Is direct to consumers the way forward?

If there is a way to bring wines straight from fields to door with a snap of the finger, I will be exhilarated. But in reality, wines go through many hands and vehicles before they sit in stores waiting to be picked up. Dollars and cents along the way compounded into the final price tag we see. Knowing the fees involved, some new intermediaries came to our market and decided to keep hands away from our wines before they get to our homes.

Farmer’s market is practically invisible in Singapore. They exist, but stay really far out of sight. At one time, Singapore’s food demand was self-sufficient, close to a quarter of Singapore land were for agriculture. But with population growth, most of these spaces have been turned into residential, and whatever farms left are down to a handful in the remote of north-western Singapore. With modern “farmer’s market” sprung up in places like PasarBella, what our parents feel nostalgic is now considered a modern novelty.

One of the tenants here at PasarBella is Merchant’s Singapore. Opened bout a year, it is partly funded by its own parent company and another 40 Australian boutique wineries in a cooperative fashion. To create a similar ex-cellar door experience in Australia, Merchants brings in winemaker into the two outlets on weekly basis. For regular customers, this becomes a channel to hear from the horses’ mouths. Likewise for the pricing scheme, it is designed close to ex-cellar door pricing, before freight and tax of course. And if there isn’t any winemaker in town, the hospitable David and Ainslie will make up for the experience.

The other business that came as a surprise was The French Cellar founded by, obviously, French. Other than supplying wines at good prices, they draw themselves away from branded wine producers and their infamously high-handed pricing. Adding an extra dash of product confidence, their wines received a stamp of approval from renown Chef sommelier, Nicolas Rebut (man in picture). The most interesting aspect of their business is the monthly subscription based model. Choose one of three options, pay a fee for the subscription period, and your wines will show up on doorsteps around the same time each month. I resist exhilaration, although I got very close when I tasted the Saint-Aubin Premier Cru “Sur Gamay” offered under October’s Tasting Voyage package. Stay that way.

But these are not the only businesses that have emerged in 2013 that bring wines direct from source to door. These new players with an evolving list of offerings have pressured some small retailers to go out of business. Going forward, is price the only selling point? Novelty and options, will it last?

About the author

Chan Wai Xin

Chan Wai Xin

Singapore based. University lecturer, wine educator, wine writer. Systematic, analytic, and at times pedantic. Mostly irreverent.

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