Dropped jaws, quizzical eyebrows and confused frowns. That’s the general response we get whenever we mention we got a bottle of blueberry wine lying around.
You’re thinking: blasphemy. A wine is not a wine if it’s not made from grapes. Even orange wines are not made from real oranges, doh.
But yes, blueberry wines are real and they’re welcome to stay. Blueberries are popular superfoods, and arguably the healthiest fruit.
They are high in antioxidants and packed with significant amounts of vitamins and all the other good stuff. Yet, its use for wines isn’t a new-age idea.
Fruit wines were borne from farmer market experiments, where low-grade fruits, instead of being carelessly discarded, are instead maximized for fermented usage. After some refining, aging and bottling, your friendly craft mixologists are more than happy to turn up to get their hands on them.
But fret not, you don’t have to turn your next summer holiday into a farm stay. You can now get a bottle for yourself – right here in Singapore.
Singaporean company Vintas is the first in Southeast Asia to distribute its own blueberry wine, Vintas Sapphire, through its partnership with a winery in Michigan, USA.
The base of Vintas Sapphire’s wines are from wild, organic blueberries, which attributes a slightly acidic flavor. The tasting notes encompasses a medley of sweet berries, which Vintas describes as “dense aromas of baked pomegranates, cranberries and blueberries”.
When served, one should take note of its bright burgundy color, where scents of spices like cinnamon bark and clove can be picked up. The medium-bodied wine would be easily appreciated by both regular and occasional wine drinkers, though it may be favored more by those who are fans of sweeter variations like dessert wines.
As a purveyor of wines himself, founder and director of Vintas, C Puveraasen, sought to create a shift in the local wine scene by introducing a unique blend among the reds and whites we’re used to. He shares with us about how it all started, and if blueberry wines are a thing, what’s next?
What was your motivation to venture into blueberry wine?
Before we started Vintas, my partner, Ethan and I, saw the opportunity to disrupt the market with an offering that is both unique and unconventional. We were exploring the possibility of creating a type of wine that challenges the norm by replacing the main ingredient of wine, which is traditionally grapes, with another type of fruit.
We decided that blueberries would create the unique blend we were after. In addition, blueberries are known to be an antioxidant superfood, which would provide more potentially healthy compounds as compared to red and white wines.
While ensuring that our wine contains 100 per cent blueberries, we also considered the overall feedback from players in the ecosystem, from sommeliers to chefs and even fervent wine drinkers, to tweak the taste to improve it before launching it to the market.
Why choose a winery in Michigan instead of one in Australia, France or Italy?
The USA is the biggest producer of blueberries in the world. Blueberries grow abundantly in that region and this ensures that we would be able to have constant supply of blueberries for our wine.
We were also fortunate to partner with our current winery in Michigan who provided us with relevant advice and guidance when we first started out.
What were the challenges in bringing in the goods into the Southeast Asian market?
At the very start of our business journey, we imported a small quantity of 3,600 bottles to test the Singapore market. One of our biggest challenges was the steep liquor tax that we had to incur in order to import alcohol into Singapore once the goods arrived, and that’s on top of the standard GST payment.
In addition to the initial 6-figure sum paid upfront for stock and logistics costs, we also paid a premium for a bonded professional wine storage facility to store our wines in a controlled environment.
On top of the ongoing competition between other market options and distributors, our high cost means that the distributors, bars and restaurants that sell our wine would not be actively promoting it as it was not their highest margin product on their shelves. Our cost is significantly higher as compared to traditional grape wines because our wine is made from blueberries, a niche flavor per se. Therefore, we focused on reaching our customers directly instead of through third parties.
Placing customers at the core of our business has enabled us to have that personal touch. Sometimes, we personally hand deliver the wines to our customers in order to know them better and obtain direct feedback from the ground.
We also offer customization service by printing names onto the wine bottle for events and gifts. In fact, we started this service based on a customer’s suggestion.
Is there a trend you have observed among Singaporeans in the wine scene?
Definitely! Wine and whisky are growing in popularity among Singaporeans, especially among the younger generation. Wine appreciation is indicative of a societal status, as well as being the celebratory drink of choice.
Through our interactions with customers, we’ve witnessed that Singaporeans are now more adventurous and inclined to try new wines in the market.
Tell us what kind of dish you'd pair Vintas Sapphire wine with, or how is it best enjoyed?
I may not be the best person for you to ask as I would pair Vintas Sapphire with everything! In my opinion, if both your dish and wine taste good, they’d mostly taste good together.
Vintas Sapphire carries both the bold foundations of red wine and the tantalizing hints of light-bodied white wine, making it an easy drink with abundant food pairing possibilities, from fish to poultry, lamb, pork, cheese and dessert.
Are there any more flavored wines planned in the pipeline?
Vintas Sapphire is part of the ‘Gem’ series. To give you some context, when we first launched our blueberry wine, we named it Vintas Sapphire; we found the gemstone’s typical blue color fitting to represent blueberries.
In the pipeline, we are looking to expand our line of liquor products by exploring other fruits and naming them after gemstones. Similar to blueberries’ antioxidant properties, we are looking to offer wine that contains sumptuous health benefits.
Shop Vintas Sapphire here.