Having spent the last 2 weeks living out of a carry-on bag and from restaurant food, this morning I can enjoy my first lazy breakfast at home and reflect on the 2 weeks spent in Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. When I first explored those markets 10 years ago, there was the usual young market demand for the top Grand Crus for the tiny population of uber wealthy and for everyone else you could find the cheapest editions available of recognizable names such as Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti, merlot etc. Basically the antithesis of what I aim to offer with Jules – I steer clear of names that command premiums and look for the best value in grapes and styles but never the cheapest.
Fortunately much has changed since then, following the typical pattern of maturing wine markets. I found a wide selection of wines from all over the world, with most expansion happening in the middle range as wealthy consumers become more discerning and value driven and middle classes drinking more.
I also found the most regular drinkers were rating wines on mobile apps such as vivino which plays to men’s competitive nature of rating more wines than their peers. I think the old days where wine was shrouded in mystery and snobbery propped up by men with fancy titles are kind of gone. Consumers are confident and curious and see through the old smoking mirror tricks.
I look forward to the challenge of engaging with these consumers in ways that are relevant to them. However the local trade has not really risen to the challenge and is not innovating. A big part of the problem is that the hospitality sector does not attract these same consumers. This is mostly because jobs in restaurants and wine stores are poorly paid and wine taxes are high so waiting staff cannot afford to be regular wine drinkers. I spent most of my time there doing staff trainings and while I found their level of knowledge low, they were interested and asked lots of smart questions so I think the situation will improve with time as more producers invest their time in the market.
Many thanks to our Jules wines partner in the region Straits Wine Company who have been pushing the envelope notably with their events and who won the Award of Excellence / wine distributor of the year at the World Gourmet Summit this year – Congratulations.
I would also like to thank the BERJAYA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF HOSPITALITY for kindly inviting me to speak in their splendid lecture theater to distinguished F&B professionals; it was an honor and I learnt a great deal from the challenging Q&A at the end. Their facilities were very impressive which I think is an indication of what we should expect from Malaysia as their F&B sector continue to raise their game.