Alvin Gho's Singapore: Booming but conservative

Andreas Grube
Published 10-March-2021
Interview / Singapore

Star Wine List’s Singapore ambassador Alvin “Al” Gho has worked as a sommelier for 12 years, and now runs wine bar RVLT in Singapore. He describes the restaurant scene in the city as booming – but the wine scene being conservative.

”The wine scene is pretty traditional and conservative with most wine drinkers currently in their mid- to late forties or older, and mainly men,” he says.

Alvin Gho has been in the food and beverage industry all his working life, and in 2009 he fully immersed himself into wine, starting a job as a sommelier at Raffles Hotel Singapore. Since then, he’s also co-founded wine bar RVLT and importer/distributor Raw Wine.

When it comes to food and wine in Singapore, Alvin says that he would like to see more curiosity and diversity on the scene:

”I would like to see more wine bars and restaurants in Singapore being more open-minded with selections instead of staying just business-focused and providing only what people want instead of pushing boundaries and being more innovative,” he says.

”With wine, people stick to what they know most, so Bordeaux and Burgundy, Loire valley with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé and Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône. People drinking Italian wines generally go for super Tuscans, Barolos, and Chiantis. The restaurant scene, on the contrary, is booming and innovative and often chef-led. Lots of creative new restaurants but still classic old fine dining!”

At the same time, he also says that Singapore has ”too many restaurants” and that he would like to see more passion in the business.

”I’d like to see fewer passionless places with no souls. We need fewer restaurants and bars in Singapore, and mostly the lifespan is usually around two years here. We have too many restaurants...”

What are the most visible trends when it comes to wine in Singapore?
”I can’t specifically identify a single trend that is apparent, but I would say that orange wines and Pet Nats seem to have hit the millennial drinkers in Singapore.”

We don’t know how long this is going to last, but it seems optimistic at the moment

How has the pandemic affected the wine and food scene in Singapore?
”COVID has propelled a large home drinking scene! During the lockdown, people were able to find great deals on retail wines and started buying, keeping, and drinking wines at home. When dining out, there’s a 10.30 pm rule, so people are generally eating and drinking earlier. People are also drinking much faster now, instead of drinking slowly.”

”The fine dining restaurants are affected as degustation dinners would usually take a long time, and often past 10.30 pm; thus, the wine pairings cannot continue. And for a bar like ours, we aren’t able to pack it up too much as we have the social distancing rules of people being one meter apart. We used to have people standing around when all seats were taken.”

What about the situation for you and RVLT right now?
”The COVID situation is really strange and unique without tourism. Still, it captured many Singaporeans and ex-pats in Singapore, people that are usually highly mobile and traveling outwards. For us, it’s been quite good, because there are many more people heading out to explore locally. We don’t know how long this is going to last, but it seems optimistic at the moment, and we wish to thrive as long as we can.”

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