SINGAPORE: Ever the introvert, I often find myself curled up on the couch with a book or the TV for company. Within arm’s reach would be a bottle of something simple and delicious from a favourite producer like Jean Foillard who makes charming Beaujolais.
But every so often, I’m reminded by a few close and concerned friends to get out of the house. For those who, like me, don’t like noisy and crowded places, the following wine bars are worth checking out.
LA TERRE: SLOW DOWN AND SMELL THE BOUQUET IN YOUR WINE GLASS
Hidden in plain sight, you might have to spend some time trying to locate La Terre. But it’s worth the effort for two reasons – the wine and the experience.
“I want my guests to be relaxed and happy. In Singapore, many drinking places tend to be noisy. But here, it is quiet and you can have a proper conversation,” explained Chief Sommelier and co-founder Daisuke Kawai.
His description is spot on. This place is perfect for those seeking respite from the madding crowd.
La Terre (French for “the earth”) is quintessentially Japanese. The décor is minimalist and tidy with a layout similar to a sushi bar. The counter seats 14, with a small table at the back for six. The lighting is dim with jazz music playing in the background. On my first visit, it was an unexpected oasis of calm.
Serious wine buffs will appreciate the gems and rarities from legendary producers that pepper the wine list, such as a 1993 Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru.
If you love champagne as much as I do, you’ll have a great time perusing the list of growers and vintage beauties from the likes of David Léclapart, Jacques Selosse and Cédric Bouchard.
Unsurprisingly, Burgundy features prominently on Kawai’s 500-strong wine portfolio. On the whole, the selection is predominantly Old World and heavy on French, but not unapproachable. His daily assortment of wine by the glass is decently priced at S$20. I’d encourage trying something uncommon like the Vain de Rû (S$89), a vibrant and easy-drinking white made from the Colombard grape by producer Dominique Andiran.
Kawai has a small selection of New World from America and Australia, and some natural wines.
"I refresh the wine list every day,” he added. “About 80 per cent of my customers come for the wine, 20 per cent for whiskey.” And there are about 150 whiskies for you to choose from.
Kawai is an extremely experienced sommelier who is exceedingly patient with any wine-related questions you may have, no matter how left field. And his recommendations are often pleasant discoveries.
“I’m not just selling wine. I’m selling the experience,” he said. “Many of my guests have ended up becoming friends. That makes me happy.”
Even on a busy night, I’ve found the bar to be neither raucous nor draining. Sometimes, that’s the sort of peace and quiet you are looking for.
La Terre is at 11 Upper Circular Road #01-01, tel: 6532 1031.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 11pm
13% GASTRO WINE: COMFORT FOOD AND GOOD WINES THAT TASTE BETTER WITH COMPANY
Located at Aliwal Street and Killiney Road, there’s something about being at 13% Gastro Wine that instantly puts one in a better mood.
“The idea was to do something very casual, to create an atmosphere that’s like home. A wine bar with good food for sharing. Not chicken wings or peanuts,” said co-founder Bruno Valliant.
“Our food pairs well with our wine.”
That, plus the warm ambience and approachable wine makes 13% a great haunt for catching up with old friends or unwinding over conversation.
Let's not forget about the food. The Ta Ti Flette, a gloriously creamy union of Reblochon, potatoes and Iberico, undoubtedly means extra laps in the pool. But order it anyway, along with black pudding and a nibble of Comté.
Then, have a champagne with electric acidity to cut through the richness and cleanse the palate. For example, the splendid Chartogne Taillet Cuvée Sainte Anne Brut (S$96) is a fresh and racy non-vintage that reminds one of the sea, and it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at great value too.
“We aim to keep our wines accessible, casual and affordable,” explained Valliant. Together with co-founder Geoffrey Weckx, also the chef, they curate the list of 150 wines. “Many people tend to be scared of wine. We don’t want that. Wine is for everyone, it should not be too snobbish.”
The list changes every month and is an ever-evolving mix of regions and styles that rewards those who are curious. Skip the Chardonnay and try the Austrian Gruner Veltliner (S$63), a dry white with citrus and white pepper on the nose. Or ditch the Cabernet Sauvignon for a Gamay from Cahors (S$76), an unusual and delightful style of red.
13% refers to the average alcohol content in wine. “I also think it’s a lucky number,” Bruno said laughing, adding that the bar counter is quite popular for first dates at both locations. The rest of the space caters to larger groups, which is always a great excuse to crack open an extra bottle or two.
13% Gastro Wine@Aliwal is at 14 Aliwal Street, 2nd floor, tel: 6291 6816
13% Gastro Wine@Killiney, 117A Killiney Road, 2nd Floor, tel: 6694 4708
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 5pm till late