Sip, Sip Hooray!
Established in Singapore 14 years ago, Straits Wine Company expanded to Malaysia shortly after, with the mission of spreading the gospel of wine. We find out how Tan Meng How and Ting Guo Yi run their two-man show
Which courses helped sharpen your knowledge on wines? Meng How:
We’re both certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
I just passed mine actually. If you’re passionate about your drinks, just head straight to level two; level one is extremely simple. You can even jump right to level three, but will need to pass level three to even register for level four.
What comes after? GY:
Passing level four is a prerequisite for getting into the Master of Wine programme.
Not only is it the most expensive masters programme in the world, there’s no guarantee of getting a hold of your certification. [Laughs] You could more easily spend a million.
Why so cut-throat? MH:
Students must acquire bottles and bottles of wines—some very expensive— to taste them. It’s part of the syllabus.
Sounds like a rich man’s diploma. Conversely, Straits Wine makes wine accessible to all. As an importer, retailer and distributor, your roles are manifold. What keeps you on your toes? MH:
Corporates pay us to consult their menus and to flesh out wine pairings.
Some months ago, for instance, a jewellery company reached out to us to recommend wine pairings for mooncakes.
The biggest event in our calendar is the annual Malaysia Wine Fiesta.
How does such a small team handle such a jam-packed fiesta? GY:
We’ve been doing this for so long, and have Singapore’s backing when it comes to contacts. We also hire hospitality students if necessary.
Most of my favourite restaurants— the few that carry organic or natural wines—name you as their source. MH:
We have a few competitors but if you look at our portfolio, we are certainly the largest. Alta, Chocha, Joloko, Roost and the Troika Group are some establishments carrying our products. We only started introducing natural wines to the local market two to three years ago, and it’s taken lots of lectures and tastings to educate the public. When the uninitiated try unfiltered wine, they are initially put off by the fact that it’s cloudy.
Another problem is Malaysia’s alcohol tax, which prohibits a wider appreciation of wine.
When comparing today’s wine and spirits industry to what it was a decade ago, what’s the most glaring change? MH:
While it was mostly chains before, we’re seeing the birth of more privately owned or conceptual restaurants and bars.
There is also a greater appreciation of more sophisticated wines. Today’s audience is more adventurous when it comes to exploring new styles and flavours.