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Whisky Live Manila: The 4th Installment

WHISKY, or whiskey, is actually the world’s largest selling spirit category, surpassing vodka, gin, rum, and brandy. Based on the study by the International Wine & Spirits Research (IWSR) group, five of the top 15 spirits brands are whiskies, with local Indian brands leading the way. Among the top 10 spirits brands are whisky brands Officer’s Choice from India’s largest domestic spirits company Allied Blenders Distillers, McDowell’s under the Diageo umbrella, and Imperial Blue (now sold in the Philippines) under Pernod Ricard. These three Indian whiskies combine for an astounding 76.6 million nine-liter cases in 2017. Just outside the top 10 but still in the top 15 are the more internationally renowned whisky brands which we can all relate to: Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels.

All White Wine Dinner

WHITE WINE consumption in the Philippines is still way behind red wine, and this ratio is “guestimated” at a lopsided 25:75 in favor of the reds. We are, however, not alone in this phenomenon as several of our Asian neighbors, including South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and China are also red-wine consumption dominant. Despite our tropical weather and high average temperature, Filipinos still like reds over the more refreshing whites. On the other hand, Australia (to name one country) is still 60% white wine consumption, against only 40% red.

After 15 years, a reunion dinner

MICHELIN-STAR chef Yoshiaki Ito of Paris-based L’Archeste restaurant and Epilogue resident chef, Hiroyuki Meno were once colleagues at the prestigious Hiramatsu restaurant chain. The Hiramatsu group is a publicly listed company from Japan, headquartered in Tokyo, and engaged in the operation of French and Italian restaurants. The Hiramatsu group operates several successful restaurants all over Japan, and has also one in France under its eponymous brand, the Restaurant Hiramatsu Paris.

Boracay’s alcohol diet

ONE OF President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature decisions that earned him more respect and adoration from the vast majority of the people (including myself) was when he temporarily closed the country’s most famous tourist island resort, Boracay — a move that was unprecedented in more ways than imagined. Boracay was an income generating avenue for the government, and this move to rehabilitate an island that our president made notorious when he called it a “cesspool” was one of the gutsiest choices ever made by a leader.

Afternoon Delight

GETTING INVITED to media wine events is fairly common for a writer like myself, but an invite for an afternoon tasting, and on a very busy working Monday, is normally an automatic “Hell No!” from me. But this invitation came from my good friend Damien Planchenault of the Okada Manila, and the winery being featured in the tasting just happened to be Vega Sicilia. This was more than enough incentive for me to ditch my afternoon office routine last Monday and to drive some 20 kilometers to make the 3 p.m. call time.

A choice of wine openers

OPENING wine bottles with cork closures can be quite challenging. And breaking a wine cork could be one of the most frustrating — and...

A guide to wine touring

FOR wine lovers, there is no better feeling nor experience then when visiting the wine regions yourselves. Wine tourism involves a visit to wine country, including but not limited to wine tasting, wine purchasing, vineyard tours, winery tours, and even dining and accommodation. Wine tourism is already a thriving business in most of the New World, including Northern California (Napa and Sonoma), the New York Wine Country (Finger Lakes), Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, and even nearby Thailand. Wine tours are definitely much easier when there are already “tourist-friendly” facilities in place.

The art of taking wine tasting notes

“BRIGHT dark ruby color, fragrant nose with hint of leather, robust and powerful, majestic up to the last drop” — this is an example of a wine tasting note you may see for a young Grand Cru Bordeaux, which, to the uninitiated reader, could be a description of anything from a new sports car to a signature brand of perfume. But this is exactly the description that makes wine writers good at their profession. This is also the art in wine writing. However, many times, the notes can be too vague, too general, or even a bit incongruous.

The Thai Connection

THE Dusit Thani Hotel Manila pulled off a wine dinner coup of sorts recently when it held Epicurean, a Thai gastronomic journey, at its top-rated and critically acclaimed Benjarong restaurant. This was the first wine dinner of its kind in the country, where both an established Michelin star restaurant chef and a winemaker from Thailand, came over to collaborate on a six-course Thai wine-pairing dinner. While wine dinners are obviously nothing new, it was the concept of going all-authentic Thai that made this unique.

The one and only Tita of wines

THE deceptively young looking and energetic recent septuagenarian, Tita Meneses Trillo — simply Tita for short — is the undisputed queen of Philippine wines. Her name resonates among wine lovers in the country. Tita has really been one of the true pioneers of wines in our country, and she is an extremely positive influence on the newer industry players, including myself, who are all trying to make it in this challenging yet quite exciting local wine business scene.

