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Exclusive: Massimo Ferragamo on Winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco resort

The 2,000 hectare estate of Castiglion del Bosco is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Castiglion del Bosco has a famous new owner with a recognised surname. As the chairman of Ferragamo, the Florence born, US based Massimo Ferragamo, the youngest scion of fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo, has ventured into the least expected (fashion industry) but most unsurprising (chalk it up it to Italian love for ‘la dolce vita’) second career – in the world of winemaking and hospitality with the winery resort of Castiglion del Bosco.


Situated in Tuscany, the 2,000 hectare estate of Castiglion del Bosco is a Unesco World Heritage site, that means that Ferragamo’s passion might have been driven by love of wine and the fruit of the vines initially, but eventually, the requirements of owning a World Heritage site meant that the son of the fashion house of Ferragamo had to turn hotelier in order to restore the many buildings in the 800-year-old estate in Montalcino, Tuscany.

Massimo Ferragamo, the youngest scion of fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo, has turned his passion for wine into a second career – a winemaking hotelier with the Castiglion del Bosco resort in Tuscany.

On his wrist, a vintage Vacheron Constantin Chronograph, an heirloom of the Ferragamo family

Exclusive: Massimo Ferragamo on Winemaking at Castiglion del Bosco resort

The US-based Ferragamo travels often to the Tuscany wine resort for months of the year and he spoke exclusively to LUXUO during his recent visit to Singapore about his loves of wine, restoration and the glorious heritage the region.

How does one go from fine leather goods into wine making?

Very easy, it’s all about items which speak about an exclusive experience: tasting and drinking fine wine belongs to that category. There was also an emotional element to my decision, I like to collect fine wines and I was always intrigued behind the history about it. The 800 year old Montalcino in Tuscany was something which combined both.

I live in New York, but during one of my many visits to Tuscany, I came upon an area of the region I didn’t know very well – Montalcino in Val d’Orcia. 90% of the time, the most fabulous wines come from the most beautiful places, case in point the fruits of the vines here produced the famed Brunello di Montalcino wine.

Combining my interest in restoration projects in older wineries, we found Castiglion del Bosco, a 2000 hectares wine estate with 60 hectares of vineyards, making us the 5th producer out of 240 producers. It had a great past but needed to be brought back to the level where it could once again be producing the finest wines in Italy.


This is sort of your second career, what sort of experience do you bring into setting up the estate and turning it into a resort?

I saw an estate in poor condition but had a vision of the potential of what it could become. It had a glorious past, the winery was one of the seven pioneers of the Brunello di Montalcino denomination and had been producing wines since the early 1900s and it just had an unlucky couple of decades which saw it go through different owners. A property like Castiglion del Bosco had to be nurtured and brought back to life.

First, we had inherited Brunello di Montalcino wines left for five years in the cellar. Second, all the other buildings and houses were left to decay because all the farmers had left in the 50s and 60s. Finally, I was driven by the idea of making all these parts work together and for each other.

I have been living for America for the last 20 years and i can tell you that besides daily operations of the House of Ferragamo, our office was like a travel agent, friends calling asking where should i go, what should i do. Plus, I also learnt that the comments of the experience when they returned where always similar: that Tuscany was beautiful but the house wasn’t air-conditioned or lacked certain creature comforts; or that the food was great but there was always a something lacking.

I was probably absorbing this information for many years but didn’t realise, i didn’t like calling it a resort but i wanted a place to have people come and stay and have a thoroughly good experience, i was driven by the fact that i wanted to put people in the front row to experience everything Tuscany has to offer including its authenticity.

How do you describe Castiglion del Bosco?

There are three elements to Castiglion del Bosco – the winery, the heart of the project. Hospitality at great level, not lavish but authentic to Tuscany; Finally, the 18-hole golf course where we used the beautiful fields to great effect – the only private golf course of italy. So people come to the property to stay and enjoy many of the activities we offer and so the property is back to a fine state – if we made only the wine, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to restore the village and the church with frescos from 1350. You have duty to bring it back. 50 years ago, it was farmland and it lived in another era, today, you have to give it purpose to make it live again.

Wine estate and hotel resort isn’t the type of thing that usually goes together, how did you have this idea?

Every idea I had was dictated by what I found. You had all these old buildings in a protected UNESCO heritage area. The buildings were all falling down, and the area was as you found it, trapped in the time of the 15th century, the vineyards and even an abandoned church with frescoes from the 1350s. How does one go about preserving all of this? In a protected heritage area, you cannot build new buildings, you can only restore existing ones. On the wine side it was clear, we needed a new winery facility because the old facilities were no longer conducive to modern wine making which is very precise and required new technologies like climate control. Meanwhile we preserved the good vines ranging from 6 years old to 15 years old and replaced vines where 45 years old that weren’t producing anymore.

I asked myself what we could to do restore them for use because part of the maintenance and injecting life back into them requires that they be used and so the resort came about – the idea of giving the real Tuscany for people to experience.

Was this the kind of dream you always had or was it something you heard your father talk about and then it became yours?

No, i think we have always been lucky because I grew up in the outskirts of Florence so i was always surrounded by greenery. My playgrounds were the woods, my brothers built little carts for racing down slopes in the wilderness, we were always outdoors playing soccer and I never really thought I would develop a passion for wine to the level that i have and again, Tuscany was always in my heart. I thought I was going to have a much smaller estate but when the opportunity arose, it felt almost like a call of duty.

I am a family man and in most of my research, visits to Tuscan vineyards are not very child friendly… what do kids do when the adults are having wine?

Good question. I am a family man myself so i had that in mind. Castiglion del Bosco can be couples oriented or entire families can come. There are morning and afternoon of activities for kids, we have a kids club, kids initiatives and even a farm where they can go pet the animals and that’s the most fascinating because most city kids have seen an animal in their lives!

There are also facilities for swimming, tennis, soccer and naturally wide open fields for running and playing. Past a certain age, they might like to play golf or go biking or hiking. That said, it’s challenging terrain to cycle, you have to get a guide, especially when you go downhill thinking it’s fabulous but then most don’t consider how they’re going to cycle back up, so we have a number where you can call the concierge and they can come get you.

