If you are sticking to your regular glasses of Merlot and Chardonnay when travelling, chances are, you are missing out on the local sips. Here’s a tip, instead of your go-to choice of traditional grape wine, expand your palate and start exploring unconventional options of wine available, that are not made from grapes. With every bottle, there lies a story waiting to be uncorked. We take a look at five unique wine variations from all around the world.
Pineapple wine: A tropical fine-apple in a drink
If you are team pineapple on pizza, this one’s for you. Yes, we are talking about wine made from juicy pineapples – what could possibly be better than that! Pineapple wine is similar to dry white wines and it is incredibly fragrant.
Tasting notes: A fresh tropical wine with a slight bitterness on the finish.
Alcohol Content: 11.5%
Where can you find it: Hawaii; Okinawa, Japan; Nigeria; Mexico; Dominican Republic
Our travel pick: Okinawa, Japan
Most of Japan’s pineapples are produced in Okinawa. It’s no wonder that many make a stop for the Nago Pineapple Park to learn how the Japanese grow and harvest this tropical fruit. Home to the park is also Japan’s first pineapple winery where visitors can learn more about how it is made, have a tasting session and even buy a bottle home. Like all wines, the prices of pineapple wine also vary depending on country of production and other factors, but can be found at around S$30 at the Nago Pineapple Park.
Mead: Wine from the honey pot
Mead is an ancient alcohol made from fermenting honey, yeast, and water. Its origin dates back to the Vikings and is considered to be one of the oldest wines known to mankind. The taste of mead varies from country to country, depending on the local honey used – a great way for you to try the country’s local produce.
Tasting notes: Dry with hints of fresh florals and a tinge of creaminess.
Alcohol Content: 7.5% to 14%
Where can you find it: Australia; New Zealand; United States of America; South Africa; Sweden
Our travel pick: Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand is renowned for its honey production – in particular, manuka honey. In recent years, honey wine has seen a sweet resurgence, and many local honey farms have ventured into creating their own version of mead. As such, mead has also made its way into the shelves of bars all over New Zealand. The next time you visit a bar in Auckland, be sure to ask for a bottle of mead, priced affordably from S$25 upwards, and decide what you think of it!
Palm wine: A one-ingredient wine with a milky appearance
Popular across Southeast and South Asia, South America, Africa and the Caribbean, palm wine only has one ingredient: the sap from palm trees. Although palm wine has a long history, the window to enjoy it is short. Unlike grape wines that take years to age, the clock starts ticking when the milky, sweet sap is collected as fermentation kicks in immediately. In just hours, the sap becomes wine with an alcohol percentage of 4 percent, about the level of a weak beer. Within a day, the wine turns into mouth-puckering vinegar. Palm wine also goes by several names – tuak (in Indonesia), kallu (in India), toddy (in Sri Lanka), and tubâ (in the Philippines, Borneo and Mexico).
Tasting notes: This wine is consumed in a variety of flavors, from sweet and unfermented to sour and fermented, and even vinegary – but the milky, sweet version is the most preferred way to consume it.
Alcohol Content: 5% to 20%
Where can you find it: Indonesia; Malaysia; Myanmar; India; Sri Lanka; South Africa; Brazil
Our travel pick: Medan, Indonesia.
In some parts of Indonesia, palm wine is mixed with raru bark and is called Tuak. The versatile drink is a celebrated local favourite amongst the Batak community of North Sumatra. It is both commonly available at local eateries, priced around S$2 for a serving and enjoyed with local snacks – while also being a festive beverage that is consumed during festivals, weddings, hosting of guests and other special occasions. So, take your pick in the manner you wish to consume.
Macadamia nut honey wine: Sweet, nutty and golden in finish
Looking for a dessert wine to put a lovely end to your meal? Swap the usual moscato and port wines for something a little more adventurous like a macadamia nut honey wine. Unique to Hawaii, this wine is made from the honey obtained from the blossoms of macadamia nut trees.
Tasting notes: Moderately sweet with a floral flavour and nutty finish. Best served well-chilled or warmed like cider and paired with your favourite dessert.
Alcohol Content: 12%
Where can you find it: Hawaii
Our travel pick: Honolulu, Hawaii.
