By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter
WITHIN EVERY bottle of wine is a summary of time and space in which a wine was made: from every drop of sunlight and rain, to the air and the soil from which the vines absorb life.
Late last month, a group of wine producers and exporters arrived in the Peninsula Manila for Tastin’ France, a project of Business France, that country’s national agency for supporting the development of exports and international investment. The project aims to increase the awareness of French wines in the country, as well as get a foot in for French wine players. Its Philippine stop on Oct. 29 was part of a Southeast Asian tour: right after setting up shop in Manila, the group of exporters and producers went on to Kuala Lumpur and then Singapore.
BusinessWorld talked to three of the wine makers and exporters, for three different reasons: age, location, and, well, plain old prestige.
Wine company Patriarche has under its belt more than 200 years of history, being founded in Beaune in the 1700s. It is one of the oldest wine makers in Burgundy, itself known for its rich history and wine. Up until recently, it had been run by members of the original family until it was acquired by the Castel Group. Carlos Varela, its Asia Pacific Export Director, said that it has lasted so long because of “a spirit of innovation.”
According to him, the original owners made a decision early on to specialize in sparkling wines to rival those from Champagne. The sparkling Champagne, you see, is protected by an EU designation that prevents any sparkling wine produced outside the Champagne region to be called such. Mr. Varela had us taste the Louis Pevrier Brut Excellence, a wine with a strong, sultry smell and a taste punctuated with a note of fresh-cut grass. A Veuve de Vernay Brut, meanwhile, had a bit of a taste of almonds, with an accompanying crunch and crispness, and a very velvety mouthfeel.
Along with this, he produced a Veuve de Vernay Ice, a sparkling wine designed to be served over ice — a mark of the company’s innovative ways.
By the way, Mr. Varela notes that an excellent sparkling wine, particularly a cremant, should have a bit of creaminess, a bit of a taste of almonds, a bit of biscuit flavor (but not too much), and “fine, regular bubbles.” He said that the company balances tradition with innovation by “always trying to listen to the market, being careful with the market trends’ evolution, being careful with the customer’s evolution” as well as “trying to educate consumers to the specificity of wine making.”
We then hopped on with a glass to the town of Tain -L’Hermitage, through a company called Cave de Tain.
Cave de Tain produces wines in Southeastern France, growing their vines on the Hermitage hillside where the Rhone river flows. Export Manager Jean-Benoit Kelagopian pointed out the site of their vineyards: “When you see the picture, you will know,” he said, running his finger along a photo of the Hermitage hillside, as if showing that the beautiful surroundings contribute to the wine’s taste. The high altitude of the vineyards he says, contributes to the wine’s quality: “That’s very good for the maturity.”
He had us taste a Saint-Joseph, which had a pungent, oaky aroma, and an overall smooth finish save for a crisp, knife-like edge.
According to him, the vines are grown sustainably, which does affect the wine. “In the end, your vines are in better health, and as they are in better health, they produce better fruit, and from better fruit, you make better wines.”
In 1855, The French Emperor Napoleon III ordered a classification of the wine makers from Bordeaux, and the lucky few who were included in the list continue to enjoy the privilege of being called a Grand-Cru, a mark still respected around the world.
Thibault Riviere, Associate Co-Owner of Wine Around, has the privilege of serving as a distributor of grands-crus. He had us taste a Chateau La Tour Carnet Haut Medoc, a grand-cru; quite feminine and had a scent of perfume.
Now, the thing about Bordeaux wines is, is it all marketing, or is it really the best in all the world? Mr. Riviere talks about the efficiency of the production and marketing, but says, “That’s why it’s very famous; because it’s a huge producer.” He also says, “If it’s famous, it’s also easy to drink.”
This goes against our belief that a more expensive wine would be more complex and difficult, but he argues that grands-crus from Bordeaux are much less expensive than grands-crus from Burgundy. “In terms of taste, it’s a lot of seduction,” by which he means that at the very first sip, the flavors are immediately expressed, urging the drinker to keep going.