The Tastings Room

Like most other fresh university graduates, my first year in the working world saw me nowhere near being financially robust. Going for a Valentine’s date often translates to wallet hemorrhage. Although many relationship ‘experts’ have purported that a good relationship is not how much you spend, the innate manly ego often spurs us to spend like tomorrow may never come. But having gone through such years, I am now more inclined towards maximising my budget on this occasion.

Every year on this commercialised day, I will be browsing dinner set menus that make both sense and cents. A typical dinner in a restaurant on this day tends to consist of set meals that come with wine options. This is good for those who tread on the safe side of food-wine pairing, but unfortunately, this often comes with a premium. I once spent S$200 (per person) on a dinner that included only two glasses of mid-range Australian wines. No doubt the restaurant – with its limited number of seats – provided a great sense of exclusivity in the romance department, but S$50 (about US$40) for two glasses of wine simply doesn’t resonate with the economist in me.

How to maximise your wine dollars
Subsequently, my days of restaurants exploration led me to Bring-Your-Own and Wine-by-the-Glass. A quick search on the internet yields a list of restaurants that permit your own wines. However the absence of  standard market practices can be confusing,  and potentially lead to post-dinner regret. Varying from a nominal fee per table for the corkage charge regardless of the number of bottles consumed, to an individual fee for each bottle consumed (plus a maximum number of bottles allowed), it’s a good idea to confirm with the restaurant manager before turning up. Personally I prefer the nominal fee approach that stays below S$25 as anything higher will be trimming away at my overall food budget. The competition from internet wine merchants have brought about significantly lower prices, a boon for wine drinkers. Assuming my budget is the same amount – around S$50 each together with a nominal corkage of S$25, at S$125 (about US$102), I can afford two whole bottles of wines compared with a mere four glasses!

Wine by the glass is a more direct approach. The drawback is the relatively limited selection. In a good list, I usually expect an average of four wines from each wine category. It’s an added bonus when I get to choose the size. Bite size for tasting, half glass when you prefer diversity, and a standard glass when you find something you really enjoy. The Tastings Room (pictured), Caveau Wines & Bar, Lolla and Praelum are among those that I patronise for wine by the glass. In these places one can find wines that are made using Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Furmint or Grüner Veltliner. Likely to be a little less known to locals, this can be a pleasant surprise compared to the standard fare found in most set dinners.

But perhaps this year I shall skip the restaurant meal altogether on Valentine’s. A picnic can be equally romantic, and I already have the perfect bottle(s) in mind to bring along.

About Wai Xin Chan

Wai Xin is constantly educating himself in all things wine-related. Believing strongly that wine is for enjoyment and not a trading commodity, he encourages sensible, affordable drinking and the exploration of individual preferences. A Certified Specialist of Wine, his personal wine blog is on www.winexin.sg.

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23 January 2013

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