Coming back to the resort in defeat is probably not something i will willingly do…  the chinese are drinking more wine, have you discovered that their palettes are different from the eurocentric ones or they just following what is good because the western world believes it is?

I don’t believe I’m an expert and I won’t change my wines accordingly. We do our wines because we believe in them and hopefully people like them. There are a lot of variables, even in New York,  different habits. For instance,  when I was young, the adults were having gin and tonic and negroni for dinner and that has changed drastically.

Today, not all places in Asia are the same, there’s a certain sophistication in some places more than others, obviously, those just starting will gravitate towards familiar names – sometimes, even “expensive is better” is a concept they will have in their minds – but this isn’t the case of Italian wines because we have a broader range of valuable, great wines for the price.

Personally, I believe it’s a question of food because it’s more difficult in some cases in Asia where food is more spicy or use more herbs and it numbs the palate for tasting the wine but all this is something which will evolve. There’s no black or white. The more they taste it, the more they want to drink wine.

In this part of the world, very rarely do we combine wines with our meals because of the flavour issues you previously mentioned, do you have any ideas of how to combine wines and make it part of our meal routines?

I will make a lot of people unhappy with this statement but I believe that pairing is overrated and should not even enter the equation, because if you have a good wine, you can enjoy it over dinner with friends regardless of what you’re having. It’s really about how you enjoy it, there’s no reason to be obsessed about pairing. I personally go with seasons: when its cold, red. When it’s hot, both.

It really depends if you want to freshen up then a champagne or white will suffice or having a cigar with friends, a red comes into play. The myth of pairing is something which should relax a little, having said this, i have total respect for the great chefs and sommeliers who take the effort to put together elements which complement each other.

Finally, do you have any plans to incorporate a leather artisan’s workshop in some corner of the estate?

No, one shouldn’t add complication to a pure experience- wine is very different from what we offer at Ferragamo and if they want to experience shopping, we also organise shopping trips in Florence. What we do have, is a small shop in the estate curated by my wife where she finds unbranded things from the independent artisans around Tuscany, we will definitely not try not to mix and spoil the authentic Tuscan experience.

Ferragamo with 2018’s Brunello Montalcino Zodiac Dog

In the span of 13 years, Massimo Ferragamo’s Castiglion del Bosco has become the top five out of 240 estates that produce Brunello di Montalcino, a red Italian wine that contains only Sangiovese grapes. From the vineyard to the wine cellar, the estate produces 20,000 cases of wine a year. The quality of production is of detail and care that many of the wines have been ranked 90 points or above in the Robert Parker Wine Advocate ratings where 90 – 95 indicate ‘outstanding’ and anything above that is ‘extraordinary’. 

Ferragamo’s Castiglion del Bosco created the limited-edition Zodiac line for the China market, dedicating its best single vineyard exclusively to production of the Zodiac range of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ‘Zodiac’ wines. Luxuo sampled the new Zodiac dog during the interview with Massimo Ferragamo. The Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010 Zodiac Rooster from 2016 received 99 points from famed wine critic James Suckling.

France’s wine production drops by a fifth in 2017

2017 is shaping up to be a particularly challenging year for vintners, regardless of where they are on the map. Italy’s wine harvest season has recently been marked by a drop in volumes due to the a spell of bad weather conditions. Now, it seems that the curse has befallen its neighbour in the West as well.

As announced by the French agriculture ministry on Friday, France’s wine production in 2017 is expected to be 37.2 million hectolitres. That’s 18% less than 2016, when France suffered one of its poorest harvests in 30 years.

Like Italy, France’s wine-growing regions have been struck by a severe spring frost twice within a week last April, which was a sensitive period for the vines. The adverse effects of the bitter cold surfaced not long after: the fragile vine shoots and buds, which had emerged prematurely thanks to mild temperatures in March, were utterly ravaged.

French winemakers have gone to lengths to combat the frost. Giant fans have been deployed to prevent the cold, damp air from settling on the plants, while water sprinklers are used to cast a fine coating of ice upon the vines to keep them from freezing through.

Over at Bordeaux, winemakers have resorted to more desperate measures, such as setting fires in oil drums and positioning them carefully between rows of budding grapevines. They have every reason to be worried, too; France’s prime wine-growing region (and its largest) is expected to see a 40% drop in output this year.

Burgundy is also fated for a similar misfortune, mainly due to the repeated attacks of hail in recent years. According to the Global Wine Risk Index, Burgundy’s wine harvest has been slashed by half in the five years to 2016, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Things are looking up, however, down in the south, where an exceptionally dry summer has resulted in the accelerated maturation of vines. Winemakers have begun harvesting the smaller grapes two weeks earlier than usual, looking forward to the top vintage that the grapes will yield.

Italian wine harvest season 2017 has early arrival due to extreme weather

For winemakers, the essence of their millennia-old craft lies in a single event that takes place once a year: crush season. Aptly named ‘crush’, which refers to the process when wine grapes are picked, crushed and fermented, it is basically the wine harvesting stage. It is also directly instrumental to the birth of an exquisite wine.

This year, seasoned Italian winemakers whose calendars have been specially marked for this ritual in October are going to have to reschedule. For the first time in 10 years, crush season has arrived early to vineyards of the world’s biggest wine producer.

The anomalous timing can be credited to the extreme weather conditions that the European country has seen recently. Having forged through spring frosts and hailstorms, Italy is now experiencing an intense heatwave — and this, after months under a dry spell.

The effects of the harsh climate are hardly unnoticeable; all across the country, harvest start dates have arrived around 10 days earlier on average. Grapes have been ripening in the regions of Sicily and Piedmont as early as last month, breaking the tradition of the annual Italian harvest kicking off up north, at the Faccoli family winery in Franciacorta.

