Malaysian businessman makes red wine with a hint of white coffee flavour

Rozells Ipoh White Coffee Wine has done well in China, where Leo says that white coffee is very well-received. PHOTO: THE STAR / YAP CHEE HONG

(THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Coffee lovers who are also wine drinkers may not have to make those difficult choices any more - not since an enterprising Malaysian businessman decided to come up with the first-ever bottle combining both.

Rozells Ipoh White Coffee Wine is the result of Datuk David Leo's fondness for wine meeting his desire to market a product which could be representative of the country. He is hoping that it can become to Malaysia what tequila has become to Mexico, or vodka to Russia.

"My idea is to introduce Malaysian-made red wine all over the world, highlight a local specialty beverage at the same time. With this integration, the wine will reflect the Malaysian origin, taste and heritage. Whenever people see Ipoh White Coffee Wine on shelves, the first thing to come to mind is Malaysia, giving it an identity in the world of wines," he said.

Armed with an idea, Leo had to find a local winery to make it a reality. He ended up working with Scientific R&D - a fully-equipped working winery, albeit one which operates on a comparatively smaller scale.

"We ended up working on much tasting and blending for about one and a half years from the time I conceptualised the idea, so that we could get the balance of coffee and wine right," he said.

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The Rozells wine - named after Leo's mother's Eurasian surname - currently has a production of about 1,000 cases a month. According to Leo, his projected production target is 10,000 cases a month.

Leo's passion for wines has led him to pursue various qualifications in the field - embarking on courses with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (UK), Society of Wine Educators (US) and the French Wine Scholar programme under the Wine Scholar Guild.

"Some red wines do have a coffee character, which is why I chose this particular combination," said Leo. "The coffee is still there to accent, rather than to be prevalent in the blend."

The wine hit the market in August last year. Soon after it launched, Leo exported 300 cases to China. "Ipoh white coffee is popular in China, the awareness of what it is there is pretty high."

In a bottle of Rozells, you're looking at about 97 per cent wine - a 50-50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy - with just 3 per cent white coffee powder used for the infusion of flavour. The alcohol content is about 12 per cent, but the caffeine content is very low, said Leo. It retails for between RM53 (S$17) and RM70 (S$22) in Malaysia, depending on the outlet.

Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine also gets infused with oaky notes from oak chips or staves. "We use straightforward, New World-centric wine-making techniques," said Leo.

"When we decided to do this, we got a winemaker in from Adelaide in Australia, to consult on the technique. He trained our local winemaker, Yap Geok Khim."

A deep sniff reveals a strong, warm coffee aroma, with toasty oak notes and faint berries underlying. But the coffee flavour takes a backseat on the easy-drinking palate, which has a lightly acidic backbone. According to Leo, the wine should be served at a temperature of between 13 deg C and 18 deg C.

"It can be paired with char siew, Peking duck, red meats and cheese," said Leo.

Rozells Ipoh White Coffee Wine can be found at on, at Crave at Trec KL and Uncle Don's in Solaris Dutamas, with Leo having an eye on making it available in more retail outlets and restaurants.

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