Local sommeliers curate online wine list

Wanderwine co-founder Alexis Lhoyer (third from left) with sommeliers (from left) Gerald Lu, Stephanie Rigourd and Fazil Mohammad.
Wanderwine co-founder Alexis Lhoyer (third from left) with sommeliers (from left) Gerald Lu, Stephanie Rigourd and Fazil Mohammad. PHOTO: WANDERWINE

Sommeliers are the go-to people in restaurants and wine shops for advice on the right wine for the right food or occasion.

For those who do not know who to turn to, there is now a less intimidating way of getting insightful recommendations from sommeliers with a few clicks on the computer.

Online wine retailer Wanderwine is working with three sommeliers to curate its wine list.

They are Mr Gerald Lu, 30, from Praelum Wine Bistro in Duxton Hill, Mr Fazil Mohammad, 34, from Salt Grill and Sky Bar in Ion Orchard and Salt Tapas and Bar in Raffles City, and Ms Stephanie Rigourd, 28, from Hilton Singapore.

Wanderwine's inventory comprises more than 30 red, rose, sparkling and white wines imported mostly from France, although it also stocks wines from Australia, Italy and Switzerland.

The sommeliers submit their monthly wine picks, coupled with in-depth tasting notes, food pairing suggestions and background information on the wineries and wine-makers.

This line-up is refreshed with up to four wine labels each week. Up to 60 per cent of wine labels on Wanderwine are exclusive to the retailer.

They include Champagne Bricout Prestige NV, priced at $53.80, and Chateau Chasse-Spleen Moulis en Medoc, priced at $83, both from France. Wanderwine sells about 400 bottles of wines a month.

The portal was started by wine enthusiasts and entrepreneurs Alexis Lhoyer, 32, and Rishi Sood, 28. They met when they were doing a master's in Business Administration course here at the Insead Business School in 2012, and invested about $100,000 in the business.

Mr Lhoyer, who is from Picardy, France, says it is frustrating for wine enthusiasts to select the right wine from the vast selections in brick-and-mortar shops, as information from wine apps or retail assistants can be limited.

"By making sommeliers' knowledge of wines more accessible, we hope to help people find their perfect bottle of wine, while being assured of its price value and quality, and knowing the stories behind the wines," he says.

Besides conducting wine appreciation classes, Wanderwine also partners with the sommeliers' establishments to hold wine- tasting sessions twice a month.

He thinks the sommeliers are valuable because they know the Singaporean palate. "Unlike other online wine retailers which use sommeliers based in France or the United States, our sommeliers understand the food culture here better and recommend wines to suit local tastebuds."

Prices on Wanderwine range from $33.20 for a bottle of Chateau de Callac red wine to $89 for a bottle of Two Hands "Bella's Garden" Shiraz.

He says these prices are "wholesale prices with retail service", adding that the lower prices are due to bulk wine orders and lean operating costs without a need to hire retail staff or pay rent on a retail space.

To facilitate speedy delivery of the wines - at least eight hours from the time an order is made - Wanderwine has a three-man delivery team and uses delivery services, with most of its stock dispatched from a shared warehouse space in Jurong.

He adds: "It gives customers more certainty and convenience in getting their wines fast or else they might as well buy from wine shops." Delivery is free for orders above $75.

Wine enthusiasts can follow the distinctive styles of each sommelier to discover new wines and expand their wine palettes.

Mr Fazil says his style centres on wines that are reflective of the terroir of the grapes, have a balance of being sweet and tannic, with a medium to long finish for the flavours to mingle in the mouth.

He says: "Through this platform, more people can understand the work sommeliers do."

Mr Lu gravitates towards wines with a rich history or quirky production methods. An example is a pinot noir by Lucy Margaux Vineyards, a biodynamic winery near Adelaide in Australia, which is fermented in an egg-shaped concrete tank.

He adds that choosing wines for an online audience is more difficult as "it is a one-shot attempt to push the right wines that are within a reasonable bandwith of prices".

"Having an online platform raises the level of wine-drinking here as people can understand what they are drinking," he says.

"Wine drinkers can get the knowledge sommeliers have accumulated from years of training and travelling. It is like having your own sommelier on your deskop."

•For more information, go to wanderwine.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - KGTIPPLES12'. Print Edition | Subscribe