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Going outside the comfort zone

Editor-in-chief of Robert Parker Wine Advocate says wine subscriptions help newer subscribers develop their palate and connoisseurs to try something new

Wine subscriptions work for new wine drinkers as well as connoisseurs who can discover bottles out of their comfort zone, says Ms Lisa Perrotti-Brown, editor-in-chief of Robert Parker Wine Advocate.

Ms Perrotti-Brown, 49, was commenting on ST Wine, The Straits Times' recently launched wine subscription service.

Subscribers get a selection of two to four bottles of highly rated wines delivered to them every month. The collaboration with the influential wine authority, known for its 100-point wine rating system, is also a first-time venture for Wine Advocate.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Ms Perrotti-Brown says that such services "act like a stepping stone or guide post to help subscribers develop their palate and discover what styles of wine they like".

And with Wine Advocate's involvement, "they know that the wines chosen have been vetted and recommended by real professionals", she adds.

  • How to subscribe to ST Wine

  • Sign up with ST Wine at www.stwine.sg and have two to four bottles of wines delivered to you. It can be either a one-time purchase or a package subscription, comprising a selection of the best picks by ST Wine every month.

    One-time trial packages, consisting of two bottles each, are priced at $88, $128 and $188. Otherwise, the Gold and Platinum wine subscription packages last three or six months.

    Wines selected for these packages are all rated 90 to 95 points by Robert Parker Wine Advocate, marking them as outstanding and terrific wines.

    The Gold package highlights New World wines (from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and South America) and Europe, while the Platinum package highlights Old World wines from France, Italy and Spain.

    Gold and Platinum members will also have access to Robert Parker Wine Advocate's online reports and extensive tasting notes, so they can learn more about fine wines around the world.

    For inquiries, call 6319-5076 during office hours or e-mail STwine@sph.com.sg

Even for experienced wine lovers, she feels that it is about "being given inspiration on what new wines are out there".

"The great thing about wine is that it's a vast world, so to be offered wines via ST Wine that are maybe outside of your comfort zone, and to experiment and try something new - I think it could be of interest to people who already know quite a bit about wine," she adds.

The ST Wine subscription comes with free access to the Robert Parker Wine Advocate online portal - which typically costs $140 a year - offering reports and a vast database of tasting notes that wine lovers will find useful.

Ms Perrotti-Brown is a Master of Wine, one of the most prestigious titles in the wine world awarded by the London-based The Institute of Masters of Wine.

She took over as editor-in-chief from leading US wine critic Robert Parker at the end of 2012, after an eight-year stint as a reviewer based out of Singapore. The American is now based in the Napa Valley, where Wine Advocate's newest office opened 11/2 years ago.

She heads a team of eight other wine critics, including Parker, covering "almost all wine regions of the world". She herself covers Australia and New Zealand, as well as Oregon and Sonoma.

Having most recently spent time in New Zealand for Wine Advocate's latest report, she is excited about Pinot Noirs from the young wine-growing country.

"As New Zealand's vineyards become more mature, you see the emergence of great wine apart from the usual Marlborough Sau- vignon Blanc," she says.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate is not limiting itself to just wines. In August last year, it introduced a ratings guide for sake for the first time, with 78 bottles ranked by Chinese critic Liwen Hao, who also critiques wines from Asia for the publication.

Ms Perrotti-Brown says that bringing sake into the fold was a decision based on increased interest in global markets and cities such as New York, London and Singapore.

The highest ranking was awarded to sake from Niigata Prefecture's Kameno-o Sannen Jukusei, with 98 points.

Not long after the scores were released, a new sake exporter based in Tokyo, called The Taste Of Sake, was found to be selling the guide's 78 top-scoring sakes online, leading to suggestions that there were links between Robert Parker Wine Advocate and The Taste Of Sake, with the latter profiting from inside information.

Ms Perrotti-Brown describes the entire episode as "baffling", adding that the guide took the allegations seriously and had its attorneys investigate.

"There was no connection that could be found between the person who set up the tastings for us and the sake website," she says.

To ensure the credibility of the publication and reviews, she adds that the company will organise its own tastings and hire only specialists not affiliated with the trade.

It is looking to publish another sake report at the end of next month and a third in the middle of the year.

As for the possibility of adding a whisky report in the future, she says: "I wouldn't completely discount it, but we don't have any plans in the pipeline.

"For us, it's a matter of our reviewers being experts in that field. Maybe if we find a whisky expert, who knows?"

•Swig is a weekly page dedicated to all drinks distilled, brewed, fermented and aged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'Going outside the comfort zone'. Print Edition | Subscribe