IT HAS been an arduous process identifying the top 10 wines enjoyed by Singapore's corporate leading lights for The Business Times Wine Challenge, in its second edition in 2014.
After all the swirling, sipping and friendly discussions, international wine specialist and chief judge Lim Hwee Peng and his team unveiled the 10 before a crowd of 180 guests and industry professionals gathered at UBS Singapore's premises at One Raffles Quay on Thursday.
He said: "In the final count, each of those wines won only by a whisker, not by a huge margin, a testament to the exceedingly high-quality wines submitted."
This was the second time UBS had supported the event, and also Mr Lim's second round as chief judge.
Making it twice into the top 10 is Richfield Brands & Services with two submissions - Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2009 and its Riesling Auslese 2010.
Among the 10, Vinum Fine Wines' Latricieres Chambertin, priced at S$165, was the most expensive; Artisan Cellar's Riesling Kabinett 2012, with a retail price of S$52, was the least.
All 10 wines have come a long way, whittled down from the original field of 130 wines submitted by wine distributors and retailers in July.
Thirty wines were shortlisted from that field by a panel of wine experts comprising Mr Lim, as well as the founder and sommelier of Singapore-based French restaurant Le Bistro du Sommerlier Maximilien Fedkiw, the director of wines at Les Amis Group Timothy Goh and three guest judges.
These shortlisted 30 wines were featured in BT every Saturday between Aug 3 and Sept 27 in the run-up to Thursday's awards ceremony.
In August, the top 10 wines were picked by a panel of 10 chief executive officers, including Eu Yan Sang's Richard Eu, Singapore Power's Wong Kim Yin, Far East Hospitality Trust's Gerald Lee, Pontiac Land's Michael Su and ARA Group's John Lim.
Served with covered labels to ensure blind-tasting, the judges gave each wine a score based on aroma, complexity, balance, intensity and length of the flavour.
Most of the wines in the top 30 are those which go well with food, as opposed to wines that can be drunk on their own.
With the latter type of wines, it just becomes alcohol consumption, "which is something we don't want to encourage", said Mr Lim.
BT was prompted to hold the wine challenge again after the success of its 2013 edition.
BT editor Alvin Tay said that many wine awards have been held over the years, but "we felt that none of them really reflected the palate of business leaders".
In 2013, The Business Times set out to discover the preferred wines of Singapore's top executives rather than to just pin gold ribbons on wines deemed technically impressive or which were a good investment.
Mr Lim said: "I think for most business communities, there is a need for wine to be in the picture because it is becoming part of a business tool in order to get the conversation going at a business luncheon.
"Or if the client is a wine lover, then the wine itself will help clinch business in a much more fashionable way."
Mr Tay said that the unique selling point of BT's wine challenge was that the awards are based on CEOs' choices. "People want to know what our CEOs and top executives are thinking, and what they like to eat and drink. Their preferences do matter."