Passion + People = 5-Star Wine

By Lim Hwee Peng, CSW, FWS

10th June 2012

Despite years of actively engaging the market, I have to admit something has slipped by me while I was buried under the chores of day to day grunge.

Unwittingly, I have missed out on the joy in engaging with fellow trade peers who are, primarily. passionate wine lovers.

I believed the delight in engaging with people of similar mind and liking was the very reason most wine professionals (myself included) toiled in the industry.

I was duly reminded on that magnetism when I was making my round of visits to fellow wine partners in presenting a new international wine program launched recently in our market.

Although most appointments resembled more of a catching-up session (due to our familiarity), such as, getting to know their well-being, or simply exchanging updates in the industry, as well as sharing opinions on the occurrence in the market.

But as frivolous as those exchanges might seem, it occurred to me that as much as I enjoyed the interaction, I did not create sufficient opportunity to meet those acquaintances regularly.

At Le Vigne with Lewis and Patricia Britton, I spent almost an hour longer than I should with the two very welcoming husband and wife team.

Besides sharing industry news, we also indulged in stories of Singapore in the past (that sharing also led me to realize that age has indeed caught up, especially when I reminisced on similar matters as Lewis, i.e. Quah Kim Song, Dollar Kasim, Rajagopal; The Gibb’s brothers, Boney M, John Denver, England Dan & John Ford Corley, Anne Murray, etc).

As we continued swapping snippets of the past, it then dawned on me that I was thoroughly late for my final appointment of the day. Deservedly, I have to face a barrage of ‘abuses’ by my friends. Yet I felt it was all worth it.

In a separate appointment on the same day, I was scheduled to meet up with a wine-loving lady.

I have heard of Sunko Trading, Linda Tan, Leeuwin Estates. Yet, somehow those three separate identities seem to become one entity.

The vivacious, energetic, and spontaneous Linda Tan has been in the wine business since early to mid-1990s.

Despite her background in shipping business, she gamely plunged into the wine industry with only basic knowhow of the industry; as well as a simple and time-honoured colloquial business principle – ‘if we are comfortable with each other, we do business, otherwise, we just be friends’.

Leeuwin Estate was her first Australian representation in her compact wine portfolio. Yet she was able to bring Leeuwin Estate wines (as well as Denis Horgan) to far flung and less-traveled places such as Vietnam; and also introduced Russian customers to Leeuwin Estate wines (mind you, this was in the mid-1990s and not the present day’s globetrotting and modernize business scene).

During our meet-up, which was our first get-together, Linda’s genuine and warm persona put me at great ease.

Being a trailblazer, Linda’s principled way of conducting her business is simple yet convincing. Her expressive and authentic personality has also led to hordes of regular local and overseas customers to her wine business.

Another inspiring meet up took place at Moomba Restaurant. During my visit, the eatery was abuzz with Central Business District (CBD) crowds. This modern Australian cuisine outlet is so well-received, it has become one of the cuisine landmarks in the CBD area.

Despite being swarmed in servicing the lunching diners, Augustine Kum, proprietor of Moomba, was delighted to meet.

Frankly, I felt rather guilty to be bothering him during such busy hour of his operation; nevertheless, he went out of his way to make this untimely visit a cordial and welcoming one.

Besides managing the popular Moomba restaurant, Augustine is also known for his love in vino.

The upper floor of Moomba has been transformed into a wine retail shop, stocked with fine wines mainly from New Zealand and Australia, supported by other key modern and contemporary wine nations.

As brief as my meet up and exchange with Augustine was, I went away being impressed by his strong belief in supporting growth of the industry; his convictions were as intense as a deeply-coloured, young and vibrant Barossa Shiraz that you could find in Moomba Wine Shop.

Such strong passion was also evident in Tan Wee Lee (Crystal Wines); despite paying my visit to him while he was in the midst of preparing for his examination in the Certified Specialist in Wines (CSW) program, Wee Lee supported the new wine program readily.

(Wee Lee, together with his brother- Wee Han, has since successfully graduated from the CSW exam with an excellent pass on his first attempt).

Both Wee Lee’s and Augustine’s complete faith and confidence in the new wine program further enhanced my aspiration to spread the wine gospel via the cumbersome, and at times unfancied, education route.

Time spent and being ‘in the zone’ with those encounters have deepened my belief in the profession.

It also excites me with a new and fresh perspective of my chosen vocation.

Despite those positive vibes shared in my encounter, fellow trade professionals might also highlight, in the same breadth, that not all such meet up with fellow peers were rosy.

The industry does have individuals who were plainly negative, behave like bullies (or being one), and conduct themselves with absolute rude mannerism.

A wise person once shared that adopting ????, ???? being the most appropriate approach in avoiding being tainted in the same brush as those from the ‘dark-side’.

(I was once told that even wines represented by those negative individuals or entity may also, unfortunately, become potential collateral damage).

Nevertheless, asides from those minorities, I can vouch that most trade professionals that I have encountered in Singapore, as well as in the regional markets are serious and focused in their craft.

They adopt widely-accepted industry practices, and generally aspire to do well for themselves and for the industry.

More often than not, they are professionals who are passionate, positive and people-oriented; such as Lewis and Patricia Britton (Le Vigne), Augustine Kum (Moomba), Tan Wee Lee (Crystal Wines) and Linda Tan (Sunko Trading).

I am also inspired by their attitude to do the right things, and doing things right.

Although my various encounters inspired this sharing, more importantly for me, it further deepened my conviction in adopting the correct attitude with a long term considerations in the tasks that I undertake.

I have also observed that to be a successful wine professional, one needs passion (first and foremost), focus, a correct attitude and aptitude. Personally, I would add ‘patience’, especially when I am embarking on a task that will only show results given time.

Nevertheless, much like a fine and well-made wine, it is the positive-minded practitioners who will stay longer at their game, and as time passes by, also become better at it.

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