20 years of making wine meant for Filipino tastes

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PHILIPPINE wine company Novellino celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this week, marking its hold on the growing wine industry of the country.

Glasses of Novellino were passed around at an event on Tuesday in Manila House in BGC. The wines, with a price range of P200 to P400 a bottle, are made in a plant in Laguna (the only thing imported about Novellino is the grape juice from which it is made).

It’s easy to look down on the wine because of its price range — but then again, the process to make the wine sweeter (the sweetness giving it the mass appeal that has allowed it to stay for 20 years) is more sophisticated than traditional winemaking. It has to do with going against nature and arresting the fermentation process, allowing for only some of the yeasts to convert the sugar into alcohol, according to a presentation during the event by Christopher Quimbo, one of the heirs to the Novellino fortune established by his father, Vicente, and current President and General Manager.

In 2015, Christopher Quimbo was awarded the ASEAN Young Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines and the 2015 ASEAN SME Excellence Award for Innovation, on behalf of Novellino’s parent company, Bel Mondo Italia Corp.

Novellino products are also sold in Vietnam, the UAE (some of them as non-alcoholic beverages in the predominantly Muslim country), and even in one of the wine capitals of the world, California. This year, they’re launching Novellino Wines on Tap (essentially a keg).

While Novellino was founded in 1999, one of its biggest coups was in 2011 with the opening of its facility in Laguna, where all the wine action is made. Asked why it was so important to make all the wines here (as opposed to the arguably easier process of just having finished wine repackaged), Mr. Quimbo said, “We can control the factors that allow us to have full control of making a product that is delicious to the Filipino public.”




A lot of the wine industry has to do with age — not only in fermenting the juice that makes the wine, but also the process by which a company plants its roots. “We’re a young player. We’re a small company in the grand scheme of things. Wine is a small category compared to beer, compared to spirits. But it’s the fastest-growing. We are going up against the Goliaths in the world,” Mr. Quimbo admits.

“Filipinos deserve a wine that’s made for them.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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