Wine making in Hawaii? Now that’s a first! In between your sunbathing and windsurfing, be sure to try the macadamia nut honey wine from Volcano Winery, located near Honolulu. The signature wine (S$35) is stocked in several retailers in the city itself, or if you’d like to go behind-the-scenes to see where the magic happens, take a short trip to Volcano, Hawaii. At the winery, you will be treated to amazing views on the slopes of the Mauna Loa Volcano with a wine tasting session where you can sample the unique wine.
Snake wine: A reptile infusion with medicinal benefits
When it comes to trying new things – will you go as far as sipping a slithering snake wine? Don’t worry, this wine is not made using the venom of snakes. Instead, it is made by infusing rice wine with a whole snake and is left to steep over the course of a few months. Although the snakes used in these wines are venomous farmed ones, the alcohol in the rice wine denatures the poison, making it completely safe to drink.
Tasting notes: Faintly sweet with an earthy, light fishy or chicken-like flavour.
Alcohol Content: 30 to 40%
Where can you find it: China; Hong Kong; Vietnam; Goa, India and other parts of Southeast Asia
Our travel pick: Shanghai, China.
Alcohol in China has a long history with the earliest recording of snake wine dating back to the Western Zhou dynasty. According to traditional Chinese medicine, snake wine is known to have numerous health benefits. You can find this special bottle of wine at traditional medicine halls, restaurants or at markets. Snake wine bottles can range from a few dollars to more than $10,000 – depending on the snake and ingredients used.
Gïk: A case for the blues
If you’re not planning to travel to these places anytime soon but want a sip of exotic wine – head to Herit8ge at Jewel and ask for an eye-catching glass of bright blue wine, known as gïk, to go with your meal.
Despite sporting such an unnatural hue, gïk is said to be made from 100 percent organic and natural ingredients. It is essentially red wine, as its base comes from a mix of red and white grapes, and it goes through the similar process of grape fermentation like your Merlot. But with a touch of food technology, it becomes a vibrant blue beverage. Colour, in the natural form of two pigments – one from the skin of red grapes, and one from a flower – is introduced afterwards. Fun fact: Due to its bright blue colour instead of the traditional red or white, regulations have been put in place in Europe to forbid gïk from being categorised as wine – instead it is categorised under “other alcoholic drink”.
Tasting notes: Slightly citrusy with fruity notes.
Alcohol Content: 11.5%
Where you can find it: Herit8ge
Jewel Changi Airport #05-206, 78 Airport Blvd, Singapore 819666
Opening hours: 9am – 3am
One of the reasons why these unique wines remain unknown is the fact that they are not typically being mass exported globally – all the more why you should try them when you are travelling to these countries! Whether you have it by the glass or pick up a bottle to share with friends and family, these wines are swirled with history and culture, making it an even more extraordinary drinking experience.
After reading all of that, if you are still hankering for your go-to red or white favourite – shop our extensive range of wines at iShopChangi Wines where you get to enjoy duty-absorbed prices on all wines without even having to travel! Purchase S$150 worth of wine to enjoy free delivery to a Singapore address (while promotion lasts).
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Best time to visit
Avoid the rainy season which lasts from mid-May to early June. Instead, plan a trip during spring (early March to early May) and autumn (late September to December).
The official currency of Okinawa, Japan is the Japanese Yen (YEN), some places do accept United States Dollar (USD).
Get to Okinawa, Japan, in 5hr 10min via direct flights from Singapore. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
If you’re looking for a summer getaway filled with hiking and water sports, travel during December and February. If you’re looking for a winter escape to ski and enjoy snowy landscapes, travel during June to October. Bar-hopping can be done anytime of the year!
The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar (NZD).
Get to Auckland, New Zealand, in 9hr 35min via direct flights from Singapore. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
Medan is a great place to visit all year round – but the city is known to experience heavy rainfall during September and December.
The official currency of Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR).
Get to Medan, Indonesia in 1hr 25min via direct flights from Singapore. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
Visit Honolulu during shoulder seasons like April to early June or September to mid-December. During those periods, the islands are less crowded and you will get to experience local festivals too.
The official currency of Hawaii is the US Dollar (USD).
Get to Volcano, Hawaii by booking a direct flight from Singapore to Honolulu, Hawaii. From there, you can take a short 45min flight to Volcano. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
Take a trip to Shanghai during its short autumn season, which runs from October to November. It is when the city is slightly chilly and is a perfect temperature to explore its sights and get warmed up with a dose of snake wine.
The official currency of Shanghai is the Chinese Yuan (RMB).
Get to Shanghai, China in 1hr 20min via direct flights from Singapore. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.