Making premium wines and champagne as accessible as a $20 bottle is part of the plan for Mr Simon Cant, who was recently appointed director of beer, wine and spirits at the Dairy Farm group.
Dairy Farm runs 7-Eleven convenience stores as well as Cold Storage, Giant, Jasons and Market Place supermarkets.
“We want to have the best wine business in Singapore for various wine consumers – whether you’re a convenience shopper who just wants to pick up a bottle of wine at 7-Eleven, a value shopper at Giant or someone who really wants to browse the wines at Cold Storage or Jasons,” says Mr Cant.
The 44-year-old Australian, who has 25 years’ experience in the wine industry, was previously with Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates, where he was most recently the Penfolds wine-making ambassador for Asia.
Already, he has improvements planned for Cold Storage’s wine sections.
“At the heart of it is making navigation really easy, whether you’re a fine wine expert looking for a $2,000 bottle of wine or you’re an everyday consumer who wants a bottle of red for a Tuesday night,” he says.
“For both consumers, we’re giving space on shelf and in store to educate people on the options.” This means there will be visual cues for customers to make it easier to select wines.
“We are also now investing in putting specialist wine people – which is what makes the specialist wine stores different – in each of our key stores,” he says.
While he was unable to reveal how much high-end wine and champagne is snapped up each month at Cold Storage outlets, he says: “The person who comes in for the $20 bottle of wine, might want to come and get a bottle of champagne for a special occasion, so we always have to be ready.”
In selecting wines for the group and for Cold Storage’s upcoming International Wine Fair, Mr Cant, who has been based here for five years, is mindful of the Singaporean palate.
“It really surprised me that in a country this hot and humid, everyone just drinks red wine – and big reds at that,” he says.
But while he is aware of existing taste preferences, he wanted to “create a bit of excitement and show people the alternatives out there”.
On the selection, he says: “The whites we have are crisper and lighter, with less influence from wood, and in the reds, we’ve looked to places where the climate is hot – like northern Spain and southern Italy – where the wines are full-bodied, but there’s a freshness to them.”
With 53 stores here, Cold Storage is an attractive retail option for winemakers, he says. The supermarket stocks more than 400 wines, about 280 of which are imported directly and exclusive to it.
“There are thousands of different wine producers and more are looking for exclusive retailers, but it also comes down to the fact that we can deliver on scale and put their wines in more stores, which a lot of the smaller guys can’t.”
Many of the wines will be on show at Cold Storage’s International Wine Fair at VivoCity, held from tomorrow to next Sunday. There will be about 480 labels from more than 10 countries at the fair, which is now in its 10th year.
Wines range from a Terra Vega Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile at $19 to a high-end Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1986 from Bordeaux, France, at $1,979.
This year, visitors to the festival will be able to sample more than 60 wines every day and 18 department managers from across Dairy Farm’s network, who have undergone Wine & Spirit Education Trust training, will be on hand to answer their questions on wines.
Mr Cant adds: “We’ve also got a big, long bar, with 20 people behind it pouring you wine in a proper wine glass, instead of in a little plastic cup.”
• The Cold Storage International Wine Fair runs from tomorrow to next Sunday, 10am to 10pm, at Main Atrium, Level 1 VivoCity.