“Are you going? It’s THE wine event of the year!” said my friend, asking me about my attendance to this year’s much-anticipated 18th Grand Wine Experience.
After confirming and re-confirming my schedules I realised, I was flying off to Italy that same evening (boo!).
So, after consoling myself that, heck, I was going to the source of some of the wines most likely to be featured in the evening’s events (not really, it was a family trip so minimal drinking was expected *sob*), I decided to send my sister/partner-in-crime, Paulette. As a veteran of this event (I’ve been present to almost every one since 2008!), I was glad to hand the reins over to Paulette (JUST THIS ONCE, haha)… Plus, I thought, it would have been a welcome treat to see the event from a fresh perspective.
It’s no secret that the people behind the event, Philippine Wine Merchants, are also the same guys as Ralph’s… Similarly, it’s no secret that they’re my source of affordable wines on the fly (both when we lived in Salcedo Village and now in Alabang… Shoutout to Sir Adie for taking care of me!), particularly the Trapiche Broquel, everything from the Montes line, and Ungava gin.
This is why, when I sent Paulette over, I told her to find unusual wines and spirits during the event so we could focus on them.
Gancia Pinot di Pinot
Sparkling wine is always a great idea to begin a wine tasting event (see previous article on having wine by the course). I rarely ever find sparkling Pinot Noir in Italy (a country more famous for producing Prosecco from Glera grapes), so this incredibly structured sparkler was a treat.
Casillero del Diablo Limited Edition 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Bottles
Okay, okay, I admit: I’m still partial to my old brand (still one of the best wine brands in the PHP500 price point), and one of the best things that I ever crossed off my bucket list was going to the legendary cellar back in 2014. I was so happy to see that the brand still finds ways to innovate by coming up with these gorgeous limited edition bottles.
One of the best things about the Grand Wine Experience is that they are one of the few huge events that also feature sake. While Ralph’s is known primarily for being a wine store, they actually have a pretty decent (and often budget-friendly!) sake selection in their branches.
I’m always on the hunt for a good source of approachable sherry, so I was over the moon to discover the Lustao label, which carries a diverse sherry line. Here’s how to decode sherry labels (note: by definition, sherry is a fortified wine from Spain):
- Fino is typically bone dry and is pale in colour. The sweet version of this would be labeled as Pale. As I’ve written about before , it’s an acquired taste, but as part of a rebujito, served ice cold, or paired with tapas, it’s delicious.
- Oloroso is a sherry that has been fortified to 18% ABV, killing the protective layer on the top (called the flor), which allows for oxygen to interact with the sherry. This means that the wine would be oxidised, and would then exhibit deep brown colours and nutty aromas and flavours. A sweetened Oloroso is labeled Cream.
- Amontillado is what I like to call the love child of a Fino and Oloroso. It’s had the flor for a certain amount of time, but would be re-fortified to reach 18% ABV. This would allow for a minimal amount of time to oxidise, giving it a deep amber colour (but definitely a lighter shade than Oloroso), and with slight hints of the nutty aromas and flavours. A sweetened Amontillado is a Medium P.S., if anyone’s ever read Cask of Amontillado (by Edgar Allan Poe), one would know that of the characters, Fortunato (a supposed wine connoisseur) stated that a fellow nobleman couldn’t distinguish between sherry and amontillado. In fact amontillado is a type of sherry (the lesson: Wine snobbery is a crime that does not pay!)
- Palo Cortado was once marketed as an “accidental Oloroso”. The initial intent of the Palo Cortado was to become a fino or amontillado, until an inexplicable phenomenon allows for the wine to lose its protective flor and allows for oxidation. Only 1-2% naturally become Palo Cortado, and cellar masters have produced a fantastic nose that could gauge which cask would turn into a Palo Cortado. It’s rare, and makes an excellent aperitif.
- PX (or Pedro Ximenez) is sweet sherry made from dried grapes of Pedro Ximenez (completely different from the way the other sherry classifications are made). I personally like this drizzled on vanilla ice cream.
Yes, I’m talking about a pretty affordable “supermarket” wine. I admit it has sentimental reasons. When my husband and I got married, we needed an inexpensive but proper wine to serve during the reception (we’re about to celebrate 7 years on the 18th!). We were just starting our lives together so we didn’t have a huge budget, but we knew we couldn’t serve plonks. The ever guapo Alex Joseph hooked me up with boxes of these babies, and for that, I would be forever grateful.
Sobroso Alentejo DOC (Portugal)
I’m a huge fan of Portugal’s typically massive red wines. It was difficult to find literature on the Sobroso, but as far as I know, Alentejo produces reds from Aragones (the Portuguese version of Spanish Tempranillo), Trincadeira (with notes of spicy red berries, and Alicante Bouschet that gives the wine a deep colour and grippy tannins. The region also uses the legendary Portuguese red grape Touriga Nacional, and a little Syrah. Alentejo is generally deep in colour, has high and elegant tannins, is full bodied, and has ripe red fruit flavours.
I have it on good authority that Paulette (and her infamous sweet tooth) brought her to one of our best WSET students, to whom she asked, “Where are the sweet wines?” Our student (with a slight exasperation, which she later on admitted was because she knew there was more to life than sweet wines), told her to check out the German wine booth.
This was how Paulette found herself in the Haart booth. While she couldn’t explain the German labels, she did appreciate the elegance of the wines she had.
Here’s a little primer on what she found:
- Piesporter is a well-known region in Mosel, Germany, that produces Riesling-based wine. The label Goldtröpfchen is similar to the textbook Einzellage, which means that the grapes used to make the wine would have come from a single vineyard.
- Kabinett, Spätlese, and Auslese (in ascending order) are labels indicating the sweetness of the grapes upon harvest (and are under the Prädikatswein category, which indicates quality by German standards). It doesn’t, however, indicate sweetness in the bottle. To find out whether or not the wine is sweet would mean looking at the bottle’s ABV. If, say, a Spätlese (which would have used sweeter grapes than the Kabinett) has an ABV of 10% or below, it would mean a sweeter wine than a Spätlese of 12% ABV. The explanation involves a long story that has to do with the process of fermentation (those interested can leave a comment or shoot us a message).
I feel like this is the perfect sweet ending to today’s article. I’m excited for next year’s Grand Wine Experience (hopefully I’m in town then!) because despite this year being the 18th Grand Wine Experience, there’s always something new. Cheers!
Very, very special thanks to Mr. Jorge Joseph
Most wines and spirits featured in this article can be found in the Ralph’s Wines and Spirits near you (they’ve got branches almost everywhere nationwide)
All photos by Paulette Veroy