Grape Harvest

How exactly this affects the quality of the wine remains to be seen, but local winemakers are optimistic — even a little unbothered. Manfred Ing, a winemaker at the Querciabella estate in Tuscany, says, “With the heat arriving so early this year, the vines have very small bunches and berries so from a qualitative point of view we are in for some good grapes once it finally rains, which it always does. Yields will probably be down but this is not a problem for us from a fine wine making point of view.”

The fall in wine volumes (which is predicted to range from 10 to 15% according to Italy’s agri-food agency Coldiretti) is not a problem unique to Italy. Neighbouring countries such as France and Spain have also witnessed frost, hail and rainstorms this year, and are likewise expected to experience a drop in wine volumes.

Luckily for Italy, the country is more than likely to hold on to its title of the world’s biggest wine producer. In 2017, Italy’s wine exports are even expected to grow at nearly 5% from last year’s 5.6 billion euros. With sales of 10.5 billion euros in 2016 and a headcount of 1.3 million employees, Italy’s booming wine sector is vital to the country’s otherwise struggling economy.

While Italy boasts larger wine volumes, France can attest to its reign in higher valued wine with exports from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne making 8.2 billion euros last year.

Europe’s cold weather spells trouble for vineyards in Bordeaux, France

When a severe, unseasonal cold snap gripped Bordeaux vineyards in late April, winegrowers sprang into action. They set fires in thousands of oil drums, positioning them carefully between the rows of budding grapevines in southwest France. Giant fans were deployed to battle the cold, damp air settling on the plants.

Helicopters also flew low overhead, in another extravagant attempt to battle freezing condensation. In the aftermath of the region’s worst late-season freeze in more than two decades, winemakers here are looking forward nervously to the crucial June flowering phase, when pollination occurs.

Shrivelled vines

The freeze left a grim landscape. “We have a hangover. Eighty percent of our vineyard was hit by the frost. It’s all our work that has been wiped out,” says Jean-Francois Galhaud, president of the Saint-Emilion Wine Council that represents nearly 1,000 winegrowers, standing before rows of Merlot grapevines with curled and shrivelled leaves.

The bitter cold struck twice within a week last month, ravaging the fragile shoots and buds that had emerged prematurely following mild temperatures in March. This means poor harvests not only for grapes but also for fruit and vegetables like apples, pears and asparagus.

Wine producers say they have not experienced such a damaging frost since 1991 when over half of vineyards in the Bordeaux region were affected. Francois Despagne, who produces the Saint-Emilion grand cru Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne, says 90 percent of his vineyard was damaged by the cold, more than he has seen in 20 years in the business.

The weather-inflicted damage was felt throughout France and in other parts of Europe too. In Germany, the frost reached all of the country’s vineyards, which is “extremely rare”, says Ernst Buescher, of the German Wine Institute.

In Italy’s Tuscany region, 20 percent of wine production was destroyed, valued at around $90 million (around 80 million euros), according to the agricultural association, Confagricoltura.

June’s flowering vines

The quality of this year’s grapes depends on the blooms in June, says Stephane Toutoundji, an oenologist based in the southwestern town of Libourne who advises winemakers throughout Bordeaux.

If the buds fail to resume growth between now and next month, the annual harvest will be halved in terms of volume for Bordeaux, costing an estimated 1.5 billion euros in sales, says CIVB, a wine industry association for the region.One thing is certain, the harvest this year will be late.

“Let’s cross our fingers that we do a 1961, a year with a small harvest that was of very good quality,” says Galhaud. However, Toutoundji says what has survived the freeze is only of “normal quality”.

Long-term damage?

To survive this bad patch, help is on hand for winegrowers in the form of partial unemployment benefits, aid for social charges and financial support from local authorities.

Only a small proportion, 15 percent, of France’s 800,000 hectares (nearly two million acres) of vineyards are insured, mainly because of the high cost of insurance.

Last year’s abundant harvest in the region will help fill in some of this year’s gaps, thanks to a programme called VCI, whereby regulators allow winegrowers to keep approved amounts of wine stocks from a previous year in case of natural catastrophes.

But despite the VCI scheme, Bordeaux output is expected to come in at three million hectolitres this year, well below an average annual production of 5.4 million hectolitres.

The VCI allowances however do not help producers who sell their wine in bulk and do not have stocks to mitigate such shortages.

Adds to challenges

Bordeaux growers had been recovering with three good vintage years since suffering a poor year in 2013, making April’s blow that much more difficult.

Despite the various near-term relief measures, the weather-inflicted damage lays bare other big challenges facing the winegrowers.

Producers in the south of France are frustrated with an increase of cheap Spanish bulk wine, which has sparked several demonstrations in supermarkets in recent months.

There is also competition from further afield. Laetitia Ouspointour, of Chateau Vieux Mougnac in Lussac, worries the region will lose market share to countries like Australia and South Africa. Rising production costs add to the challenge, she says. “We will not be able to supply wine, and it will cost more than other wines,” Ouspointour says.

Vinexpo predicts per capita wine consumption in Portugal to overtake France

Over the next few years, the international wine market will look strikingly different, with Portugal projected to overtake France when it comes to per capita wine consumption, and India, Mexico, South Africa expected to see notable growth as well.

Those are some of the newest projections from a study conducted by Vinexpo, one of the world’s leading wine trade fairs which takes place in Bordeaux, France this summer. Overall, the report notes that consumers around the world tipped back the equivalent of 267 million hectoliters last year, marking a modest 0.4 percent rise and the stabilisation of the market.

There are also a few longstanding wine trends that haven’t changed over the last few years: The US and China remain the world’s biggest wine markets. By 2020, China will represent 72 percent of the growth in wine imports by volume, while the US is also projected to post a 12 percent growth by value. The US will retain the title of the world’s biggest wine market by both volume and value.

But the story is markedly different in France, where wine consumption rates are projected to plummet 7.5 percent by 2020 with a per capita consumption of 43 liters, ceding the top spot for European consumption to Portugal, where consumption is projected to rise to nearly 50 litres per capita over the next three years.