Another look at Chateau Kirwan

HAVING known Yann Schyler, a member of the family that owns Chateau Kirwan, for a good few years now, including having had an exclusive one-on-one interview with Yann during his Manila visit less than two years ago (which appeared at this column October of 2017), it was therefore extremely fulfilling for me personally to finally get to visit his chateau earlier this year. Yann himself and Chateau Kirwan general manager cum technical director Philippe Delfaut were present during my stopover at the chateau. Chateau Kirwan is a classified 3rd growth (troisième cru) in the sacred Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855, and is from the Margaux appellation.

Saint-Julien’s Proudest

DOMAINE de Leoville from the Saint-Julien appellation of Bordeaux was not only one of the oldest wine estates in Medoc, but it also used to be its largest estate way back in the 18th century with over 200 hectares of prime vineyards. By 1826, part of the estate was purchased by Hugh Barton, which gave birth to Chateau Leoville Barton. And by 1840, the estate was further split into Chateau Leoville Las-Cases and Chateau Leoville Poyferre. All these three Leoville estates made the still much revered Medoc Bordeaux Official Wine Classification of 1855. All three were classified as Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) — just a notch below the First Growths.

Classic 2015 Barolos on their way

THE highlight of Nebbiolo Prima has always been the preview of the Barolos, the flagship wine of Piedmont. In the 2019 edition of Nebbiolo Prima, a vast majority or approximately two-thirds of all the wines blind-tasted were from the Barolo region.

2016 Barbarescos shine in blind tasting

BARBARESCO is often perceived as the little brother of the Barolo. Both DOCGs are Piedmont’s most cherished wine treasures, made from the versatile nebbiolo grapes. Barbaresco is, however, roughly just a third of the size of Barolo in terms of vineyard hectarage (734 hectares vs. 2,073 hectares) and bottle production (4.8 million vs. 14.1 million). While both Barbaresco and Barolo have obvious similarities brought about by using the same varietal, there are also distinct differences that can at times be subtle, but also at times be quite glaring.

Best of Piedmontese wines in full display

GRANDI LANGHE is a very important regional bi-annual event in Italy that is exclusively for wine trade professionals, made up of wine buyers, wine press people, sommeliers, and wine business owners, both local and international. It is organized by the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Langhe e Dogliani and the Consorzio di Tutela del Roero with its fourth edition just recently concluded — showcasing once more the best of Piedmontese wines. This year, just like its previous staging in 2017, the event was also prearranged in association with Albeisa, the organizer of the Nebbiolo Prima, to ensure that the Grandi Langhe come right after the Nebbiolo Prima.

The 2019 version of Nebbiolo Prima

ALBA, ITALY — I am back in historic Alba, Piedmont to attend the 23rd edition of the Nebbiolo Prima, an annual event that previews...

Revisiting Chateau Lagrange with Matthieu Bordes

CHATEAU LAGRANGE of the Saint-Julien Medoc appellation is one of 14 Troisièmes Crus (Third Growths) in the much revered Official Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855. Like many of its Grand Cru counterparts, Chateau Lagrange also has an illustrious history dating back several centuries, with vineyard activities for Lagrange traced all the way back to the Gallo-Roman times, pre-Middle Ages. What is, however, more fascinating is how Chateau Lagrange evolved in modern times.

Bringing sake culture to the Philippines

RAYMOND JOSEPH, the youngest of the four Joseph brothers running the country’s pioneering wine and spirits importer and distribution company, Philippine Wine Merchants (PWM), is the only Filipino I know that is a real sake sommelier. Raymond has been frequenting Japan since 2009 to learn more about sake since PWM took on the distribution of Gekkeikan Sake Company Limited -- one of Japan’s oldest (founded in 1637), and perhaps the largest, sake company in the world, from Fushimi district, Kyoto prefecture. Raymond even underwent a rigid two week “Sake Sommelier Apprenticeship” crash course from Gekkeikan over eight years ago, and has been attending sake courses from different prefectures to further hone his knowledge. This is Raymond’s passion now, and with PWM as his vehicle, Raymond is dead set on bringing sake culture to the Philippines.

