Highly accessible yet away from the hustle and bustle, this wine bar is a must-visit for wine lovers.
When we think about sommeliers, oftentimes the image that comes to mind is that of a snooty know-it-all who sneers at our pronunciation and choice of wine. His unflinching coldness makes us not only feel unworthy of breathing the same air, but also momentarily forget that we are, in fact, paying customers.
Fortunately, you’re bound to encounter sommeliers who are living proof that some stereotypes were made to be broken. Meet Daisuke Kawai, chief sommelier of La Terre, a newly launched wine bar he co-founded. His warm smile and heartfelt greetings are instantly welcoming. A couple of drinks later, Kawai displays a playful side, making us feel as if we were at an informal house party rather than a swanky wine bar. But make no mistake; from his elaborate description of each wine’s origins and tasting notes to the charming and confident manner with which he pours the wine, there is no doubt that the chief sommelier is as serious about his vino as he is humourous. With over 20 years of experience in the F&B industry, Kawai, who was previously the chief sommelier at the Les Amis group for three years, has received several accolades, including Best Sommelier of the Year at the Singapore World Gourmet Series Awards of Excellence in 2013.
But more on Kawai later. Located at Upper Circular Road, La Terre is perfectly hidden from the Boat Quay and Clarke Quay crowds. Its sign wasn’t up the last time I went, which further lent La Terre an air of secrecy. When you walk into the bar, you’ll first enter a retail area followed by a bright cellar made from white onyx (the infamous laser room from Resident Evil, anyone?), before arriving at a 14-seat counter. The counter is made from a single-piece cedar wood that Kawai personally got from Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan! La Terre’s menu boasts more than 1, 000 wines and whiskies, including rare vintages that are available in limited quantities of only one to three bottles. Kawai will also be offering wine seminars and classes at La Terre – an opportunity wine lovers shouldn’t miss!
Go Away (GA): How did you become interested in wine?
Daisuke Kawai (DK): I started my career as a waiter in coffee houses and hotels, and I started studying wine so as to improve myself and further advance in my career. I also enjoy travelling, and wine helps me better understand the culture and the people of each place I visit because each region has its own distinct wine. Furthermore, I enjoy experiencing new things – there is no end to the study of wine; there is always something new to find out.
GA: Why did you decide to set up La Terre?
DK: First, I would like to elevate the wine culture in Singapore. There are many wine places in Singapore, but they usually cater to a more youthful crowd and have a more lively atmosphere. With La Terre, I wish to create a wine bar with a more elegant and grown-up atmosphere. I would also like to meet more wine lovers, as well as to use the space to conduct wine lectures.
GA: Where did you get your inspiration behind La Terre?
DK: I am not looking to introduce anything radically different with La Terre. Rather than having an inspiration, La Terre is the accumulation of the 20 years of experience I have gained from working in the industry. My goal is to perform every detail to the highest standard.
GA: What do you hope to achieve with La Terre?
DK: I would like La Terre to be always filled with wine lovers from all around the world. When wine lovers travel to Singapore, I hope they would immediately know to visit the bar.
GA: How do you compile your wine list?
DK: Besides choosing wines that I personally like, I sought to put together a list of wine that is balanced – from the type to the region and the price. I also choose mostly wines that are more aged.
GA: What is your definition of a good wine?
DK: I like well-balanced wines and those with an aromatic nose. I also think that a good wine is one that is drunk with friends, because it is the company you drink wine with that is more important.
GA: What’s your favourite wine and food pairing?
DK: Barrel-fermented champagne with smoked seafood. The soft texture of champagne is harmonious with the smoked flavour of the seafood, which is not too fishy.
La Terre is located at 11 Upper Circular Road, #01-01, Tel: 6532 1031.