Another big player in the wine market by 2020 will be India, says Vinexpo, which is expected to grow by a whopping 50 percent. China’s growth is pegged at 20 percent, while Mexico and South Africa are also expected to become increasingly important players in the market with 18 percent and 17 percent growth rates respectively. Other countries where wine consumption is projected to grow include the Philippines, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Vinexpo takes place June 18-21 in Bordeaux. The 19th edition is expected to draw 2,300 exhibitors from 42 countries and 48,000 visitors.

Expansion of International Gastronomy Centre in Dijon, France will include hotel and cooking classes

The Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin in Dijon, France. Image courtesy of Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin de Dijon

The Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin in Dijon, France. Image courtesy of Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin de Dijon

The French city of Dijon is set to become an international hub for French wine and gastronomy thanks to a vast development opening in 2019. The site will be home to exhibition spaces, a four-star hotel and an education centre, with cookery courses from the renowned Ecole Ferrandi school.

After its initial announcement in February 2016, the Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin or International Gastronomy Exhibition Centre in the Eastern city of Dijon is starting to take shape, with key features of the development outlined March 21. The centre hopes to become a major focus of local life and will be fully integrated into its surroundings, thanks to a 540-home eco-neighbourhood and a 13-screen movie theatre also planned for the complex. A 4,500 square metres mall area will feature wine bars and four restaurants, as well as boutiques selling cookery, kitchenware and tableware items.

The development, located on the site of the city’s former General Hospital, hopes to provide a high-quality showcase for France’s renowned culinary culture. The project is reminiscent of the recently opened Cité du vin wine museum and cultural centre in Bordeaux, destined to become an international hot spot for wine lovers.

As the capital of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, Dijon is an ideally situated stop-off point for visitors touring the vineyards of Burgundy. French wine and gastronomy will be celebrated in various ways at this multifaceted complex. For example, the Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) wine school is due to run wine-related courses in the centre, and the renowned Parisian cookery school Ecole Ferrandi will be teaching cooking and pastry-making courses. Students will follow a five-month program, taught in English. Developers expect to welcome 110 international students per year in a specially designed 750 square metres training space.

The Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin in Dijon, France. Image courtesy of Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin de Dijon

The Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin in Dijon, France. Image courtesy of Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin de Dijon

Accessible by high-speed TGV train and by freeway, Dijon hopes to become a major tourist destination. To anticipate demand, the development integrates a 125-room four-star hotel located in historic buildings dating from the hospital’s extension in the 17th and 18th centuries. The hotel will have a restaurant, a spa and an outdoor pool.

Visitors will be able to explore French gastronomic culture via to a 1,700 square metres exhibition space hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions that celebrate “the gastronomic meal of the French”, as enshrined in UNESCO‘s cultural heritage. Local Burgundy wines will enjoy their own specific showcase in the former hospital chapel, where visitors can find out more about the characteristic wine-growing plots or ‘climats’ of the region’s vineyards.

The first sections of Dijon’s Cité de la gastronomie et du vin is scheduled for completion in 2019. One million visitors are expected each year.

Champagne sales in 2016: Lower global sales numbers despite 306 million bottles exported

The French aren’t the only ones with a taste for their country’s finest of home-grown fizzes, it seems. In fact, champagne enjoyed another bumper year in 2016, with orders worth €4.71 billion worldwide. In terms of volume, global champagne sales fell slightly in 2016, by 2.1%, with the French wine-growing region’s producers exporting 306,096,000 bottles. In comparison, sales in France fell 2.5% to 157,737,000 bottles.

The 2016 figures confirm the enduring appeal of the French sparkling wine on a global scale. In terms of volume, the British are still the biggest consumers of champagne, with 31.1 million bottles shipped to the UK. However, the Brexit vote has affected the market, with a 14% drop in export value and an 8.7% drop in volume of sales. What’s more, champagne faces tough competition from the Italian sparkling wine prosecco on the British market.

While the British take the top spot for champagne exports in terms of volume, the USA pips the UK to the post on export value, up 6.3% to €540 million.

The new champagne drinkers

Other countries buoying the champagne market include New Zealand, with export volumes up 29.1% to 648 million bottles, for a total value of €9.8 million (+25.4%). Champagne is also proving increasingly popular in Russia, with 1.3 million bottles shipped for a value of €22.5 million, and in Mexico, with 1.5 million bottles shipped (+30.9%) in 2016. Exports to South Africa (856,000) and South Korea (825,000) are also on the rise, with sales volumes up 21.9% and 16.1% respectively in 2016.

As champagne continues to gain popularity in more and more countries, the sector is also diversifying with new options and flavors. Rosé exports were up 8.5% on 2015, for example, and prestigious vintages were up 4.6%.

Wine, whiskey and spirit delivery service in Singapore: Interview with Epicurio Founder Clément Hochart

If you’ve always found it hard to keep track of your favourite reds and whites, or have always been curious about what fellow connoisseurs are into, Clément Hochart’s got the ideal solution for you. Armed with an immense passion for wine (enough to create a dedicated app for it), the Frenchman has launched Epicurio, a social wine and spirits marketplace.

Clément may have started his career as an engineer, but always felt his calling was in entrepreneurship. As a wine lover, his foray into the industry was only natural and in 2012, he started on an app to help wine lovers on their tasting journey. Today, Clément shows no signs of slowing down — Epicurio now boasts wine news and tasting notes by bloggers and journalists, and even an online wine store. Impressively, it is the only place online where you can find superlative names such as Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Premiere Cru Embazées, Mongeard-Mugneret, Vougeot Premiere Cru Les Cras and Domaine Henri Boillot Batard-Montrachet. We speak to him about Epicurio, why he chose Singapore and some of his favourite wines.


Clement and Nikhil (center) with lead developer Dennis

It took two years for the app to go from an idea to reality. What were the challenges you faced and lessons you’ve learnt in the process?

I was previously an engineer in the steel industry, so Epicurio is not only my first company, but also my first time in the wine or mobile business. It took one year to build the beta version of the app and I realised that it was hard for the business to take off if I’m doing it part-time.

