Three new wine bars have joined Singapore's crowded bar scene in the past few months and they are making their presence felt.
Wine RVLT in Killiney Road is run by two wine professionals with day jobs who eschew commercial and mass-market labels in favour of natural, organic and biodynamic wines.
Grignoter by chef Justin Quek in the Keong Saik area celebrates affordable but quality wines selected from Bordeaux, along with his take on rustic French fare.
There is also Parisian wine bar Le Quinze Vins, which opened its first Singapore outlet in Boon Tat Street and has more than 1,500 labels from all over France.
Wine lovers ranging from connoisseurs to newbies will find a bottle to suit every budget and palate.
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Going organic with wines
111 Killiney Road, tel: 9388-1436, open: noon to midnight daily
Two long-time sommeliers are flipping the script on what they call Singapore's "stagnant" wine scene, by offering only natural, organic and biodynamic wines at their bar.
Wine RVLT, short for Wine Revolution, opened at the end of September and it looks more like a dive bar than a typically snazzy wine bar.
The 42-seat bar has concrete floors, serves its wares in stemless wine glasses and has an atypical wine list comprising bottles arranged on shelves with the prices written on the bottles.
Next door is steak restaurant Mad Cow, from which Wine RVLT customers can order food. These include light bites with an Asian influence, such as Mad Cow's Kueh Pie Tee ($12) and meats grilled in a Josper oven.
Wine RVLT founders Ian Lim, 32, and Al Gho, 35, both of whom have day jobs in the wine industry, say they chose to serve natural and biodynamic wines because such wines are all about sustainability and they want to support "true winemakers".
Natural wines have minimal intervention in the winemaking process, with no sulphur or colouring agents added, while biodynamic wines are made using the principles of biodynamic viticulture, sometimes accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles.
While such wines have taken off in other parts of the world, Mr Lim says: "In Singapore, everybody is always drinking the same wines and sticking to familiar names. People are not adventurous, but we want them to discover new wines by showing them what's available and get people excited to try them."
He says commercial winemaking is now a numbers game, where the competition is on to see who can make the cheapest wine at the highest volume.
"I had this epiphany about two years ago that wines should be made by farmers, the guys who live and breathe it, and not some big corporation churning out a couple of million bottles," he says.
So, most of the winemakers they source from are small brands such as Craig Hawkins from Testalonga in South Africa, who runs an 11ha farm that produces only 30,000 bottles a year.
There is a rotating list of 50 to 80 bottles at any one time, with bottles priced between $55 and $140 nett, and there is a 10 per cent discount on takeaway bottles.
Wines come from familiar regions such as Australia and France, but more unusual varieties such as Austrian and Croatian wines, are also available.
Instead of a set list of options, the selection of white or red wines by the glass changes daily.
"We're trying to change the way people drink," says Mr Lim. "If nobody's going to do it, we will do it."
Take part in the 'Tour de France'
LE QUINZE VINS SINGAPORE
29 Boon Tat Street, tel: 6222-8266, open: 3pm to midnight (Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays), 11am to midnight (Wednesdays to Fridays), closed on Sundays
At only 200 sq ft, Le Quinze Vins Singapore is one of the smallest of the new wine bars that have opened in Singapore, but it houses the largest collection - of 5,000 bottles. It specialises in French wines and general manager Romain Michaud says he is aiming to have the best representation of French wines in Singapore.
The bottles are priced from $50 for a table wine such as the 2014 Raisins Gaulois from Beaujolais, to $9,200 for a coveted vintage such as the 1988 Chateau Haut-Brion from Bordeaux.
"All of the big regions are represented, whether it's Burgundy, Bordeaux or the Loire Valley, but we also have selections from smaller regions like Savoie or Jura," says the 27-year-old Frenchman, who is from Lyon.
He jokes that guests can take part in the Tour de France of wines, travelling around France through the bar's extensive collection of wines.
Wines are taken seriously enough here that there are four different wine glasses for the different varieties of wine, with fragile vintages for instance, served in larger, tulip- shaped glasses, so that the liquid still gets oxygenation without having to be decanted.
While they are not trained sommeliers, Mr Michaud says he and his four-member team are "wine lovers" and he likens picking out wines to choosing an outfit.
"It depends on your mood that day," he says.
The Singapore outlet of Le Quinze Vins, which opened in August, is an offshoot of the celebrated Parisian wine bar of the same name, which was opened by a group of friends in 2010. The Singapore outlet is the fourth, after two opened in Hong Kong in 2014 and last year.
Singapore was a natural choice given that many Europeans pass through the city and Le Quinze Vins is a familiar name especially to Parisians, says Mr Michaud.
Other than the wines, the 70-seat wine bar also offers light bites, including cheeses from Parisian cheese shop Fromagerie Alleosse and Poilane bread that is flown in from Paris twice a week, alongside French cafe food such as croque monsieur and Quiche Lorraine.
Affordable Bordeaux bottles
GRIGNOTER BY CHEF JUSTIN QUEK
2 Teck Lim Road, tel: 6438-3802, open: noon to midnight (Tuesdays to Fridays), 4pm to midnight (Mondays and Saturdays), closed on Sundays
While high-end and expensive Bordeaux wines are readily available in Singapore, chef Justin Quek's 40-seat wine bar off Keong Saik Road seeks to introduce less-famous wines from the famous wine-producing region to customers in Singapore, at lower prices.
Grignoter, which means nibble in French, is also South-east Asia's first Bordeaux wine bar. It has affordable wines that cost $70 a bottle on average. Customers can expect to pay from $10 a glass to $48 for a bottle of white 2015 Chateau Lauduc to $288 for a magnum of 2005 Chateau Brillette Cru Bourgeois.
Customers who buy bottles to go get 25 per cent off.
The partnership with the Bordeaux Wine Council (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, also known as CIVB) gives Quek direct access to wines not readily available in Singapore. These include Cru Artisan wines, a classification of wines. To qualify, the estates must be family businesses that grow their own grapes, make, market and sell their own wines. He wants people to discover lesser-known Bordeaux wines instead of sticking to familiar labels.
"They're not necessarily famous, but these wines are reasonably priced and well made," he says.
While the chef's other establishment, Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands, serves fine-dining Asian- French fusion cuisine, Grignoter focuses on the kind of simple food that takes him back to his classical French culinary training days.
Instead of the rillettes or cheese boards available in typical wine bars, he brings his expertise to dishes such as charcoal-grilled marinated fresh chicken livers served with a Bordeaux glaze ($6).
"It's rustic French food, made from my imagination. All of these are my old recipes, but most importantly, it's food that matches with wine," he says.
He is also particular about the way the wines on offer are served. He insists that they be chilled to about 22 deg C, "as wine that is warm is heavy". Younger vintages are set aside to breathe before they are served.
"If you let it breathe, one hour later, it's amazing."
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