Gen­eral man­ager and head som­me­lier, Praelum Wine Bistro


Ger­ald Lu was crowned the youngest cham­pion at the Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Som­me­lier Com­pe­ti­tion when he was 25 years old. He has since gone on to at­tain ac­cred­i­ta­tions from the Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Pro­gramme and the Court of Mas­ter Som­me­liers, and is a Cer­ti­fied Spe­cial­ist of Wine (CSW) and Cer­ti­fied Sake Som­me­lier (SSI). Last year, Lu lit­er­ally came one full cir­cle when he won the na­tional cham­pion ti­tle at the eighth Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Som­me­lier Com­pe­ti­tion 2017. He is cur­rently the head som­me­lier and gen­eral man­ager at Praelum Wine Bistro, and the vice chair­man of the Som­me­lier As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore.

How has the con­cept of lux­ury wines changed over the years?

About 15 to 20 years ago, peo­ple who drank the great growths, Su­per Tus­cans, and the iconic Amer­i­can and Aus­tralian wines were con­sid­ered af­flu­ent. It was that straight­for­ward.

These days, with the com­bi­na­tion of con­ve­nient, af­ford­able travel and the reach of so­cial me­dia, wines that are ob­scure with minis­cule pro­duc­tion or only ob­tain­able through con­nec­tions, have be­come the new lux­ury. These wines are re­ferred to as uni­corn wines on so­cial me­dia.

With lux­ury fine din­ing, the am­bi­ence, the in­gre­di­ents used in the dishes, the ser­vice and the pre­sen­ta­tion play a part over­all ex­pe­ri­ence. With wines though, what are some at­tributes of a lux­ury wine?

Rar­ity, ob­tain­abil­ity and price. An­other thing that can el­e­vate the prices of wines in a restau­rant is the pres­ence of a good som­me­lier. The pre­sen­ta­tion and ser­vice of the wine be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter its opened, can leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on the drinker.

How do you en­vi­sion the lux­ury wine scene in the next five years?

I think there will be a strong ma­jor split—the clas­sic, fa­mous la­bels from his­tor­i­cal re­gions ver­sus the lesser known re­gions and pro­gres­sive pro­duc­ers with lim­ited bot­tlings. This will be driven strongly by lo­cal som­me­liers.

Are mil­len­ni­als chang­ing wine trends?

Yes, with­out a doubt. So­cial me­dia has a huge role to play in this shift. It is a lot eas­ier to un­der­stand some­thing that is fas­ci­nat­ing, cool and trendy, rather than go back in time, read, ask and even try to un­der­stand his­tory. Well hope­fully in time to come, there would be a bal­ance be­tween both.

Which la­bels would you con­sider a lux­ury and why?

There are two ways to look at this—I con­sider it a priv­i­lege to drink any of the clas­sics. Price aside, the fact that most of them con­sis­tently churn out qual­ity bot­tles year af­ter year is a tes­ta­ment to com­mit­ment, and if you take time to un­der­stand the vine­yard’s his­tory—how they came to and how their wines are pro­duced, you will re­alise that ev­ery bot­tle opened is an­other piece of his­tory gone in time. This is what makes a vin­tage wine valu­able and a lux­ury to drink.

Se­condly, any la­bel that holds spe­cial mem­o­ries to some­one can also be con­sid­ered a lux­ury.

Has the per­cep­tion of lux­ury wines changed with the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of nat­u­ral wines, or wines that are pro­duced sus­tain­ably?

I don’t think the per­cep­tion of lux­ury wines has changed much at all de­spite the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of nat­u­ral wines. There are plenty of lux­ury wines that farm and vinify un­der sus­tain­able, bio­dy­namic prac­tices.

I think its just an an­gle of look­ing at wines dif­fer­ently—past ver­sus present. Ad­di­tion­ally, I think the me­dia has played a huge role in putting nat­u­ral wines in the spot­light.

That said, from a com­mer­cial point of view, wine in Sin­ga­pore, as a whole, has gar­nered a lot more at­ten­tion over the last decade, so ev­ery­one ben­e­fits in the long run.

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