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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.
WHEN A private Asian collector bid an eye-popping $558,000 for a single bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti at Sotheby’s sale this past Saturday in New York, a world record was smashed. This was not just the highest price ever reached for a 750 ml bottle of Burgundy, but also the highest for any bottle of wine ever at auction.
IN A chilly wine warehouse in the Bronx two weeks ago, a famous Portuguese wine maker pried ancient corks from five-gallon glass demijohns of 19th century Madeira. Was the wine inside still drinkable? Madeira ages longer than other wines, but 150-plus years?
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.
A BOTTLE of wine holds within its confines time and space, for a wine maker has distilled into a liquid the soil, the sunshine, and the care that went into making it. An Australian wine maker is proud to say that he has done that, all while embracing nature and minimizing Man’s touch.
HERE’S a sad truth. Most pinot grigio is so watery, bland, and just plain dull that wine snobs scorn it and sommeliers at top restaurants won’t list it. Asking for “just a glass of pinot grigio” has almost become an admission that you don’t pay attention to what you swallow.
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.
OVER THE last decade, wineries have begun to rethink the whole tasting experience and investing in upscale settings, with prices to match.
REIMS, FRANCE — In the hilly region of Champagne in eastern France, winegrowers are bringing in grapes early this year for a harvest they expect to be one of the best in a decade.
DREAMING of being a wine collector with a killer cellar but don’t know how to turn your fantasy into reality? I understand. The whole prospect of assembling the wines can be a shopping hassle requiring time-consuming research and way too many picky decisions. But you’re in luck.
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.
SETE, FRANCE — A glass of blue, sir? It is a question that may dismay purist wine makers in France, where wine is a way of life rather than simply a drink, but in the southern town of Sete consumers cannot get enough.
BANKING ON the upswell of interest in digestifs such as amaro and sherry, a growing number of sommeliers in the US — both in fine-dining and more casual restaurants — are hoping to tap into today’s taste for after-dinner drinks with dessert wines.
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.
EVERYBODY LOVES a wine bargain. Retail chains reflect the zeitgeist, so they’re rushing to cash in by creating house brands to keep their costs down and customers buying. The latest is US giant Walmart Inc., which rolled out its new Winemakers Selection collection in 1,100 of its nearly 4,000 stores in May.
THE SOUTHWESTERN region of France has played host to many films, from the classic Grace Kelly-starrer To Catch a Thief, to the comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But while they like to use it as a setting for movies about swindlers and con men, Thomas Dassé, Export Manager of Lionel Osmin & Cie, describes the people there as “more than honest.”