Wine culture takes root in PH

Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs

The Philippines slowly but steadily developed a wine culture in the past decade.

I still remember the ’90s when wine menus indicated grape varieties instead of wine labels and you would order either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. And the gauge for good wine was price, not vintage or region.

Today, we know better. We know that a bottle of red Bordeaux may have a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; and that aside from Bordeaux, we can look to Italy and Spain for quality wines.

To help narrow down the choices, I asked for wine recommendations from the following experts: Rey Lee, founder and owner of Artisan Cellar Door; Jean Philippe “JP” Guillot of AWC Philippines; Hazel Tolhurst, co-founder of Wine Depot; Tita Trillo, founder of Titania Wines; Gale Atienza, owner of Massimo Trulli, an Italian wine deli on Reposo/N. Garcia; and wine connoisseurs Cecile Ang and Noel Ermitaño.

Here are their most valuable insights:

What to bring to a potluck party

It’s reunion season and there are too many potluck parties to attend. Since the easiest thing to bring would be a bottle, here are some suggestions:

Tita Trillo of Titania, hostess with the mostest, suggests something light that guests can drink right away. This is a characteristic of a lot of New World wines so she suggests a Caliterra Chardonnay. Caliterra is a Chilean label, a partnership of the families of Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick, producing high quality wines that reflect the potential of the Chilean nature, terroir and fruit. You can get a bottle at Titania for less than P1,000.

JP Guillot (AWC) likewise suggests going white for a potluck and recommends the Chateau Haut Selve White. “Beautiful white wine, you will bring happiness to the party. The freshness and sensuality of this white wine will blow away all your friends … be ready for a hot night! At only P1,300 at AWC, this seems like a hot night on a discount!

Noel Ermitaño, wine connoisseur, takes the diversity of dishes into consideration. “A casual meal like a potluck that involves a number of assumedly diverse dishes would need versatile and easily accessible wines,” he explains. “I’d suggest a not-too-sweet German Riesling for white, and a fresh New World Pinot Noir.”

He recommends the current vintage of Dönnhoff Riesling QBA (available at Premium Wine Exchange at just over P1,000) and Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir (available at Zen Asia, also just a little over P1,000).

Wine connoisseur Cecile Ang recommends champagne. The Tissot Cremant du Jura, she shares, is “very good and cheap” at less than P1,000 at Premium Wine Exchange.

Rey Lee agrees that a wine that would pair with almost all dishes is ideal. He recommends the Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet because these are easy, flexible wines that pair with any type of food. These are only P650 at Artisan Cellar Door.

For bottles less than P500, Hazel Tolhurst suggests a Pascal Jolivet Attiitude Sauvignon Blanc, which comes at a special Christmas price of P490 at Wine Depot. While Gale Atienza,  co-owner of Massimo Trulli at the LRI Building suggests a sweet and slightly sparkling red Italian wine that is only P390: The Medici Ermete  ‘I Quercioli’ Lambrusco Reggiano Dolce. Critics have ranked this wine as one of the top five Reggiano wines.

What to give to your boss, top client

This is usually a tough one because this is a gift to impress someone who is probably way more knowledgeable about wines than you.

Frenchman JP recommends a Grand Cru 2004 Chateau Palmer  from Margaux. “This Chateau is one of the most elegant by its refinement, power and balance. The Blue Palmer of this label makes the perfect gift for your boss and/or value customer,” he explains. This goes for P24,400 at AWC.

Noel Ermitaño, a lawyer by profession, says you can’t go wrong with a bottle of 1996 Château Rauzan Ségla, a second growth from Margaux, Bordeaux, available at Txanton for P9,500.

If you are game to go Italian, Gale recommends a 2008 Brunello Montalcino (long name: Lionello Marchesi col di sole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, Toscana). This is a dry, full bodied red priced at P3,500 at Massimo Trulli.

But even easier on the budget without sacrificing that oh-so-important impression are the Baron Rothschild wines. Rey Lee suggests the Lafite Legende Pauillac from Domaine Baron Rothschild. “The 3rd wine of Chateau Lafite, this will definitely signify the importance of the recipient,” he says. This is only P2,600 at Artisan Cellar Door. Tita Trillo recommends the 2012 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet. This is Bordeaux wine is annually served to guests and celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival so if it’s good enough for Sophia Coppola (or best actress Jaclyn Jose!), it must be boss-worthy as well, right? Best of all, it is budget-worthy at the very accessible price of only P1,175 at Titania Wines.

If your budget is only at around P1,000, Hazel recommends an Argentinian wine, the Altos Las Hormigas Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. This was ranked among the Top 100 Value Wines of 2014 and costs only P1,030 at Wine Depot.