I saw a big growth after Nikhil Gupta joined (Epicurio’s CTO and co-founder) and we launched the app developed by our own team, which he manages. We could adapt to what the market wanted faster than if we worked with external developers. Honestly, Nikhil’s role is key and I feel like Epicurio as it is today would not be possible without his input. He is the architect of our innovations, both on the back-end with systems and the UX (user experience) for anyone using our app.

Actually, it isn’t really about learning lessons but realizing that developing the app is a continuous process and that’s what’s exciting. We keep learning and we keep moving.

We understand you chose to create this app because of your love for wine, what is it about wine that you enjoy so much? Also, why did you choose Singapore to launch this app?

When I was in France about 5 years ago, I used an app called Evernote but it was not very convenient. I really love wine and I used to help friends select wine. Once I even helped a friend select the wine for his big gala dinner. The mystery of wine is something we cannot clearly decipher — there are thousands of factors that go into making a wine tasty. We cannot control these factors so we always learn by experience, and that’s what Epicurio was created to help with.

I’ve always wanted to start a company and wine has always been my passion. The Singapore aspect came later. For Nikhil, he was more of a beer person at the start but now he’s definitely a wine man!

Anyway, from our experience, we realized that Singapore’s industry structure was one that would allow us to test and learn about the app. This would be easier given that the market is not only small, but also has more boutique wines because the tax structure encourages importers to choose quality over quantity. Singapore is also a market onto itself, which is different from Hong Kong because she has a large China market for re-export.


Is there a large local community that is interested in this market? How responsive have people been to using this app?

People have really welcomed the app as a useful innovation because it helps them keep track of their favorite wines, plus they can choose from up to 2,000 boutique wines to purchase from at the best price in the market. However, it was still new and innovative when we introduced it as we were the one and only social marketplace for wine and spirits in Asia. It has always been our plan to have an international presence, and we have since expanded from Singapore to Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong and France.

What is the advantage of using this app over going to a physical store, apart from the delivery service provided?

Most of the physical stores in Asia don’t provide the quality of advice that you would perhaps get in France. The app can not only be used as an online delivery service, but also to deliver quality advice that is consistent no matter where you are. The best way to learn about wine is not only to drink it but also to consider what you are drinking. By making notes and uploading a picture of the label, the app is also a good tool to recall what you’ve tasted, and you will realize the commonalities between the wines you consume.

With the app, you also get honest opinions and notes from the rest of the community. They are all actual consumers who provide genuine opinions and are aware of the price they pay for the product. You might even find like-minded wine drinkers that share similar taste profiles.



We’re sure you have a long list of favorites when it comes to wine, but if you could only choose one, which would it be?

I enjoy Rhone Valley, Hermitage, Languedoc, New Zealand pinot noir, Californian Sonoma County, Italian Barolo, New Zealand and Australian riesling…I’ve never asked myself what my favorite wine is – I enjoy diversity!

While Epicurio started out with wine, Champagne and branched out to offer a delivery service, we heard that we can now purchase Whiskies and Spirits as well. Could you tell us more about the selection available?

After discovering more and more whiskies and old spirits I wanted to add a dimension in Epicurio for aged spirits like whisky, brandy, rum and boutique gin. We then got a whisky expert in and started to source for amazing whiskies and aged spirits both locally and from abroad. That was how we started to bring in rare and premium whiskies in Singapore, Hong-Kong and Malaysia.

What is the 1-hour delivery service about and is it available throughout the island? 

Thanks to developments from our team and strong partnership with importers we have setup a One Hour Delivery Service Island wise for 300 labels. From 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturdays and on Sunday until 9pm you can get wine to your door within an hour. We have recently reduced our delivery fee so you can get this service now for $15, no matter how many bottles you order.

You were a part of the inaugural SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS last year. Could you tell us more about your role at the event and what you enjoyed from being a part of the event?

We were the exclusive Partner of the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS for wine and we organised a beautiful and exclusive Wine Fair in Singapore that featured over 50 premium labels.

What does Epicurio have in store for us in 2017? 

2017 will be the year of growth. We will start having events in Hong-Kong and Malaysia and stronger digital presence. Accelerating growth with 500 Startups VC from US we will get the Industry Experts to help us boost this growth to the exponential level with a big focus on the customer experience, which is our strength today. I want to take this opportunity to thank our customers who sent me congratulatory messages for the accomplishment, services and features of our app.

Are there any plans to expand the business into other parts of the region? 

Yes, we have initiated expansions into Hong-Kong, Malaysia and Philippines and we will be boosting those countries by having a dedicated team in each of them starting from the middle of 2017.

Is there a wine trend that sticks out in Singapore? Do Singaporeans have a preference when it comes to the wine that they enjoy? 

I would say the most significant observation I made which amuses me is expats drink Champagne while Singaporeans drink Red Wine. Fabulous, probably because expats party and Singaporeans love food for which reds go well with.


Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.

Who Decides What Wine Presidents Drink?

Hunting Fraudsters in French Wine Heartland

Hunting Fraudsters in French Wine Heartland

Crafty winemakers throughout the ages have sought sneaky ways to pass off low-grade plonk as top vintages, and the jailing this month of a French wine baron shows the practice is still alive and well.

Francois-Marie Marret was given a two-year sentence for fraud for blending poor quality wine with high-end Saint-Emilions, Lalande-de-Pomerols and Listrac-Medocs to sell to major supermarkets under prestigious labels.

The 800,000-liter (211,000-gallon) “moon wine” fraud, so called because the cheap wine was spirited to his operation by night, was uncovered thanks to the diligent work of French customs inspectors.

They carefully track the wine produced by France’s tens of thousands of vineyards to protect the country’s multi-billion euro (dollar) industry – and to make sure drinkers are getting what they are paying for.

Around the Bordeaux region, home to some of France’s most prestigious – and expensive – wines, the eagle-eyed customs officials check vats, barrels, pallets, bottles and vines.

They draw up a meticulous inventory of stocks to ferret out both minor rule-bending and larger-scale fraud – detected once or twice a year on average, according to customs inspectors.

