Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Introducing the Alsace Wine and Gastronomy Society, Singapore

Alsace, Alsace, Alsace.  

Wherever my eating and drinking adventures take me, all roads lead eventually back to this beautiful strip of land on the western banks of the Upper Rhine.

The canal of Colmar's La Petite Venise
For some reason, Alsace wines do not have a following in Singapore, even less so than German wines, so it's clearly not (a) the fact that they are white, nor (b) the Germanic bottle shape or (c) that some of them have residual sugar.  My gut feeling is that the unpredictability of what's in the bottle (is it dry, is it sweet?) puts off many consumers, coupled with the fact that Singaporean importers mark-up Alsace wines by pretty incredible margins.  Profiteering on Bordeaux and Burgundy can be explained (if not justified) by the fact that they are much sought-after items by local wine aficionados, and some of them can also be a decent investment.  Alsace wines, much as I love them, are none of those things.  Last month, I received an email from a wine distributor, selling an Alsace Grand Cru Riesling (which you could buy retail in Europe for 22 euros) for S$110 (67 euros).  Enough said.


Alsace wine also appears to have a bit of an image problem.  I recently went to a tasting which was packed with burg-heads.  My neighbour, an unprepossessing bespectacled gentleman, introduced himself and asked me the fateful question: which is your favourite wine region?  When I told him, from the look on his face I may as well have confessed to a penchant for hard drugs.

For all these reasons, the Singaporean importer of Alsace wine, seeing the green flute bottles gathering dust in his warehouse, pleads with the winemaker to come out here and help him market to trade and consumers.  99 times out of 100, the winemaker, who sells only some 30 cases of his wine to the Singapore market annually at a low on-trade price, doesn't see how he can justify a trip to Asia.  So we end up with a chicken-and-egg problem, except this particular egg was never fertilised in the first place.

So in January 2013, the Alsace Wine & Gastronomy Society, Singapore was born.

The Society

The Alsace WaGS (an unfortunate acronym, yes) is a network of food and wine lovers from all nationalities and all walks of life, but with a particular interest in Alsace.  

Our goals are simple.  We want to
  • stimulate local and regional interest in the wine and food of Alsace;  
  • put on a few events a year, at which we can discover the joys of Alsacien wine and food;  
  • connect people who love Alsace wine and food; and
  • act as a mailing list for members so they know when a top Alsacien chef or winemaker is visiting Singapore / Southeast Asia.  We will work with Sopexa and CIVA to ensure members are kept up to date at all times and, every once in a while, try to persuade these artisans to put on a show specially for our members.  We hope that with a critical mass of consumer champions in place, they will be encouraged to visit more often, thereby generating a self-sustaining momentum.
I must emphasise that we are not a wine brotherhood in the traditional sense of that term.  We do not have any robes, amulets, secret handshakes or even membership fees.  We are just a convivial society dedicated to enjoying good wine, good food and good company.  

If you are resident in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, and would like to join our mailing list and maybe even drop in for an event or two, we would love to hear from you.  Please send an email with your name, contacts and details of your favourite Alsace wine to julianswriting AT gmail DOT com and I will be in touch.

Launching the Society

We are honoured to have Etienne Hugel and Kaoru Matsuyoshi of Hugel et Fils help us launch the Society at a lunch in Singapore on Saturday, 26 January 2013.  

Etienne, the 12th generation co-proprietor of this venerable winery, is the "1 out of 100" winemakers who does travel far and wide to support his international distributors.  Eloquent, intelligent and passionate, he comes out to Asia at least once a year, often on extended visits, to preach the virtues of Alsace.  For him, there is no better match for our tropical climate and exotic cuisines than Alsace wine.   And for a lover of Alsace wine, there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than sharing a glass of Hugel Riesling over lunch with Etienne and his beautiful fianceé Kaoru.

Etienne Hugel, spreading the gospel of Alsace one glass at a time
With the very kind support of Hugel et Fils and its Singaporean importers Monopole, our members will enjoy a selection of Hugel wines (including late-harvest dessert wines, the Hugel spécialité de la maison) with eight courses of Chinese (Teochew) cuisine.  Finding ideal pairings between Alsace wine and Asian cuisine has long been one of Etienne's missions, a mission with which we are glad to help out!

Unfortunately, all 20 seats at this lunch have long been booked out.  But if you want to catch Etienne in Singapore this year, he will be at the Hugel et Fils stand at Marina Bay Sands' Epicurean Market from Friday, 25 January - Sunday, 27 January 2013, where the 2011 Hugel Gentil and 2005 Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive will go for a ridiculously low $3 and $6 a glass respectively.  He will also be hosting Alsace wine masterclasses at the Epicurean Market from 7-8pm on Friday (the grape varieties of Alsace) and Saturday (featuring Hugel's grand cru and late harvest wines).

Full details of Etienne's masterclasses and exhibition at http://www.marinabaysands.com/Singapore-Restaurants/Epicurean-Market/

Visit www.hugel.com and www.monopole.com.sg

Related Articles

 - Hugel et Fils - The Ambassadors of Alsace (January 2012)
 - An Evening with Etienne Hugel, February 2012

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