Back to South East Asia – First stop Singapore!

We returned to Singapore for the first time since Covid stopped travel – A report from Misha

The last time we were in South-East Asia visiting customers and hosting Misha’s Vineyard wine events was November 2019, so it was fantastic to return to one of our favourite regions some three years and three months later!

Our first stop was Singapore – a place that’s very special to Andy and me having lived there for 17 years, including while we were establishing Misha’s Vineyard. It’s a key market for our wines and one of the first export markets when launching our brand.

Wine training at Crystal Wines
On the agenda for the first morning in the “Lion City” was staff training with a team from our distributor, Crystal Wines. We noticed a few new faces around the boardroom table, not surprisingly, but also Crystal’s office space has been slightly reduced and reconfigured to a more open plan concept with ‘hot desks’ and that was surprising. Across Asia, work culture has been rooted in more traditional ways with amount of time spent in the office often an indicator of commitment, but the pandemic forced a change in the way businesses operate and now employees want to retain that flexibility of working from home, or at least a hybrid version of it.

Famous Treasures Restaurant
The three days in Singapore were very productive in terms of the sheer number of customers and consumers we connected with over lunch events, tastings and masterclasses. Our first trade lunch was at Famous Treasure – a modern Chinese restaurant with cuisine that celebrates the Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese cultures that have assimilated into South East Asia. It was great to chat to customers and discuss the merits of different pairings of our pinot noir and aromatic whites with an array of dishes. Our first evening event was a consumer wine tasting at One Cellar, which is owned by One Minor Group, who curate a selection of wines for their customers and enable customers to develop closer links with wine producers though small in-depth tastings. The following day after lunch at Wooloomooloo restaurant, which has been a key account for some years, we hosted a Masterclass with trade customers at Wine Universe in Millenia Walk on Raffles Boulevard which ‘small bites’ paired to the selection of wines over the two-hour class. Our final event that day was a consumer tasting at a beautiful new retail shop that Crystal Wines has established at CapitaSpring in the heart of the financial district.

Lee Joon Peng from That Wine PLace
The final day in Singapore comprised customer meetings including a visit to a new wine ship in Holland Village called That Wine Place with a very impressive range of wines due to the passion of owner Lee Joon Peng. Seeing speciality wine shops with incredible wine ranges like this definitely shows a booming premium and luxury wine market in Singapore. It was so rewarding to reconnect with many of our restaurant and hotel customers during our visit and to experience just how busy things were with tourism now firmly at the fore.

The amazing Changi Airport!
According to The Straits Times, international visitor arrivals to Singapore are expected to hit 12-14 million in 2023 representing tourism revenues of between S$18-$21 billion, with a full tourism recovery expected by 2024. To put this in perspective, during 2021 when the impact of pandemic was most severe, there were just 330,000 visitors bringing in just S$1.9 billion in tourism. And Singapore is preparing for another giant leap in growth with the construction of a new airport terminal, T5 scheduled for completion in the middle of next decade. It will be able to handle 50 million travellers a year in it’s initial phase. With the addition of the fifth terminal, Changi Airport will be able to cater to more than 150 million passengers annually. It’s mind boggling when you consider Singapore has a similar population to New Zealand of around 5 million people and the whole country fits into the area of New Zealand’s Lake Taupo.

Trade Masterclass at Wine Universe
Not only is Singapore keen to assume an aviation leadership over rival Hong Kong but it’s also positioning itself as the centre for fine wine in Asia. Vinexpo Asia, the flagship event for global event organiser Vinexposium across Asia Pacific will be staged in Singapore in May 2023, having been held in Hong Kong every two years the past 20 years up to 2018. Organisers simply decided Hong Kong is not where they want to be in the future. “Singapore has now become the platform for wines in Asia. Vinexpo Asia aims to cover the entire scope of the previous exhibition”, explains Vinexposium CEO Rodolphe Lameyse. It seems Hong Kong’s attractiveness has faded due to combination of democracy and Covid crises, with Singapore now emerging as the region’s fastest growing and potentially important wine hub. It is already the Asian headquarters for many major wine producers and businesses.

Kori Millar – GM at 67 Pall Mall
We certainly saw another indicator of Singapore’s growing importance in fine wine with the opening of 67 Pall Mall Singapore – a private Member’s Club for wine lovers in a spectacularly refurbished penthouse in the heart of Singapore’s busy Orchard Road. It’s the first Asian outpost of 67 Pall Mall which opened its doors in London in 2015. With a collection of 5,000 wines with 1,000 available by-the-glass, it’s proudly claimed the title of the biggest and most diverse wine list in South-East Asia!

We were delighted to host our final event in Singapore at 67 Pall Mall with a Masterclass at the Club to show the ageability of Central Otago Pinot Noir and the region’s ‘best kept secret’ – the aromatic white wines. With a 16-strong sommelier team at the Club, the level of ‘service’ for our event was impressive. Just as we were setting up for our Masterclass, the Club’s Head Sommelier Roberto Duran, came to assure me all our magnums of Pinot Noir were in perfect condition having just expertly opened them and exercised his finely-tuned palate and infallible nose! With the exception of Pinot Noir magnums which are sealed with cork and then with a layer of wax, all of our wine is bottled under screwcap and so dealing with the uncertainty of cork taint is not something we have do very often. And we timed our Masterclass at 67 Pall Mall perfectly as they were celebrating their first year of operations.

Next month, we will be welcoming a group of ten people from Singapore comprising most our trade customers along with a couple of senior staff from our distributor. We look forward to impressing them with the incredible beauty of the Central Otago region and showing them exactly what makes our region and our fine wines so special – along with having a little fun!