“Customs service, we’ve come to do a stock inspection,” declares Bertrand Bernard, head of the customs’ five-person wine service in the Libourne area, as he arrives at the Cave de Lugon cooperative.

Lugon, a village on the right bank of the Dordogne river, lies around 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Bordeaux city.

Jean-Marie Esteve, who has been a “maitre de chai” or master winemaker since 1984, is happy to cooperate.

“It doesn’t make me particularly nervous,” Esteve tells AFP. “There’s always a difference between what is declared and what is measured. But over the 40,000 to 45,000 hectoliters we have, it’s never more than a few hectoliters” – well within the permitted limits.

Jean-Luc Caboy, the head of the cooperative, which includes 110 winemakers working around 750 hectares (1,800 acres) of vines, says they check in with customs officials regularly “to make sure we are okay in terms of the regulations”.

Swill, sniff, pour away

The inspection begins with the imposing concrete vats that date back to the creation of the cooperative in 1937, where heady aromas float in the air.

Opening a small tap, Esteve pours a little red wine into a glass and hands it to Christian Lafon, the main customs inspector.

He checks the color, swills and then sniffs the wine, before pouring it into a bucket, satisfied.

“We’re checking to see that it is really wine from the last vintage and not a blend… If there is any doubt we take a sample away for analysis,” he says. But at Lugon all is well.

The inspection continues on the upper floor, where Lafon, torch in hand, looks under the cover of each vat.

“That’s full, no problem,” he tells his two colleagues, who are scrupulously noting the volume of wine measured in each vat, one on computer, one on paper.

In a warehouse next door, he counts barrels of wine, knocking on each one to make sure it is full, before moving on to count bottles stored on pallets, almost one by one — because every liter counts in the customs inventory.

“We compare the volumes declared by the cave with what we find when we do the inventory. We subtract what has been taken out and see what remains. If it’s under, it’s often due to losses during the winemaking process (evaporation, decanting, etc). If it’s over, it could be a miscounting during the harvest,” Lafon said.

“There can be a few differences, often mistakes. Beyond that, it can reveal a system of organised fraud.”

‘Moon wine’ fraud

It was this careful accounting that revealed the “moon wine fraud”, which also saw winemaker Marret hit with a fine of eight million euros ($8.9 million).

More than a dozen others were convicted along with Marret, including a wine merchant, two brokers and three other producers.

“It all started with inconsistencies between the stocks checked on the ground and the documents filed by the chateaus,” says Jeff Omari, regional deputy director of customs in Bordeaux.

Customs officers then dissected the movement of wine around the vineyards in question and analysed samples “to work up through the chain of fraud and all the players involved: winemakers, brokers, transporters, and so on – nearly two years of investigation in total,” Omari said.

France is the world’s biggest wine exporter by value, accounting for 29 percent of the market at 8.2 billion euros in 2015, and top Bordeaux labels such as Chateau Petrus sell for upwards of 1,000 euros a bottle.

But the country has been hit by several fraud scandals in recent years.

In 2010, 12 French winemakers and dealers were convicted of selling millions of bottles of fake Pinot Noir to the US firm E&J Gallo.

Before that, in 2006 legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf was fined more than 30,000 euros for blending grapes from different vineyards to disguise the poor quality of certain prized vintages.

Vinexpo Tokyo Introduces Emerging Wine Regions

Following its debut in 2014, Vinexpo Tokyo returns this week to give wine enthusiasts a look at relatively lesser-known wine producer regions. Some 200 wine producers from more than 12 countries will be participating in the Japanese edition of the world’s most prestigious wine fair, including names from Moldova, Romania, Austria and Switzerland.

Although Japan’s wine industry is dominated by wine producers from France, Italy and Chile, Vinexpo Tokyo will introduce visitors to wines from regions “off the beaten path”, said Jon Arvid Rosengren, a Swedish wine expert who took the title of Best Sommelier 2016.

Rosengren will hold a masterclass on sparkling wines from Austria. Meanwhile, Paolo Basso, Best Sommelier of the World 2013, will showcase wines from his home country of Switzerland.

Vinexpo Tokyo will also feature American winemakers for the first time, such as Brotherhood, America’s oldest winery which is located at the Hudson River region of New York.

In Japan, wine imports totalled 2,793,000 hectoliters in 2015, worth 176.28 billion yen (€1.41 billion), an increase of nearly 4 percent in both volume and value compared to 2014.

Japan is Asia’s biggest market for imported spirits and the second biggest market in Asia for wine.

Vinexpo Tokyo is expected to attract 4,500 trade visitors. The event takes place November 15 to 16 at Prince Park Tower Hotel.

Epicurio Launches 1-Hour Delivery Service

In Singapore, nothing is easier than getting food delivered to your doorstep. With the right apps, you basically can satisfy your cravings within a hour. When it comes to wine, though, things are a little bit different — or at least it was. Epicurio, the fastest-growing wine and spirits social community in Asia, with more than 3,300 wines and spirits available, has just launched a brand new game-changing service: a 1-Hour Express Delivery.

From 10am to 8pm, Monday through Saturday, app users can pick the wine or spirit they are looking for – among 370 references – and have it delivered wherever they want, across the entire island, in one hour. The fixed additional delivery fee is S$20 – no matter how many bottles you order. So you can get ready for unexpected guests, good news celebrations with no fuss or simply get a bottle of Bordeaux to unwind after work.

epicurio delivery service epicurio delivery service

Visit Epicurio to see the full list of wine and spirits available for the 1-Hour Express Delivery

Exclusive for Luxuo readers in Singapore:

Epicurio will be hosting a party to officially announce the launch of their 1-Hour Express Delivery on 22nd of November 2016. Guests will enjoy a wine as they learn more about the Service. Please email [email protected] for an exclusive invite.

Moët & Chandon MCIII 001.14

Moët & Chandon MCIII Brut 001.14: Multi-Vintage

Aging has never looked this good and it is all thanks to the Moët & Chandon MCIII Brut 001.14. More about that somewhat awkward name in a bit. Released just over a year ago, it has taken awhile to get to some markets here in Southeast Asia. The luxury champagne producer has created a multi-vintage champagne using vintage wines that are matured in three distinct environments. To craft a truly bold and unique vintage, Moët & Chandon captured the attributes that are associated with each aging environment.