The road to Grand Cru Classe A

CHATEAU ANGELUS never got into the elusive and exclusive Premier Grands Crus Classés level until in 1996. But in less than two decades, Chateau Angelus made history of sorts by being the only Saint-Emilion chateau to jump from being one of 63 Grand Cru Classé wines at the start of the inaugural 1955 Saint-Emilion Classification, to one of only 13 Premier Grand Cru Classé B when promoted in 1996, and now to the ultimate pinnacle level in the latest 2012 classification — equivalent to the first growths, the Premier Grands Crus Classés A, joining erstwhile Saint-Emilion A-listers Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone, and fellow newly promoted Chateau Pavie.

Thanksgiving Barolo dinner

NOV. 22 was Thanksgiving Day, a huge American holiday that is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. The huge annual celebration, along with Christmas and New Year, is part of the official US holiday season. While there were some establishments locally, including some restaurants, that rode along with this American tradition, we Filipinos normally don’t bother with this. Actually in Philippines, the “Christmas holiday feel” commences much earlier and you start hearing Jose Mari Chan songs being played on the airwaves just after All Saints Day, Nov. 2.

The backstory behind the Grand Wine Experience

LAST FRIDAY I was among the large contingent of oenophiles that trooped to the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Newport City amidst the usual insane pay-day weekend traffic mayhem, to take part in the Philippines’ only annual large-scale wine gathering, also popularly known as the Grand Wine Experience. It is by far the country’s most prestigious annual wine event, and already ranks as one of Asia’s most important wine spectacles as well.

Looking at Old World vs New World wines

IN THE wine world, there is an almost unwritten dichotomy. On one end, we have the Old World wines, and on the other end, the New World wines. Old World refers to countries which were into serious wine production for centuries and centuries already (yup, even during the time BC as history would say).

Cava: More than just Spanish Champagne

THE SPANISH took a page from the French when it came to their sparkling wines. The invention of the bubbly drink known as champagne, the first recorded sparkling wine, was credited to an abbot priest from Hautvillers named Dom Perignon in the 17th century in the Champagne region, France.

Getting to know the nebbiolo grape

I AM OFTEN asked what my favorite grape varietal is, and while cabernet sauvignon is indeed one of my true loves, I however like cabernet sauvignon more in the context of medoc — so it is more as a dominant varietal in a Bordeaux blend, rather than a single varietal, so my answer is nebbiolo.

Wine closures: To twist or to screw and pull

WHEN FRIENDS come over to our house for dinner with a bottle of screw cap (also called twist cap or screw top) wine, we tend to snicker a bit, especially on the quality and price connotation of the wine, even if we haven’t tried the bottle. Yet, the bottle may actually be a premium one like a Peter Lehmann Stonewell Barossa Shiraz or a Cloudy Bay Te Koko Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc -- both priced way over P2,000/bottle. Why is this the common bias? And despite the negative perception of most wine drinkers, why are more and more screw-capped wines sprouting on wine shelves all over the country? Let us analyze how this phenomenon started, and breakdown the three most common types of wine closures we see in the market.

A look at the Jakarta wine scene

I travel to Jakarta, Indonesia, twice a year for business, and it is customary for me to drop by their wine bars. The two most popular wine bar chains I came across were Vin+ (as in “Vin-plus”), and Cork & Screw. Vin+ is owned by PT Jaddi, one of the dozen or so direct wine importers in the country. Vin+ has three strategic branches in Jakarta, and a few more outside of the Indonesian capital. PT Jaddi also uses the Vin+ wine bars as wine retail stores, as easily a third of the space of their venues have wine racks dedicated to displaying wine brands they import directly.

More Bordeaux labels to discover — 2

CLOS FOURTET, previously known as Chateau Clos Fourtet or even its most archived name Camfourtet (Camp Fourtet), has been an original Premier Grand Cru Saint-Emilion classified wine since the Bordeaux right bank initial classification in the mid 1950s. Clos Fourtet was one of only 12 original Premiers Grand Cru Classés, and one of the eight Classe B in the first Saint-Emilion Grand Cru classification. Clos Fourtet has also been spared from any form of controversy brought about by the 2006 classification, which was eventually junked for the latest 2012 version.

More Bordeaux labels to discover

I HAVE to hand it to Wine Story for being the runaway choice for the best and most compelling Bordeaux wine selection in the country. Bordeaux will always be the preeminent wine region of wine lovers. But Bordeaux is not as easy to approach, especially for the non-hardcore enthusiasts, as any New World wine region, either it be Napa Valley, Barossa, or Marlborough. For one, Bordeaux has over 120,000 hectares of vineyards, this is just 80,000 hectares less than the vineyards in California (which contributes 90%+ of US Wines). Bordeaux has over 8,500 wine producers, compared to California’s much fewer 400+ wineries. Bordeaux is also four times the size of fellow French wine region Burgundy and 1.5 times bigger than Rhone.

