This is not a story of wine notes and terroir and varietals and the other things we concern ourselves daily with. This is our experience as an end-user in this ultra-connected, geo-politically linked economic landscape. This is our experience with global events.
It was a regular Monday afternoon, a Spanish winery who we are to buy some wines from was concerned about the impact of the Middle East conflict on the shipping lines from Europe to Singapore. Since we were shipping products regularly from Europe, the winery wanted our opinion on what was happening and how we were handling it.
I casually looked at the shipping tracker on my screen and rather haughtily sent a screenshot of the liner carrying our wine, making its way through the Red Sea past the Suez. "It's all fine", I said and hung up, assuring them that we were all in good hands and 2024 would be a good year.
The temperature in and around the Suez Canal was warmer than usual and I thanked my stars that this time we got a refrigerated container. About a month prior to this shipment, some of our wines arrived in a 'cooked' state, enough for the local media to do an article on the impact of climate change and feature our story.
A couple of days later the NOA ( notice of arrival ) came into my inbox as usual, this is a notice that lets the consignees know that the vessel is due at port, this is to allow for custom clearances and other formalities. as habit would have it, I refreshed the tracker to see that the vessel had not budged an inch since I last tracked it a few days ago. In a moment of clarity, I opened my newsfeed and punched in my ships name on the news search engine
In bold letters i saw
"On December 16, 2023, a container ship was attacked by an unknown object, believed to be a drone, while sailing near the coast of Yemen. The 15,000 TEU Liberian-flagged ship was hit by a projectile fired from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen. The fire on the ship has since been extinguished."
it was ours!!
Lightning had struck twice!
Amid a flurry of frantic emails and erratic responses, I resigned to the harsh reality of losing another shipment. "This can't be happening," I muttered, seeking solace in the wisdom of Paolo Coelho and Robert Greene. Desperate for validation, I downloaded books and e-books to reaffirm my purpose for both life and business.
"We have 10 new restaurants that need the new wine " said my sales manager, he was right, we have been pitching our new winery to the best of Singapore's restaurants and they were eager to have them on their menus. this was a big deal for us, there was only solace and assurance we could offer, again!
I reached out to the wineries to advise them of the situation, attaching the shipping document. Self-doubt had taken over, and I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that they might perceive me as a clever crook, orchestrating a repeat of the shipping mishap. Twice in a row – it sounded abnormal, even to my own ears. The weight of uncertainty bore down on me as I awaited their responses, desperately hoping for understanding in the face of an inexplicable twist of fate.
I was glad when i received words of assurance from the wineries expressing solidarity and sharing words of compassion, sometimes assurances from strangers is more uplifting than the ones you know well, probably because there is a social contract to be civil with familiarity.
"Your vessel is in the Indian Ocean" pinged my phone early in the morning a couple of days later and i read that as "your vessel is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean", how the mind works!
I hesitantly opened the shipping tracker to see that the vessel was humming along at a steady rate of knots well below the tip of the Indian sub-continent. No sooner than I saw this, the NOA email popped up. this story had a happy ending after all.
We have a new sales pitch "Try this bottle, it survived a terrorist attack,” said someone. "Military assault" i murmured, even in this chaotic world, precision of language bears weight.
"Wines of War" - posing after their arduous journey