Using a three-stratum assemblage process, the ultra-premium cuvée has been 15 years in the making and appears to be a new favorite amongst champagne lovers around the world. The first of the stratums sees an equal mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from 2003 vintages, aged in stainless steel vats that provides a rich and fruity flavor.

The second stratum sees grand vintages from the 1998, 2000 and 2002 harvests that have been aged in oak casks before being stored in stainless steel vats. The final 25% of the cuvée is made up of the third stratum that blends Grand Vintages from 1993, 1998 and 1999. The three acclaimed vintage champagnes were bottled, aged and then disgorged before being blended into the mix.

The result of this carefully crafted mix is a fragrant champagne that features notes of coffee, malt, mocha, praline, liquorice, Tonka bean, pecan, citrus peel, citron, kumquat, bergamot and verbena. According to the Chef de Cave of the House of Moët & Chandon, the MCIII Brut 001.14 is best enjoyed in a Zalto Denk’Art Cristal Glass, which boasts ideal proportions and angles that preserve the freshness of the wine and enhances its flavor. Getting back to the name, the 14 refers to the year of disgorgement (2014) while the 001 refers to the batch (it is the first).

The Moët & Chandon MCIII Brut 001.14 can be purchased at Moët & Chandon.



In case you have yet to discover the lineup for the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS, we are on hand to provide you a quick rundown of what is in store. Today, the team behind Epicurio was on hand to kick off the Epicurio Wine Fair at the Raffles Marina. The Epicurio Wine Fair will run from 4 to 6 pm each day.

Épicurio founder Clément Hochart

Épicurio founder Clément Hochart hosting a wine tasting on board the Royal Albatross

Over the next three days, wine lovers and aspiring sommeliers will have a chance to sample over 50 boutique and fine wines. From brands such as Vintec Cellar, Riedel Glass and Fiji Water, the Epicurio Wine Fair awaits. Apart from the wide selection available at the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS, the wine fair is also a chance for visitors to learn more about the Epicurio App. Created by Clement Hochart and Nikhil Gupta in November 2015, the app is a platform through which wine lovers and experts alike can provide reviews and tasting notes.singaporerendezvous_rafflesmarina_14092016wed_mg_1219

At the Epicurio Wine Fair, the experienced users of the app will be on hand to show new users the best ways to utilise the functions on the app. While the wine fair is expected to run for two hours each day, guests will be able to enjoy wines and spirits from Epicurio all-day at the VIP Lounge. Bottles previously tasted at the Wine Fair tasting sessions, will be available for purchase at the VIP Lounge. With a view of the yachts and a perfect spot to catch the sunset, the Epicurio Wine Fair is the perfect place to be.

Penfolds Releases $142,000 Shiraz Bottle

Penfolds Releases $142,000 Shiraz Bottle

Wine lovers with a taste for fancy decanters and very deep pockets can now pick up a bottle of a rare Australian vintage for Aus$185,000 ($142,000).

Winemaker Penfolds on Wednesday released six-liter (1.5 US gallon) offerings of its 2012 Grange Imperial, each stored in a crystal serving vessel made by French glassmaker Saint-Louis.

Each hand-blown decanter holds the equivalent of eight regular-sized bottles of wine, a volume that would normally sell for a total of Aus$6,800.

The “rare and refined” crystal decanter promises owners the “perfect pour”, said Penfolds, which is best known in Australia for its Grange Shiraz.

Its 2008 version, launched three years ago, earned a perfect 100 score from Robert Parker’s US wine magazine Wine Advocate.

Fontana Del Vino, Italy: Free Flowing Wine

Wine Trends: Alcohol-Free with Stevia, Gold Flakes

This year’s SIAL Paris international food fair saw the debut of innovative wines that exchanged alcohol for unusual ingredients such as stevia and 24k gold leaf flakes.

Regarded in some circles as the place to discover what ingredients will be shaping culinary trends, SIAL saw representatives from 104 countries gather in Paris-Nord Villepinte to showcase their latest gastronomical innovation. The idea of alcohol-free wine – something we feel very conflicted about – was presented at the event by Languedoc-Roussillon producer Domaines Pierre Chavin.

Domaines Pierre Chavin diminishes the alcohol content (and also the calories) to zero but preserved the taste through the use of stevia sweetener for their original wine ‘Silhouet’. Stevia is said to be 100 times more potent than sugar, but still natural and forgiving in terms of empty calories. There will be three versions of Silhouet: a white chardonnay, a red merlot, and a sparkling white. The range will retail at Domaines-pierre-chavin.com and selected wine shops.

But that’s not everything that Domaines Pierre Chavin offered at the event. The winemaker also revealed plans to launch a new sparkling wine called Gold Arabesque. This chardonnay will feature 24k gold flakes. The AFP reports that, when consumed, gold helps to combat stress, relieve depression, stimulate collagen production and even reduce wrinkles. Also, it’s aesthetically pleasing. We leave you to do your own research and make your own decisions on this one. There is regular full-alcohol version of this chardonnay, Folie de Pierre instead, which you could try instead.


Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Not since Japanese whisky eclipsed Scotch has the world of spirits seen Asia ascendant but that’s what happened when Chinese wine tasters won an important blind tasting test in France.

The competition saw teams from 21 countries put their palates to the test at Chateau du Galoupet wine estate, identifying six bottles of red wine and six bottles of white wine by taste and nose alone. The organizers said the win was like a “thunderbolt in the world of wine.”

Belgium, the runner-up last year, came fourth while former champion Spain placed a distant tenth.

The teams from around the world had to identify the wines’ countries of origin, the grape varieties used in them, their appellations and their vintages.

“Remaining humble even in victory, the astounding Chinese team conceded that in blind tasting 50 percent is knowledge and 50 percent is luck,” the organizers said.

