February 3, 2009 / 7:07 AM / 9 years ago

Cavernous or compact, there's a cellar for everybody

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Space-starved oenophiles, take heart -- 20 bottles is all it takes to start a wine collection and even the humblest of fridges can serve as a cellar, according to a Singapore-based wine consultancy.

From advising you on the best cellar to suit your needs and budget, to what to put in it, the newly set-up Artisan Cellars boasts of being one of Asia's few one-stop-shops for everything wine-related. They also host tastings and events.

"From a small fridge in a flat to a huge purpose-built cave, anyone can have a cellar, depending on how much you want to spend and how much space you've got," CEO Aman Khan told Reuters.

"More and more people in Asia are getting into wine, maybe less so due to the financial crisis, but the interest is definitely still there," he added. "Once wine is part of your life, it's hard to get it out."

Several winemakers have named Asia, especially China, as their biggest growth market and after years of being able to buy wine only from supermarkets, vintners have recently cropped up all over Singapore to slake its growing thirst for quality vintages.

In addition to the cellar consultancy, Artisan Cellars is also trying to set itself apart by offering boutique champagnes and unique burgundies, mainly Old World, as well as vintages from family-owned wineries that still make everything by hand.

"We saw a particular niche that was not being fulfilled, that of the collector who's heard of a particular vintage, or wants something different, and doesn't know where to get it," said General Manager Henry Hariyono.

And special does not always mean prohibitively expensive, with some unusual, quality European vintages costing less than Singapore $100 ($66) a bottle.

Unlike other experts who have dedicated a lifetime to wine, Khan and partner Hariyono say they stumbled into the trade because they both loved to drink wine.

After studying vintages as a hobby, attending many tastings, as well as visiting several vineyards, they decided to make it their profession and say they are living proof that anybody can enjoy wine, given the right opportunity.

"The more you drink, and the more you experience, the more your palate will crave something with elegance," Hariyono said.

"People who start out with Australian or Californian wines usually tend to gravitate toward Old World wines in the end."

And for aspiring collectors who just don't know where to start, Khan advises that small is better.

"More than 20 bottles is a collection, and anybody can start one," he said.

"Wine is also an investment, and a pleasurable one, so collect a few things that could be gratifying in a few years -- if not financially, then they'll please your palate."

($1=1.512 Singapore dollar)

Editing by Jerry Norton

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