Originally she is from Singapore. Growing up in Singapore, a cosmopolitan and prosperous country, she felt lucky to have access to wines from all over the world. She tasted her first wine when she was disgustingly underaged for alcohol consumption. It was a Graham Tawny Port, either a 10 or 20 Year Tawny – she can’t remember exactly, but what she remember vividly was hers willingness to never eat brownies again if she could drink Tawny Port for dessert. She is Charine Tan and she is those more beatiful half of the Exotic Wine Travel team.
How did you discover the wine world and grow your love for wine?
My wine epiphany happened when I was 18 years old. I treated myself to French fine-dining for my birthday and paid around USD$22 (that’s a massive investment for a student!) for a glass of Côte de Beaune Village. Back then, I was into fruity Italian Pinot Grigio, Mosel’s Riesling Kabinett, buttery Californian Chardonnay, and anything-Bordeaux-is-cool-because-I-can-pronounce-Bordeaux, so you can imagine how much of a surprise it was for me to taste an elegant Burgundy. But maybe it was also because I was spending money that I could have used to eat spaghetti carbonara for a whole week on merely a glass of wine, so I had to force myself to appreciate what I bought. A buyer’s remorse can trick the mind!
In 2015, Matthew Horkey (my partner at Exotic Wine Travel) and I decided to turn our lives upside down and travel around the world. When we arrived in Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey, we found out that there’s a part of the wine world that’s lesser-known and has stories that deserved to be told. That was the turning point of our lives. In 2016, we established Exotic Wine Travel and became full-time wine communicators, focussing on lesser-known wine regions.
As you said, from 2016. you and Matthew Horkey are founders of Exotic Wine Travel. You two travel all around the world to explore interesting wine destinations and have written some really interesting stories about wine. Two of you won a few important wine writing awards. Can you tell us more about those experiences and which one you like the most?
We’ve received recognition and awards for our work on the Caucasus, Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, Serbia, and a few other more established wine countries like Portugal. Every recognition and award means the world to us because it’s a win not just for ourselves but for the wine country we write about. Each win brings more awareness and curiosity to the lesser-known countries that we promote. Also, there are many frequent wine travelers, wine collectors, and avid wine consumers in the Exotic Wine Travel’s community. We’ve received excellent feedback from wine producers about the direct impact on their sales and cellar visits after we write about them.
You’ve written four books about wine and travel. How do you find inspiration for the new book theme?
It’s not so much about inspiration as what propels me: which is a combination of love and market potential.
Matthew and I travel full-time and move from country to country every few weeks or months. All of these trips are counted as scouting and research trips to learn where a wine country stands. First, we have to love spending time in the country, the people, the food, and the wine. Next, we need to do dipstick research and find out if our readers are interested to visit the country and drink its wine, along with some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) data to ensure there is a healthy demand for an English guide to the country. The final and most important check is to ask the local wine professionals for buy-in. The locals will have to trust us to represent them. Otherwise, there will be zero success and meaning to the book. We’ve wanted to write a book about Serbian wine for quite some time. Unfortunately, the demand for an English guide to Serbian wine isn’t high enough yet.
Recently, you’ve announced your new book, and it will be about Hungarian wine. Can you share a few impressions about Hungary and Hungarian wines?
Most people would know that Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is absolutely stunning. What people may not know, if they haven’t been to Hungary, is Budapest and several other cities in the country have quite high-standard and vibrant dining scenes. On my first trip to Hungary, I was surprised to discover the sophistication found in the cooking methods, seasoning and plating at restaurants in Budapest. Having a strong dining-out and restaurant culture is crucial for the success of wine tourism, which is a sub-type of gastronomy tourism. Hungarian wine offers such excellent diversity and quality-price ratios that all wine tourists will be able to drink well every day. For wine geeks, Hungary has many autochthonous wine grapes and volcanic soils that have the ability to show you something new about wine.
Will the content of the new book be different from the previous books?
Absolutely! We learn a little more each time we publish a book. Our Exotic Wine Travel’s community has been instrumental for our growth. Our followers often initiate feedback on our work. So for the new book, we’re fine-tuning the book format further to make it even more ‘visitor-friendly’, practical, and accessible for wine lovers and professionals of all levels of expertise. We’ll also have several local and foreign contributors who will offer deeper local insight and international perspective on how Hungarian wine has evolved over the past decades.