers are looking towards Asia to make up for slowing sales in Europe, punters will have many candidates to sieve through.

But regardless of whether you are an investor or an aficionado seeking new experiences, you will have a vested interest in seeking out hidden gems in a sea of new offerings. You can identify the best prospects and secure their ‘best’ examples early at fair prices. Even if you are not in it for monetary gain, it’s in your interests to keep your outlay reasonable, and your significant other, happy.

Perhaps monetary incentives from scoring a good deal can serve as a pragmatic way to kickstart one’s sense of adventure. Gen Z’s increasing importance as a paying customer can only be a boon in these circumstances as producers develop strategies and refine product offerings to appeal to the next generation of drinkers.

wines and spirits - korean omija spirit
A Korean spirit distilled from omija, also known as the five flavour berry.

Case in point: once labelled an old man’s drink, Cognac has been trying to appeal to a younger audience, as can be seen through Martell’s efforts with the introduction of new expressions like the Noblige, which also eschews the traditional packaging of old for a contemporary design.

This is why, with new blood helming distilleries and vineyards, we can expect them to approach the market differently, eager to make their presence felt.

The process of discovery

One such example lies in Chateau Arton of Haut Armagnac, which created Blanche d’Armagnac with some old-fashioned subversion of tradition. Today, it is run by the next generation in the form of Jean and Lili de Montal, who introduced biodynamic principles and progressive marketing respectively to showcase as best they can, the wonders of Armagnac.

Unlike Cognac, they assess the casks at six and ten years of age to determine which casks end up in regular blends, vintage blends or single casks, and there are even plans to create single-plot Armagnacs. It’s an irresistible combination; marketing smarts coupled with a well-made product, resulting an unusual proposition that you just don’t see every day. And because quantities are severely limited (only one or two single casks are released every year), they have plenty of investment potential.

Jampal was once considered extinct, but now has a second chance.

Likewise, Manzwine founder André Manz never had plans to be in the business of winemaking. He originally bought his vineyard intending to produce wine for self-consumption and to share with friends and family. All that changed when he found rare, high-maintenance Jampal vines in his vineyard. These were vines that the industry effectively wrote off, but he decided to work with them despite all advice to the contrary; he named the wine after his mother-in-law to ‘honour her acidity’.

Far be it for me to cast aspersions on the intentions behind a good story. But we have to remember that like it or not, these are the experiences that fans and connoisseurs talk about, long after the last drops of liquid have passed their lips. I can certainly relate to that.

New experiences to look out for

ProWine Singapore 2023, which starts on 25th April will see a variety of interesting wines and spirits exhibitors once more. Expect a host of unique exhibitors making their way east (in some cases, south).

Shabo is one of the oldest terroirs in Europe.

Here’s one that many may not have seen coming: most casual people probably would not have heard of Ukrainian wine until the recent conflict, and it’s hard to say if Shabo would be exhibiting at ProWine 2023 had life been normal. Located in Odesa, one of Europe’s oldest winemaking regions, Shabo is the only winery in Ukraine to have an appellation status for wines like Telti-Kuruk.

Closer to home, Siam Winery produces Monsoon Valley wine, a New Latitude offering that is slowly winning fans for its uniqueness – and its ability to be paired with Thai cuisine. Other offerings include Moose, Thailand’s first domestically fermented apple cider. With Moose Indie Summer, you can have subtle pandan notes for a distinctly Asian touch.

And if you have a love for Jeju Island in Korea, Buja Gin might interest you – it is Korea’s first organic gin, and more importantly, it features local aromatic herbs like hallabong and other assorted local herbs from the island. And for something unique, Omynara will be showing off Gowoon Dar, a schizandra chinesis-based (omija) wine distilled into liquor, as well as Omyrose, a sparkling wine made from omija berries.

Fruit Distillates are a speciality of East European states, and R. Jelínek from the Czech Republic will be showcasing its range of brandies and distillates. Look further south and you’ll find Testament of Nothern Dalmatia, Croatia, with its speciality wines made from indigenous Pošip and Babić grapes. Moving along the Adriatic coast and venturing up North to Veneto, we find Tenute Ca’Botta, a winery that specialises in making dry wines from dried grapes using the appassimento technique.

ProWine Singapore 2023 will be held at Singapore Expo from 25-28th April 2023. The highlighted names are just some of the many interesting wines and spirits exhibitors that will be present this year. Pre-register before 6pm, 24th April to avoid the registration fee of $85.

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