The BBC reports that the team said competition to get on their team was intense. The news organization also pointed out that China’s wine industry is on the rise, with a Chinese winery beating many French rivals to a prestigious gold medal for one of its wines. We think many more such “thunderbolts” are going to come from Asia. Go back and check out the Japanese whisky story for more context

Next year’s championships will be held in Burgundy in the famed Cote d’Or wine-growing region.

Chianti Classico Makers Bid for UNESCO Status

Chianti Classico Makers Bid for UNESCO Status

To mark the 300th anniversary of Italy’s Chianti Classico heritage, winemakers have announced plans to launch a bid for UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Organized by Chianti Classico winemakers who together form a group called the Consortium, the move is meant to put the Chianti region of Italy on the same plane as Piedmont, Burgundy and Champagne, protected wine-growing regions which are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their long winemaking traditions.

This fall, the Chianti region in Tuscany celebrated 300 years since the Ducal decree that first established the boundaries for Chianti Classico.

The territory’s capitals are Siena and Florence and amount to 71,800 hectares (177,500 acres) of wine country.

Chianti produced outside the designated geographic area is designated by the omission of the word Classico as the two wines are produced in different regions under different sets of production regulations.

Bottles produced in the Chianti Classico region are identifiable by the group’s logo, a black rooster.

To qualify for the designation, Chianti Classico must be produced with a minimum ratio of 80 percent Sangiovese. The remaining 20 percent can be a blend of native grapes like Canaiolo, Colorino and international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

But winemakers of Chianti Classico will be up against another Italian wine-growing region which has long been hoping for UNESCO recognition. The Prosecco-producing region of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano was submitted as an application in 2010 and remains on the ‘tentative’ list.

To be inscribed on the World Heritage List, sites must be of “outstanding universal value” such as bearing a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or civilization.

The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee takes place in Istanbul October 24-26.

Chianti Keeps Rising After 300 years

By the early 18th century, the sale of counterfeit bottles of Chianti wine to ever-thirsty England had become so rife that the local merchant nobles felt compelled to act.

Three hundred years ago on Saturday, Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued a decree declaring that chianti wine could only be produced within a designated area between the Renaissance powerhouses of Florence and Siena.

The world’s first legally enforceable wine appellation had been born. The Medici duke’s decree defined an area of 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) that now produces 35 million bottles a year of chianti classico.

Eighty percent of them are exported to some 100 countries and the region’s reputation has been on an upward curve since the 1980s, making it a magnet for wine pilgrims.

Sipping from a glass of classico riserva in the Enoteca Falorni wine bar and merchant in Greve in Chianti, Diya Khanna says her trip has been an eye-opener.

“In Canada you think of chianti as one type of wine, but if you come here you learn what it’s really all about. There is such a variety of styles,” the Berlin-based Canadian tells AFP.

“All of the classicos we have tried have had this soft velvety finish, like a smooth song that finishes off at the end really, really nicely.”

Brand confusion

Chianti classico producers have long battled confusion among consumers about the difference between their sought-after, geographically restricted wine and the less distinguished simple chianti made in other parts of Tuscany.

Up to 2010, a producer in the heartland area defined by the 1716 decree could produce both. But that practice was banned as part of measures to strengthen the classico brand and its trademark black rooster logo.

Generally lighter and less expensive, ordinary chianti remains associated for many with the staple candle-holder of 1970s Italian trattorias – a bottle half-wrapped in a straw basket known as a ‘fiasco’.

It was from a fiasco that the popes of the 16th century enjoyed their chianti.

But the rounded vessel was to become a symbol of the damage done to the region’s international image by an export-driven boom in which quality was sometimes sacrificed for quantity.

Rugby-loving winemaker

The idea underlying the 1716 decree was that Tuscany’s land and climate had combined serendipitously over centuries with local know-how to guarantee that a wine from chianti would be of a certain style and quality.

Three centuries later, that idea still prevails among the eclectic bunch of characters now producing chianti classico.

But there is also a new emphasis on variations created by particular soils, exposure and altitude – something wine experts refer to as the “terroir” of a particular site.

With his trim beard, gilet and smart suede boots, Marco Mazzoni looks like a gentleman farmer dressed by Giorgio Armani.

But the owner of the small Corte di Valle estate outside Greve insists turning sangiovese grapes into attractive wine is no job for city dilettantes.

“The ground is full of stones and rocks,” he says. “The vines have to suffer to grow and thrive. It makes you sweat.”

At Querciabella on the other side of the valley, rugby-loving winemaker Manfred Ing’s style is more shorts and walking boots as he oversees the harvest of encouragingly plump sangiovese berries: 2016 could be a vintage to remember, he says.

Querciabella is in the vanguard of a push for a shake-up in the rules that would allow classico producers to label their single-vineyard wines as coming from specific micro-zones on the model of Burgundy in France.

Like many of the top Burgundies, Querciabella is farmed organically and according to bio-dynamic principles. Even the use of manure is now eschewed at a property owned by vegan Sebastiano Castiglioni.

“If we want to be still producing chianti here in another 300 years, this is the way to go,” says South African-born Ing as he explains how winter crops such as rocket and wild mustard are used to replenish the vineyard soil in the absence of artificial fertilizers.

Pregnant patience

Once the preserve of men, another thing that has changed in 300 years is that some acclaimed chianti classicos are now made by women.

“We are a small but growing club,” says Susanna Grassi, who gave up the underwear business for wine in 2000 in order to revitalise the family farm.

Grassi’s nine-hectare estate, “I Fabbri” (“The Blacksmiths”), goes up to 680 meters (2,230 feet) altitude, close to the limit of where the heat-loving sangiovese will ripen.

Grassi does not have the option of making powerful, structured wine. Instead the emphasis is on elegance and finesse – a trend towards the expression of pure sangiovese that she thinks Tuscany’s female winemakers are helping to drive.

“I think women do have a different sensibility when it comes to wine,” she tells AFP. “Maybe it is because pregnancy teaches us to wait, knowing that the final result will be “bello” (beautiful).”