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Celebrating 20 years of fine wine

Mr Tan Wee Lee, the managing director of Crystal Wines which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Mr Tan Wee Lee, the managing director of Crystal Wines which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Wine merchant Crystal Wines celebrates its 20th anniversary with a mega wine event

It was one of the first few quality Bordeaux wines he tasted in 2000 as a rookie marketing executive at wine merchant Crystal Wines. Mr Tan Wee Lee was captivated by the Chateau Pichon Lalande, and so were his clients as the wine became a bestseller on his portfolio.

Now Mr Tan, 44, is including the wine in Crystal Wines’s 20th Anniversary celebrations called Colours of Wine held at Chjimes on Aug 25. The ticketed wine event will feature a mega wine sale and buffet spread.

The managing director of Crystal Wine says: “The winery has evolved yet maintained the same style of the wine and consistently produces wine of high quality throughout the years.”

Mr Tan, who has visited the winery in Pauillac thrice, says that even Chateau Pichon Lalande vintages produced in 1997 and 2007 - generally regarded as weak years for Bordeaux wines, did not disappoint.

The winery’s unwavering pursuit of quality, without raising its wine prices exponentially, strikes a chord with Mr Tan who has been a part of Crystal Wines’s journey in the last two decades.

His brother, Mr Tan Wee Han, 51, started the company in 1998.

“My brother wanted to bring quality wines to the local market at affordable prices and this remains the goal of Crystal Wines even as the company is evolving,” says the younger Tan who took over as managing director in 2012.

  • Crystal Wines’s 20th Anniversary Colours of Wine

  • WHERE: Chjimes Hall, 30 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Aug 25 (Saturday)

    OPENING HOURS: 11am to 3pm (lunch session); 5pm to 9pm (dinner session)

    COST: $68 for lunch buffet (food is served from 11am to 2pm); $88 for dinner buffet (food is served from 5pm to 8pm).

    Ticket price includes unlimited tasting of 200 wines and an international buffet spread.

  • For more information and to book tickets, go to www.crystalwines.com

    The first 100 Straits Times readers to sign up can enjoy a 20 per cent discount off ticket prices by using the promo code CRYSTAL20.

    Terms and conditions apply.

The company which started out with a staff of six full-timers and 300 bottles of wine to sell now has 35 employees. Its office is at Delta House and it has a retail shop at Valley Point which carries over 1,000 labels.

At any one time, the retail shop has an inventory of some 8,000 bottles. The company also has about 60,000 bottles of wine at its warehouse. It is also the sole distributor in Singapore for 30 wineries from nine countries. Prices cater to a range of budgets, starting from $30. The most expensive bottle that Crystal Wines has is the Domaine Romanee Conti 1990 which costs $18,000.

Mr Tan, who has a degree in banking and finance, first joined Crystal Wines as a part-timer in 1999 while trying out for a full-time job in the banking industry.

His duties included working at the warehouse, carrying wine crates and stacking them for storage. He also learned to process wine orders and helped out at Crystal Wine’s retail shop at the former Promenade in Orchard.

The work taught him how to take care of wines, about the need for control over temperature and humidity in storage, and honed his eye for detail.

He recalls: “At first, I could not tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines. But as I read more and tasted more, I discovered that it is not true that cheaper wines are not as good to drink as the expensive ones.”

His curiosity about the European food and wine culture grew. He began trying out wines with local food.

In 2000, he set his heart on building a career in the wine industry and joined the company full-time.

Today, Crystal Wines caters to both private consumers and its growing network of clients in the food and beverage industry.

Mr Tan says: “We have built up good relationships with wineries from different parts of the world, and we are able to get better prices. Being established allows us to pass on our cost savings to our customers.”

Crystal Wines’s competitive edge also comes from offering a wide choice of wines to its customers.

It also moved into the sales and distribution of wine accessories such as wine fridges and wine storage solutions.

Part of its business its also organising wine events such as wine pairing dinners and tastings.

Crystal Wines organised its first wine dinner in 2000 featuring the Chateau Pichon Lalande.

The company’s upcoming Colours of Wine at Chjimes is the largest wine event it has organised to date.

There will be 26 booths of participating wineries from different wine regions selling over 500 wines at special prices ranging from $30 to $200. Visitors can enjoy discounts exclusive to the event.

The Chateau Pichon Lalande 2012 vintage usually priced at $199 will be available for $169 at the event.

Visitors will be able to taste over 200 wines and speak to wine ambassadors from France, Australia, Chile, Italy and Spain. Visitors can also tuck into a sumptuous buffet spread. The lunch buffet includes Basque Chicken, a charcuterie, a cheese platter of five types of cheeses, and smoked salmon. The dinner buffet includes a carving station for Roasted Sirloin with Red Wine,  Mustard Sauce and Grilled Vegetables.

Mr Tan says: “The wine sale is our way of thanking our customers for their support and celebrate our 20th anniversary them with great food and wine. It is also our way to reach out to more people who are interested to find out more about wines.

”Our visitors will get to taste wines that they may not easily get on the market and have the opportunity to speak to the wine ambassadors.”