In January, Areni Global launched its Singapore market report. Here are some of the takeaways from that research.
Back in the 1980s, wine was still something of a novelty in Singapore. That began to change in 1988, when cardiothoracic surgeon Dr NK Yong launched his wine column in the Business Times. By the time he died in 2021, Singapore was recognised as one of the most dynamic fine wine markets in the world. In 2022, 67 Pall Mall opened its doors, and was immediately fully subscribed.
In 2023, Vinexpo Singapore welcomed thousands of visitors. Officials from the company told Areni that they were thrilled with how vibrant the event was — and how keen they are to return. They’re not the only ones, as Messe Düsseldorf has also announced that ProWine Singapore will become an annual event from 2024.
The buzz around Singapore is so loud, that Areni had to take notice. In January, we launched our Singapore report, based on extensive qualitative research, plus interviews with members of the trade, private collectors, and exporters. Some of those interviews were done under Chatham House rules, meaning the remarks won’t be attributed.
Here are five things we learned about Singapore’s wine market:
- It’s a highly knowledgeable market
Fine wine lovers in Singapore look like their counterparts elsewhere — discerning and educated.
“It’s really no different to the London market except in scale,” says Richard Hemming MW, Head of Wine Asia at 67 Pall Mall. He adds that as well as local wine drinkers, there is also the vibrant ex-pat community to consider. “Those expats are all in, generally speaking, high-paying professions — law, finance, media tech — and they’re well travelled and they all love wine to a greater or lesser extent. “
Olly Lawson, Senior Account Manager at Liv-ex, says that Singapore has a very strong network of collectors. “A lot of people from Hong Kong have moved to Singapore in the last few years given what’s happened in Hong Kong, and I think Singapore has been a real beneficiary on the wine scene from that,” he says. “And so there is this kind of new class of the ‘big whale’ collectors, if you like. And there is certainly, there are lots of these very exclusive dinners going on with incredible wines. “
According to one collector, fine wine lovers in Singapore have an impressive level of knowledge, down to understanding arcane domaines.
Fine wine lovers in Singapore have an impressive level of knowledge, down to understanding arcane domaines.
“Singaporeans are very finicky about the choice of wines and they’ll be very specific on what they want,” he says. This extends even to get-togethers where collectors will bring wines to share. “The bottle you’re being asked to bring means something, whether it’s something special in your own stash or it means something for that person. It’s not a random bottle you take off the shelf.”
- Fine wine trends follow those elsewhere
Thanks to travel and rapid communication, fine wine trends in Singapore look much the same as elsewhere, with a particular emphasis on Burgundy.
“Our bestselling regions are Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Piedmont, then California, and most of California is Napa,” says Hemming MW. Tuscany is popular as well, with Australia also “in the top ten.”
Fine Chinese wine, on the other hand, holds the same position in Singapore as it does elsewhere — it’s something of a curiosity..
“It’s not really the case that people like Chinese fine wine more in Southeast Asia. If anything, there’s a more inbuilt scepticism because they’re just as well-travelled and literate here as they are anywhere,” says Hemming. He adds that while brands like Long Dai and Ao Yun are known, “they have to work hard to get recognition.”
- A marriage of wine and tech
Singapore is increasingly known as a tech hub that is attracting both giant technology companies and start-ups, thanks to its business friendly environment and highly educated workforce.
This willingness to embrace technology has become part of the fine wine scene, with younger collectors becoming heavy users of apps and other digital tools.
Lawson says that while established merchants continue to trade the way they always have, “the start-ups that we’re seeing — and there are quite a lot of them; Liv-ex membership in Singapore has gone up fivefold in the last three years — are adopting technology and data in a way that you probably wouldn’t see from these more established traditional merchants.,” he says.
He says this love of digital is what distinguishes Singapore from Hong Kong, and that Singapore is “a very tech heavy place. There is a lot of gamification, a lot of trading,” on digital platforms.
This love of digital is what distinguishes Singapore from Hong Kong
- BYO is a feature of fine wining
Wine by the glass programmes are now an established part of Singapore’s restaurant culture and so, increasingly, is the ability to bring your own bottles.
“In Singapore it’s relatively customary to have corkage in restaurants, even in fine dining places,” says one collector. “Very often, people who have big wine collections in Singapore go out to restaurants with their own bottles.”
Many Chinese restaurants have embraced BYO, according to Hemming MW, because they may not have wine expertise of their own to offer. “So they’re very happy for people to bring in bottles. And corkage often isn’t very expensive,” he says.
Fine dining establishments also have excellent wine lists, as do the major hotels.
- A business-friendly economy
In 2023, Singapore was named the easiest place in the world to do business by the Economic Intelligence Unit.
It’s open and corruption-free, with favourable tax rates and a highly educated workforce. Unemployment is low and salaries are high.
In 2023, Singapore was named the easiest place in the world to do business
“Right now it is rocketing,” says Hemming MW, saying that 67 Pall Mall opened just as the economy was booming, and Singapore was attracting people from Hong Kong. “I think 67 Pall Mall has been a big boost to wine appreciation and the awareness of wine. So I think the market for wine at all levels, but especially at the top end, will continue to increase.”
However, he says the volume of consumption probably won’t increase, because Singapore is too small. “It’s never going to be a volume market. It is already a prestige market. And I can see that growing. “
These are only some of the insights contained in our Singapore report, freely accessible to Areni full members. To read the entire report, become a member today.