A Busy Autumn
The last trimester of each year is always my most hectic. Since relocating to France ten years ago, I’ve resigned myself – with only minimal protest - to the fact that one cannot help but be dragged into the vacation month of August. The entire business economy comes to a halt, the schools are all closed, and with the kiddies in tow, away we go with the rest of the nation to embrace the remaining warmth of summer.
When September returns, it is always with a bit of a shock. The days become shorter and cooler, wine lovers move from poolside to fireside and from veranda to dining table, and cellars become progressively depleted as evening consumption increases.
As we move forward in these continually rising market conditions, many wine lovers are keen to replace their diminishing stocks and prepare for the remainder of the year and coming winter months. For wine merchants worldwide, fall is definitely the busiest trading period in the yearly cycle.
This year my business activity has returned with a vengeance. This has included two trips to the United States, one to the Middle East, almost daily travel around Europe throughout September - including Burgundy and Bordeaux during the harvest - and most recently, a seven day visit to the important regions of Singapore and the ever-expanding markets of mainland China and Hong Kong.
Although I say the trip was seven days, I do not officially count the weekend of arrival. This adjustment is made because I am such a terrible traveler that jet-lag always seems to wipe out the first two days after any long flight. This recovery period is something I now purposefully make allowances for in my schedule. On this occasion, my adjustment was spent at the truly splendid resort hotel Cappella on Sentosa Island. A former British Army camp that has been rebuilt as Singapore's modern entertainment capital, Sentosa now features a Universal Studios theme park and a massive casino.
Thankfully, Capella offers an oasis of tranquility amid the lights and noise. It is a fantastic hotel with an exacting attention to detail. Just opened in February 2010, this was already my second visit to the hotel. As a testament to its quality the hotel was also recently listed on the prestigious annual 'Hot List' from Conde Nast Traveller that lists the top 134 new hotels around the world. When the resort staff is expecting you, the effort they put into your welcome is something quite special. They take every opportunity to use your name, know that feather pillows and extra large bath robes is what are required, and they don’t need to be asked twice.
Capella's wine list is under development, but it still offers a host of First Growth Bordeaux and fine Burgundy including Romanee Conti. Already it is a wine list that makes the top restaurants in London appear modestly conservative in comparison.
Economically, Singapore is on the cusp of becoming the entertainment capital of South Asia. Since the government granted operational casino licenses to the Malaysian Genting Corporation and the Las Vegas Sands (both of which, incidentally,
are clients of The Antique Wine Company), they have picked up US$500M in tax revenue during the past three months alone!
How even the conservative Singapore Government can get this equation right, in comparison to the UK's aborted gaming reforms, is a debate for another day.
Starting in the 1980’s, Singapore became one of the earliest Far East markets to develop a taste for fine French wine. Due to this head start, it now has one of the most advanced and competitive wine markets (with some of the finest wine stores you will see on the planet) in all of Asia, along with a host of food and wine events for enthusiasts to attend.
Over afternoon tea with one of my importers, a former electronics and real estate entrepreneur who extended his wine hobby into a business, he tells me his current list of great wines includes 1982 Lafleur, Le Pin and Armand Rousseau’s 1985's. This year his operations have grown from six shops to ten, but he emphasizes how fiercely competitive the business is becoming in Singapore.
Later in the evening, my second importer tells me that the country is now so competitive he has actually spent more time selling wine in Russia this year than in Singapore. These days the wine business has few geographic boundaries!
Travel arrangements booked by Amex Platinum Travel Service.