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BETHON, FRANCE — Wine makers in France’s Champagne region are this week gathering a bumper grape harvest, but there is a bitter aftertaste: the slump in demand for bubbly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means some of the harvest will go to waste.
At the moment, many of our plans are still on hold. But that doesn’t mean we here at Bloomberg Pursuits aren’t planning the experiences we’ll rush out to enjoy when it’s safe to do so. We’re sharing our ideas with you in the hopes that they will help inspire you. In today’s dispatch, travel writer Chadner Navarro dreams about the perfect itinerary for continuing his long-running European love affair.
AT ONE of my wine dinners in Alba, Italy, I had a beautiful Nebbiolo d’Alba from Giacomo Brezza, their Vigna Santa Rosalia 2017 vintage. This wine was a fresh and approachable expression of the normally rustic Nebbiolo (when young), and exuded nice floral, red fruit, peppery, and spicy notes that accompanied our antipasti. Aside from the pleasure of having 4th generation Giacomo Brezza owner Enzo Bressa seated next to me, I also saw a closure that I rarely have seen for wine bottles. It looks like an ordinary wine stopper but is made of glass and looks much classier and more elegant. Also, no need for a corkscrew to open the wine.
EVERY AUTUMN, wine makers in Germany’s Mosel valley leave hectares of vines unharvested, hoping that a deep-enough winter freeze will allow them to produce the region’s famous ice wine. Yet the process is becoming a riskier business each passing year.
“WINE makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized,” the French wine writer, Andre Simon, famously wrote.
THE DEVASTATING wildfires that swept through the east and south of Australia in recent months could have yet another consequence — spoiling some of the 2020 wine vintage in a country that counts China, the US, and the UK among its biggest customers.
SO MUCH WINE, so little time — this is a real dilemma among wine enthusiasts. Wine lovers are just so spoiled with the abundance of choices nowadays, albeit at individual budget constraints. The best way to cover more wines is to drink with others. Rather than some senseless inebriating parties involving kampai, binge drinking, and tequila shots amongst friends, why not organize a more subtle and even educational wine tasting party?
THE WINES of Pessac-Leognan have their own Grand Cru classification (prior to 1987, the wines from Pessac-Leognan were known more broadly as wines of Graves) like their more illustrious Medoc counterpart. The Graves classification officially took its place in 1953, almost 100 years after the first Bordeaux classification of 1855. The original version had some revisions and was reestablished in 1959, and this 1959 Classification is pretty much what it still is today.
THERE ARE two important Judgments of Paris, both of which changed the world, depending on what you’re reading. First, there’s the Judgment of Paris of Greek mythology, where the lost prince of Troy, Paris, had to choose who the fairest was between goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena, and the consequences of that launched the Trojan War. Secondly, there’s the Paris Tasting of 1976, a competition by a British wine merchant, where California wines flushed out their French counterparts in a blind tasting by French judges. This competition paved the way for New World wines to be taken more seriously.
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.
THE Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wines and spirits qualifications, is set to hold several events in observance of Wine Education Week which runs from Sept. 9 to 15. This is the first global initiative of WSET and it coincides with the program’s 50th anniversary.
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.
INSIDE a 19th-century silk merchant’s house in Katsunuma, Japan, about 70 miles west of central Tokyo, the three Aruga brothers are pouring several white wines in their timbered tasting room. All are made at their Katsunuma Jyozo Winery under the Aruga Branca label from the country’s unique grape variety koshu, and all are delicious: One is elegant and sparkling; another fresh, bright, and lemony; a third succulent and tangy; still another savory and smoky; and a fifth barrel-fermented version is round, rich, and smooth.
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.
BAY OF PLENTZIA, Spain — For many discerning drinkers, the walk down stone steps into a cool, dark cellar is an essential part of visiting a winery, but with one Spanish winemaker such an inspection is more likely to involve an oxygen tank and flippers.
WHY ARE wines served at most weddings so bad? At the last one I attended, I ditched both the red and white and sipped a watery cocktail instead. It doesn’t have to be that way.
TWENTY years ago, Vicente “Nonoy” S. Quimbo, decided that it was time Filipinos had a wine of their own and he came up with Novellino, a brand of wines created especially for the Filipino palate.
SOME PINS are worth more than others. After gaining a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines, one would be given a blue pin. That doesn’t sound like much, but, as Bel S. Castro, Assistant Dean for College of Hospitality Management for Enderun Colleges, said “...in the UK, you cannot work without this,” pertaining to the thriving food and beverage sector in the United Kingdom.
“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.
WHEN one writes about wine, one has to be very careful. Words from one’s pen will come to represent a bottle that took years of work, decades of legacy, and the earth’s own providence to produce. With these factors in place, each wine: from grands-crus from Bordeaux to wine that isn’t exactly up to par from who-knows-where, deserves more than a modicum of respect.
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.
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.
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.
THANKS to a crop of renegade, pioneering wine makers making stellar wines in New York, Vermont, Minnesota, famously frigid Quebec, and even Portugal, hybrid grapes are beginning to get the respect they deserve.
SOUTH AFRICA’s wine industry is centered around Cape Town. But pioneers far to the northeast are forging a new frontier in unlikely surroundings as changing weather patterns test long-held conventions.
QUICK: when you hear a wine is Cabernet, do you automatically think cabernet sauvignon? Of course you do. It’s the world’s most widely planted red grape, noted for big, rich, power-packed wines you can swoon over and even invest in.
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.
REMEMBER the legendary 1945 Romanée-Conti Burgundy that sold for $558,000 at a Sotheby’s auction last fall? Turns out it’s part of a larger overall boom in the wine auction market, one driven by voracious demand for Burgundy and the appeal of single-owner cellars.
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.
PIEDMONT is an Italian region soaked in history — and wine. It was here that the House of Savoy held court, the royal house that waged wars to unite the fragmented Italian states into one, the basis of Italy as we know it today. Piedmont is also home to the Nebbiolo grape, which goes into the production of one of Italy’s most famed wines, the Barolo.
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.
THE WINE world can change faster than you’d think. Upended by turbulent politics, 2018 was beset with trade wars, ongoing Brexit instability, and more climate-change-driven chaotic weather events. All this made some wine regions winners, others losers, while investors scored big time: Fine vino outperformed stocks and bonds, according to Liv-Ex.
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.
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 PROSECCO boom is real: Sales are projected to reach 412 million bottles annually by 2020, up from 150 million a decade ago.
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.