A functional wine toy

LIKE EVERY wine enthusiast out there, I am fascinated by wine gadgets and accessories — from the Vinturi wine aerator, stemless crystal glasses, to handcrafted decanters — but none of these impresses me more than the Coravin wine preservation system.

Heaven for oenophiles

I was enthralled no end gazing at unopened bottles of some of my dream wines to taste — Chateau Latour 1936, Chateau Petrus 1961, Domaine de Romanee Conti La Tache 1978, Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982, and Screaming Eagle Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 — all in one room. These five bottles are worth over P4,000,000 (... yup, not a typo), and are some of the most outstanding wines ever made, not to mention, their rarity given the old vintages. But there is much more as these wines are just five among the over 2,000 wine labels the uberly luxurious Okada Manila Casino Hotel carries in its wine list.

Saint-Emilion wines stay aggressive in Asia

THE official festivities of the bi-annual VinExpo Asia Pacific Hong Kong normally commence with the staging of the most prestigious by-invitation-only Jurade de Saint-Emilion Gala Dinner (held since 2010) on the eve of the wine fair.

Another milestone for VinExpo HK

THE Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wan Chai, Hong Kong was buzzing for three days — from May 29 to 31 — during the VinExpo Asia Pacific. I was one of the over 17,500 visitors who sweated it out (the weather was very warm and humid in Hong Kong) to attend the 2018 edition. This year’s turnout saw a modest 2% increase from the last HK VinExpo in 2016, but the biannual exposition remains the undisputed leader of wine and spirits fairs in all of Asia. The success comes despite stiff competition from Prowein, the German based wine and spirits event organizer, which has done fairs in China and, more recently, in Singapore.

Montes Wines: Pride of Chile

AURELIO MONTES needs no introduction. He did the unthinkable in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he catapulted a new wine label from Chile to the premium wine export scene with much success. The founder and wine maker of the world famous Vina Montes was back in Manila last Saturday, and I was very fortunate to finally get a chance to meet this iconic man. I have always considered Aurelio Montes as the Robert Mondavi of Chile for his trailblazing contribution to Chile’s wine quality image, as what the Napa maverick did for California.

Discovering craft sake

IN SEARCH of craft sake, I found myself in Nikko city, in the Tochigi prefecture, just 140 kilometers north of Tokyo. The brewery is...

Understanding saké

LET US face it — most of us are very enamored by Japanese food and cuisine, and why shouldn’t we be? Japanese dishes are,...

Enjoying Japanese Whisky

JAPANESE WHISKIES continue to be the toast of the whisky world. Prices of Japanese whisky brands also keep rising, and in fact there is...

Hakushu: The other Japanese whisky

Three years ago, I visited Kyoto, Japan and went to this proud country’s first commercial distillery (it opened in 1923), the now renowned Yamazaki...

Koshu: Japan’s proudest varietal wine

YAMANASHI, JAPAN -- Admittedly, I never thought much of Japanese wines. I had on quite a few occasions, either it be during my travels...

The tough monkey to get off your back

I TRIED my first Monkey 47 gin tonic in Singapore a few years back, and despite a rather stiff price tag of around SG$18/cocktail...

Why Champagne is the best Valentine’s gift

POPPING open a bottle of champagne on Feb. 14 to share with your special someone is to me easily the best Valentine’s gift of...

Is Kavalan Whisky for real?

It was not so long ago that the mere idea of a premium whisky coming from Taiwan would make hardcore whisky drinkers cringe. Then...

The Titanic and underwater wine aging

WHEN CHAMPAGNE from the infamous sunken Titanic was recovered in 1985 — 73 years after the luxury ship went down on April 15, 1912...

China’s most awarded wine is now here

The 17th edition of the Grand Wine Experience, subtitled “Degustation,” took place at the Marriott Hotel Grand Ballroom on Nov. 24. Once more the...

The cat that sold millions of bottles of wine

Gato Negro -- Spanish for “black cat” -- was born as a wine brand in Chile in 1960, making it probably the oldest wine...

Chateau Angelus soars anew

The first time I wrote an article devoted to Chateau Angelus was sometime in 2010, when savvy businessman and Wine Story founder Romy Sia...