When KEN Holdings Berhad group managing director Sam Tan isn’t busy charting the ambitious course of his company, he wants nothing more than to enjoy a nice glass of wine.
After he started collecting wine together with his father Dato’ Kenny Tan during a holiday to the United Kingdom, Sam has amassed a sizable collection of his own.
Can you imagine if having something good and not taking care of it properly? That would be doing it a disservice. To me, wine is a living thing. Wine is what God gave you that year. It is the weather, the climate, whether you have hot summers or cool winter nights. All these things are very important. When it buds, is there hail? Is there frost? All these affect the grape, which is the raw ingredient.
When you talk about wines, it is an important process to also share with the people you care about. I had dinner with a good friend recently and I brought a 1988 champagne. Very rare and hard to get. I told him that I would not share this bottle with anyone else, because only he would know how to appreciate it. It’s an experience you want to share and it’s a memory that you will immortalise.
I actually started wine collecting with my father, Dato’ Kenny Tan. I was studying in the UK and my family came to visit. I remember we were in the Louvre and it was 1997. We visited the Mona Lisa, did the whole works and, then, my mom and sister decided to go shopping. So, my dad and I walked around and came upon this wine shop. The keeper asked us where we were from and how long the flight back home was. When we said 13 hours, he told us that if we were to buy any wine from him, we would have to let the bottle sleep for two more weeks as it would be jet-lagged. We thought this guy was pulling our legs.
When my dad went back, he started reading up on wine. In our chats, I remember him saying: “You know that guy is right; you really got to leave it because there is a difference in atmospheric pressure when you bring it over.” So, he started researching and, whenever he came to the UK, we would go buy wines together. Hunting for wine is half the fun. You need to be tenacious and patient. One of my best finds was a bottle of Leroy wine that I chanced upon in a wine shop. Only 300 bottles are produced yearly, so finding one is like coming upon hidden treasure.
I went to UCL in London for university and, as I started learning more about viticulture, I thought: “Why not open a wine club?” I didn’t want to ask my father for money to finance my wine drinking. So, I began organising events. Our first tasting was profitable, but it wasn’t about the money. We became the official wine club for the University of Civil Engineers, following which we then became the number one wine club in the UK. We had all the top masters of wine speaking to us.
When I came back in 2004, Malaysia was not ready. But, in the last couple of years that I have been organising wine tastings, people have been paying up to MYR700 to MYR800 per person. I was taken aback! People really understand quality and they enjoy a good wine. I have made good friends with great minds who really share the same thoughts and passion for wine. It’s the camaraderie and the friendship that you really enjoy. Wine, to me, can be likened to a photographic film. I am very lucky throughout the years I have bought wines and collected them, but what is and has always been important are the memories. It wasn’t the collection of bottles; it was the collection of memories.
TEXT NEDA AL-ASEDI & SWAROOPINI UDHAYA NAIR
ART DIRECTION AUDREY LIM & MON KAI-SIONG
PHOTOGRAPHY PATRICK CHAN