Congratulations fellow Singaporeans. Last week we were on the international limelight, again. With the highly influential wine-critic Robert Parker sold away a major stake of his publication, The Wine Advocate (WA), to Singaporean investors trio, the wine business world is around us. As all swords cut both ways, these are what I see of the trade.
Who’s Robert Parker?
If you asked that, well… He’s a market maker, price shifter and you are certainly not reading enough wine publications. Unquestionably his words weigh a tonne. For close to 30 years, Robert M. Parker, Jr. had fully devoted in assessing wines from Bordeaux, Rhone and California. Prior to this career swing in 1984, he served as the assistant general counsel for the Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore with a Juris Doctor degree. While there were highs and lows, wonderful predictions and occasional bloopers, his presence in the international market had resulted in wine makers making wines that are ‘tuned’ to his palate. An effect known as ‘Parkerized’.
But his contribution to wine ranking cannot be ignored. Known for the 100-point scale, he made wine-rating sounds like high school assessment. Any where between 95 and 100-point can guarantee a price tag re-labelling, while point less than 90 are not mentioned. In Asia where critics have yet to develop a name for themselves, highly affluent consumers in China have relied on Bob’s rating as the quality compass. And even in Singapore, it is common to see wines being labelled with the tag “RP” or “Robert Parker” followed by a number from 90 upwards.
Who are the rich trio?
International news sources have attributed the funding originated from high roller, Mr Soo-Hoo Khoon Peng. His recent departure from a prominent fine wines importer suggested that he could have cashed out his stake for the acquisition. A task he possibly undertook with two other Singaporeans in the finance and technology sector. However during an interview with local news agency, The Straits Time, Mr Soo-Hoo acknowledged that he was approached but subsequently maintained he was not involved in the deal. As of writing time, news report on this deal has died down but I remain sceptical about international sources.
The first few moments were filled with baffling information on the social network. With plans of cessation of printed publication, accepting advertising, digitization of subscription, setting up of Singapore office being made public, Bob made several quick turn around responses. Advertising will be specifically non-wine related and brand HQ remains in Maryland even though all operations will effectively be in Singapore. Major PR confusion or internal conflicts of interest?
So what can this brings to us?
On her appointment as the new editor-in-chief, Lisa Perrotti Brown MW stated the new opening of Singapore office will bring WA closer to the Asian markets. Increased coverage of China, hosting of wine related events and furthering education for the region. For consumers, this spells a new level of excitement for wine lovers. As the new Asian central, we can possibly expect more fine wine merchants and events. A trend that has done well in Hong Kong over the past couple of years. Secondly, business springboard from Singapore to regional developing markets such as Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia ought to be an easier task.
But on a second look, is this going to be something for mass consumers or is the local market going to go all fine-wines style? WA has an estimated 50,000 subscribers around the world, will its presence in Asia shift the numbers upwards? Bearing in mind that the Chinese is famous for one thing, replication. I won’t be surprised if the Chinese version of WA will spring overnight and took the entire Chinese market with a sweep.
Meanwhile, I am certain there will be more details on the buyers, eventually.