UNTIL 1997, Mr David Lim never drank any wine unless he was on a flight.
'It was free (on board flights),' said the 36-year-old.
'However, when I met my wife-to-be, I was forced to drink in a more 'serious' manner. When we went out, I would buy the second cheapest bottle of wine.
'I didn't want to buy the cheapest because it would make me look really cheap, and buying the most expensive would blow a hole in my pocket.
'I didn't want to look silly.'
Soon he realised that wine was not just something to swirl around and sniff at.
He decided to go into the wine business, and today, he is the proud founder of Denise The Wine Shop, with over 35 outlets across Singapore and Malaysia.
With nearly 2,000 labels available at his outlets, Mr Lim has garnered several accolades for his entrepreneurial efforts.
Last year, he won the gold award for the 'Most Promising Young Entrepreneur' while Denise The Wine Shop received the gold award in 'Industry Excellence for Food & Beverage' at the 4th Malaysia Canada Business Council Business Excellence Awards.
PROVING OTHERS WRONG
It wasn't always so rosy.
His first outlet in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, was in an area with more heartlanders.
Mr Lim said: 'There were doomsayers saying that it was not going to be easy to survive, and whether the market was ready (for a wine specialty shop).
'Wine is a seasonal business. In Singapore, about 30 per cent of our business is made during Chinese New Year and Christmas. The rest of the time, it's like we're killing mosquitoes.'
Not that they do, of course.
During such quieter periods, Denise The Wine Shop conducts activities such as cultivating wine appreciation classes during Father's and Mother's Day and the Mooncake Festival.
If you haven't got into wine appreciation, Mr Lim said: 'One of the important considerations would be to ensure that the wine is in its original shape.
'This means that the wine should be kept in good and consistent storage from the moment it leaves the vineyard and into the bottle to preserve its original flavour.
FIND A GOOD SOURCE
'Where you purchase your wine from is also important - you've got to get it from a trusted source. You should also look for places that can give you advice (on the types of wine to purchase).'
Mr Lim also said that there is a big difference in quality between commercially- produced wines and those which are produced by families.
He added: 'Wines are like sound systems and luxury items. From $25 to $80 per bottle, there's a huge difference, but from $1,000 to $1,500, it's just the fine details that are different.'
With the prices of some premium wines being high, it's easy to assume that it is a privilege enjoyed only by the wealthy.
But it needn't be so.
Mr Lim explained: '(Wine) started off that way; it was something that belonged to the elite. Doctors, lawyers wanted to be seen holding one of them.
'When I had my first shop (in Malaysia), I had curtains instead of a door. I knew it wasn't good for the wine, but I was afraid that (having a door) would make it look expensive and uninviting.
'It's not just wine I'm selling - it's an experience for everyone.'