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    Jun 10, 2014

    S'pore wine start-up savours $1m funding

    A SINGAPORE start-up, looking to change the way that Asian wine lovers purchase and appreciate wine, has raised $1 million in Series A funding, and is now valued at $5 million just eight months after its launch, its chief executive officer, Vincent Morello, told The Business Times.

    The French Cellar, the first wine subscription e-commerce platform in Asia, lets wine lovers discover exclusive French wines - that are not sold in the region - personally handpicked by resident sommelier Nicolas Rebut, a former chef sommelier at two three-starred Michelin restaurants: Louis XV (Monaco) and Le Meurice (Paris).

    Upon subscription, members receive two different wines - along with wine-tasting notes - every month, and they can also re-order their favourite wines whenever they wish, at a discounted price.

    The latest round of funding comes from ESW Manage, a Singapore-headquartered private equity firm.

    With the funding, ESW will own a 20 per cent stake in The French Cellar; its founder and chairman Wong Yat Foo will also join the start-up as a director.

    The funding comes after Jackie Lee, managing partner at Kyosei Ventures, joined The French Cellar as chairman in March.

    "Our immediate plans are to increase the adoption of wine subscription as the preferred way to consume wine in Singapore, as well as expand into Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Japan through joint ventures or greenfield projects," said Dr Morello.

    Demand for curated wine subscription and guided wine discovery is growing in Asia, he added.

    "For one thing, wine lovers find it a challenge to choose their French wines because of the number of choices available.

    "In France, there are over 300 appellations, and 115,000 winemakers producing more than seven billion bottles of wine a year. This diversity is both an attraction and a problem."

    Moreover, the "mass affluent" - the fastest-growing segment in Asia - increasingly desire to learn more about their purchases as much as they desire high-quality goods. The French Cellar's wine discovery model - with tasting notes - allows this, said Dr Morello.

    Building a community of wine lovers is also something the start-up takes pride in. It holds at least one wine-tasting session a month, for members to discover new wines and network.