Wines to give friends

I am certainly going to line up now to become a good friend of Noel Ermitaño because he would give an old friend a bottle of the oldest available vintage of Vega Sicilia Único. This is oh, just a little north of P20,000 at Terry Selection. I am loving that he would give a pricier bottle to an old friend than to a valued client. This man knows who matter most!

JP the Frenchman recommends the Chateau Cap de Fer 2012 Magnum. “Because this come from the heart,” he says, elaborating that the bottle comes from a family-owned vineyard “where passion, roots, quality and love are inside this bottle.” As for the size, he argues, “We all know that one bottle is always too small, so go for a Magnum!” At only P2,000 at AWC, why not?

Rey suggests a conversation piece with the label 7 Deadly Zins. He describes it as an “amazing Zinfandel to remember the good old times.” This is only P1,400 at Artisan Cellar Door. Tita Trillo recommends a Malbec, the La Mascota, only P1,040 at Titania Wines.

For below P1,000, Gale recommends the 2012 Menhir Salento ‘Quota 29’ Primitivo IGT, Puglia, only P600 at Massimo Trulli. And Hazel recommends the Talamonti Moda from Abruzzo, Italy, which is only P499 at Wine Depot.

Wines for Noche Buena

Gone are the days when all we had with our Christmas eve and Christmas day food was Coke (and Coke Zero to match the unlimited rice). These days, wines are now part of the table.

Here are the suggestions for wines to match that Noche Buena spread:

Rey recommends “nothing but the best wine” for family: The Bodega Caro from Domain Baron Rothschild, which has been listed in the Top Ten of Wine Spectator (P4,000 at Artisan Cellar Door). JP recommends the Clarendelle Magnum 2009 (make sure it is a 2009), inspired by the famous Chateau Haut brion. “This wine will impress all your guests,” he says. (P2,520 at AWC). Noel recommends the rich, buttery Beringer Napa Chardonnay Private Reserve because it goes well with baked ham, a Noche Buena staple for Filipino families (approx. P2,200 at Happy Living Wines). Hazel recommends a South Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, the Parker Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (P920 at Wine Depot). Gale recommends a dry sparkling wine, the Foss Marai ‘Marai di Marai’ Spumante (P880 at Massimo Trulli).

Wine for Christmas Day

Christmas Day seems to be even more special for these wine experts.

JP suggests the 2010 Premier Grand Cru Classé Chateau Guiraud from Sauterne.

“This is a superb wine that will beautifully accompany your foie gras and/or all the sweetness you want to share with it,” he says, (P5,560 at AWC). Rey suggests the Gosset Champagne Blanc de Blanc which he describes as “a fitting tribute to remember the Day the King is born” (P4,000 at Artisan Cellar Door).

Noel is more elaborate: “If it’s for Christmas day lunch, I’d go for the Magnum format (1.5 liter) of the current vintage of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé (approx. P6,000 at Sommelier Selection). If for dinner, this year I’d probably open some 1995 Bodegas R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva (approx P4,800 at Txanton) since my family, aside from my wife, hasn’t yet tried that vintage of it.

Hazel recommends a Langedouc, the Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc, because—and this is the best case for a Pinoy Christmas day wine—it goes well with lechon. This goes for only  P570 at Wine Depot.

Wine for yourself

Finally, I asked these experts what wine they would give themselves.

JP would splurge on a 1995 Les Forts de Latour “because I will share this bottle with a very special person and I simply love this wine.” This is P22,400 at AWC.

Noel would splurge on a 2001 Col d’Orcia Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “since I can (and do) enjoy it now, and it can age well for many more years.” This is available at Bacchus Int’l for around P6,800.

Rey would go for a Chateau Ausssieres from Domain Baron Rothschild because “this is what the Baron drinks every day with his meals. Treat yourself and indulge like the Baron Rothschild!” This is only P2,500 at Artisan Cellar Door.

The ladies are more conservative. Hazel would be happy with the Australian 2012 Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz. Gale loves the Icardi Barbera ‘Nuj Suj’ DOCG from Piemonte. Both are just a little over P1,000.

I would be happy with any Margaux—just a narcissistic tendency to drink something with my name on the label, hehehe! No need for a 1787, the most expensive vintage going for auction at $225,000. I would be very happy with a much more recent 2009 Premier Grand Cru Margaux, retailing for oh, only around $195,000. Or I might even settle for just the 2010 Grand Vin Premier Grand Cru at Wine Story, retailing at P69,990.

For non-plunderers and non-tycoons, there are more realistically-priced Margauxs at almost any wine store. A premier cru is nice but not a necessity. When you shop for biscuits at Marks & Spencer Food, you will find that they carry bottles of Margaux as well on their shelves. The 2010 Margaux Grand Vin is only P2,350.

Whatever your vino, may you all get happy-drunk this Christmas! And tipsy with love, happiness and blessings! Chateau Margaux cheers!!