Quality wine at friendly prices

Atout’s wines are specially curated to match its cuisine Step into any European restaurant and chances are that they will try to impress you with their ‘extensive’ wine list, featuring labels from all over the world. But not at Atout, where Jean-Philippe Joye calls the wine list “well-sized” for a reason. It features only Old World wines, “not because we dislike New World wines but because if you have a bit of everything, there is no depth,” he explains. Also, “If you have a huge list, you need big stocks and high turnover to keep it moving. So we control the size.” He should know. As the business partner of Chef Patrick Heuberger, Jean-Philippe is an F&B veteran who has worked in top hotels all over the world and was most recently with food distributor Culina.

Wine Philosophy

For Atout's opening on March 15, 2018, Jean-Philippe curated an initial list of about 40 wines. He has since been expanding it steadily to 60-80 labels, including a maximum of 6 champagnes and 6 rosés, plus about 20 whites and 40 reds. But what has remained unchanged is his philosophy of good quality and affordable wine, mostly biodynamic and which are enjoyed in a comfortable atmosphere without the obligation to sniff and swirl if you don’t want to. When it comes to biodynamic, “we are not religious about it’’, declares Jean-Philippe. “But it is the right way to go because it is safer for the consumer.’’

Biodynamic vs Regular Wine

Biodynamic is just one aspect of Atout’s wine list, which includes regular wines as well. Generally speaking, a biodynamic wine is made with grapes which are organically farmed without synthetic chemicals like pesticides. The fruit is also cultivated in a holistic way that includes planting and harvesting according to lunar cycles. Jean-Philippe calls biodynamic wine “cleaner’’ than organic wine because it uses even less sulphites. It is the closest to a natural wine, which is made with minimum human intervention and has zero added sulphites. “Biodynamic is better for those opposed to processed food as there is less use of chemicals. Some can taste a little rough and lack roundness, but they taste more like the way they should taste.’’

Affordable Bottles

Also guiding Jean-Philippe’s philosophy is affordability. Three-quarters of Atout’s wine list are priced between S$60 and S$100. “When it is affordable, there is more chance for people to open a second bottle and enjoy their dinner more.’’ This accessibility also entices customers to come into Atout in the afternoon, where they can enjoy a glass of wine with a selection of Chef Heuberger’s specially prepared charcuterie.

To encourage this, Atout has launched its “Two Bottles’’ Wine Promotion. Good from 3-6pm, Monday-Saturday, a selection of 3 whites and 7 reds are available at very attractive prices. For example, 2 bottles of Chateau de Martinon 2016, Entre-Deux-Mers cost just S$90, while a pair of Reserve de la Comtesse 2007, Pauillac are priced at S$216. Jean-Philippe says: “It’s not difficult to get good quality wine at good prices because of the strong competition among the suppliers in the market, so we pass on the savings to our customers.’’

Trophy Wines

But those who want to open a more expensive bottle at Atout will not be disappointed either. “As we slowly expand our list, we are adding trophy wines because of the demand; people like them.’’ And expect some magnums too. Still, if you’re intent on picking up some good value labels, here are some of Jean-Philippe’s current favourites from the list:

Bubbles: Champagne Philippe Gonet Reserve Brut (S$105)

This boutique house is owned by a family whose daughter Jean-Philippe has known for 20 years, since the time they met when she was living in Singapore. “It is an elegant champagne. As a family business with a small production, they can pay attention to detail.’’

Rosé: Chateau Léoube Petit Rosé Tout Simple 2016 (S$60 or S$13 by the glass)

In France, the rosé is associated with summer, which means this organic example from Côtes de Provence is always perfect for sunny Singapore. “It is fresh, crisp and dry, making it so easy to drink.’’

Blanc: Sancerre Domaine Reverdy 2016 (S$67 or S$15 by the glass)

This sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley is crisp and aromatic, with notes of green apple and citrus. “It goes very well with seafood like oysters and grilled fish.’’

Rouge: “Tot Co Que Cal” Plaisance 2014 (S$90)

In Occitan, a language from southern France, “Tot Co Que Cal” means “everything you need’’ to denote this biodynamic and unfiltered wine’s completeness. Made mainly of negrette, a rare grape grown in the Fronton appellation, it is fruity and fleshy with soft tannins. A perfect accompaniment to steak, sausages and cheese.