The next generation of wine bars in Singapore is reigned by a crucial keyword: “unpretentious”.
It is no coincidence that this new charge is occupied by bars focused on all wines “natural” (an umbrella term used loosely here, of course). This movement, dedicated to challenging winemaking traditions, is not run by tuxedos and wine lists with bank-blowing prices.
It is pushed by experts who are wine lovers first, and who want you to just appreciate the good in whatever bottle you order, no matter its price tag or Vivino rating. Rebel Rebel is the next evolution of this ideal.
Instead of just a blanket focus on wines from minimal intervention producers, Rebel Rebel streamlines it further. Its 200-bottle strong list is dominated by labels from wineries that make terroir centre stage, so it’s about where as much as what you’re drinking.
All the wines on the list are also personal notes of the owner’s journeys meeting both old and new world producers. A lot of these producers also smile from the picture frames that surround the venue, adding personality to the bottle you’ll order.
Burgundies, grower champagnes, rosés, whites, reds, skin contact, and rare wines are all fair game at Rebel Rebel. Another unique point about Rebel Rebel is the owner’s ability to bring in wines from producers unheard of in Singapore.
Fujimaru is one. The house brand of the famous Fujimaru Wine Shop comes to Singapore for the first time to showcase Japanese winemaking, with Rebel Rebel offering its Table Top 2019 (price TBA). Made from Delaware grapes, the skin contact wine is all guava and strawberries on the nose, and barely-ripe watermelon on the tongue. So surprisingly dry for a wine that smells that sweet, this is a bottle we’d very gladly stick a straw into a glug whole. Hey, unpretentious, right?
Another highlight is the Pure Oh!rigine 2018 from Les Bertrand (S$94++), a testimony to Beaujolais that is feathery light and soft, the acidic punch of Gamay restrained to let blackberries and raspberries shine through.
Feel your way around the list, organised according to regions, and choose your poison, whether from its rotating by-the-glass menu or a bottle. When it doubt, flag the sommelier, who will be happy to help you pair a wine to your meal. Bottles are priced from below S$100 to S$2,000.
Chef Deborah Yeo helms the kitchen at Rebel Rebel, bringing her time with Burnt Ends to a new table. Pushing the bracket is a norm on her menu. For starters, the classic sourdough (S$6++) comes with butter and a serving of creamy whipped pork fat (s$6++) topped with sweet barley and farro. It’s a lard lover’s dream on a sauce dish.
Yeo’s unabashed use of chili is also a nod to any local’s heart. Mind, we’re talking real heat, and not the cursory sprinkle of red pepper flakes masquerading as spice. The octopus (S$26++), for example, sees the seafood marinated for two days, then served with olives, sundried tomatoes and pickled green chilis for a medley of brine and burn that is distinctively Southeast Asian.
Also a star is the pig’s head tagliatelle (S$28++), which uses all parts of the big’s head, including deep-fried ears in chilli, served with a sauce of lime and, you guessed it, more chilli. It’s not an insult to take this dish as a seriously elevated take on bak chor mee, but a testament to how familiar it tastes in the face of clear innovation.
Desserts are a must to end the meal, especially the lime-dusted churros with a miso chocolate dipping sauce (S$8++). Salt and chocolate are best of friends, and this takes the combination to another level. Not to toss the word “umami” around recklessly, but these churros are its definition.
Do we need another wine bar focused on natural wines? Yes, 100 percent, and if it’s anything like Rebel Rebel, make it 110. A laidback atmosphere meets food and wines with attitude, and everything is oh-so delightfully unpretentious.