It took three years of staying in Singapore for French-born Vincent Morello to pick up on our drinking problem: Singaporeans are drinking more wines, but they just don’t know how to go about picking a good bottle.
That’s how online subscription service The French Cellar was born. Started in 2013, the idea behind The French Cellar was to leverage on the expertise of a well-established sommelier and deliver wines that would surprise and educate subscribers. “The idea is for people to discover wines, learn about estate and origins, tasting notes and even how to pair them with local dishes,” says Morello.
The CEO, however, plays no part in the wine selection process. Instead, Morello leaves the picking of the wines in the capable hands of Nicolas Rebut, former chef sommelier at three-Michelin-star restaurants Le Meurice in Paris and Louis XV in Monaco. “I didn’t choose Rebut just because I thought a French sommelier would be better,” says Morello with a laugh.
“The reason is simple – we wanted to bring in wines that were different, and to do that, I had to pick somebody who was based in France and could easily meet the winemakers and select the wines personally. Rebut is also good in that he has relationships with many wine-makers, some of whom don’t even usually export their wines out of France.”
And Rebut is more than stepping up to his role at The French Cellar. He personally writes the tasting notes and pairings for every bottle he selects, careful to share the story behind the wine. Rebut is no stranger to Asian flavours either, having travelled here extensively and trying out local favourites like chicken rice, bak kut teh, nasi lemak and yong tau foo.
His biggest challenge, though, was to find a wine to pair with chilli crab.
“It’s not easy to pair a dish with such intense flavours because the spice from the chilli crab tends to dominate most wines. In the end, I chose a Rhone Valley wine from Cairanne (in south-eastern France) that could hold its own with its fruity and spicy notes,” says Rebut.
For bon vivants who enjoy their vino but are not quite ready to invest in a humidity-controlled wine cooler (Rebut strongly recommends getting one), the French sommelier has some handy tips.
“Most of our wines are delivered ready to be consumed. If they are not enjoyed immediately, I would suggest keeping them in the fruit and vegetable section of the refrigerator,” says Rebut. Just take note of the serving temperature recommended in his tasting notes.
Nicolas Rebut is the first sommelier for The Peak Wine Club, launched this month.