I have a confession to make: One of the reasons why I took an extra long hiatus from writing is the fact that I started to write to please people. Truthfully, right before the pandemic a lot of the dinners became so formulaic. My articles reflected it: Discuss dinner. Discuss wine. Discuss pairing. Avoid witty statements. Focus on making the tasting notes so accurate, it makes the hardest wine snob weep.
But that’s not who I am… and one of the few beauties that the pandemic brought was the time (and excuse) to refresh, rediscover my tone, and define what I want to do with this site. Essentially, I’d rather get real, write about what I think and like, and talk about events that I actually enjoy.
For me, the formula to an enjoyable wine event involves something unusual, something out of the ordinary. It could be an unusual wine, menu, or format… and the more “layman” it is, the better.
Not that I’m going for irony as I introduce one of the events that I attended recently, of course. A Wine Soirée held for Philippine Wine Merchants and their friends by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila totally pushed the envelope on what can be done for a wine dinner: Feature a myriad of different French wines from classic regions (oddly, ones that Chad and I have immersed ourselves in and fell in love with) then let the guests pair the wines themselves with scrumptious French food that only Sofitel can create.
The dinner really appealed to me because the people we’ve met in the featured wine regions of the evening – legendary as they are – are some of the most brilliant and collaborative I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. It was great to go down my own personal memory lane with the following wines:
Charles de Cazanove Tradition Père et Fils Tête de Cuvée Brut
If memory serves me correctly, one of the craziest French people I know is in charge of exporting this via Hong Kong (I had to double check, he did give me a more premium bottle years ago that was to die for). This refreshingly crisp nonvintage champers is fruit forward on the nose, and it was a great drink to start the evening with. It’s a great drink perfectly chilled on a warm day, with light appetizers, or to celebrate a special occasion.
Charles de Cazanove Tradition Père et Fils Brut Rosé
From the same label, this fruity-floral champagne is a little bigger than the non-rosé version… making it the perfect next wine during the event. It pairs well with heavier appetizers and frankly, looks so chic. Perfect days for when I’d like to, as the great Kay Thompson once sang, think pink!
J. de Villebois Pouilly-Fumé
This wine reminded me of the Christmas we spent at our family friends’ (we insist that they are family now, though) place along Loire. After all, Pouilly-Fumé is a wine made in Pouilly-sur-Loire (literally Pouilly on Loire), hence the connection… and these Sauvignon Blanc-based wines derive their name from two possible sources: Fumé means “smoke” in French, and the nature of this region’s Sauvignon Blanc has a smoky bouquet. Another story goes that it was named so because of the gray, smoky looking bloom that coats the grapes as they mature. Whatever the reason is, this is one enjoyable wine, with its intense fruit aromas balancing its smoky characteristic.
J. de Villebois Sancerre Rosé
Oddly, this ended up becoming one of my favorites that night. I am #teamrose because of its ability to be flexible enough in pairing with a myriad of different dishes, even some tricky Asian food. I’m always on the lookout for good rosés and this did not fail. It’s got a wonderfully rich complexity versus a lot of French rosés I typically favor, sure… but I feel that it makes it even easier to match. Its cherry, jammy notes went great with the baked oysters that night, but I could certainly imagine it with something as unorthodox as chicken adobo.
Bouchard Père et Fils Pouilly-Fuissé
Cheat sheet 1: Pouilly-Fumé, smoky Sauvignon Blanc from Loire. Pouilly-Fuissé, often oaked and delicate Chardonnay from Burgundy. This Pouilly-Fuissé was textbook in its subtlety, smooth texture, and fruit/floral notes. Admittedly, Pouilly-Fuissé isn’t my favorite Burgundy… not that I’m saying this wine (or wines from the region) is bad. I would pair this wine with flavorful poultry, preferably with herby, creamy sauces.
Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune du Château Premier Cru Rouge
I met one of the loveliest people that night, Clémence Dufeu, who happily obliged as I brushed up my neanderthal French. She was also the one who told me to pair the evening’s soup – an earthy, creamy, herbal concoction that I wasn’t able to get the name of – with my first red of the evening. It was a beautifully elegant, incredibly fragrant, wonderfully deep Bourgogne which for some reason reminded me of the time I bought figs with my chef bestie in Versailles market.
Cap Royal Bordeaux Blanc
I gotta say that one of my favorite parts of the evening was having met the effervescent Stephanie Lim, Asia Sales Director of Compagnie Médocaine des Grands Crus. She shares my language when talking about wine – and frankly, a lot of the people I’ve met in Bordeaux: Utterly, funnily layman. She expressed her sheer horror when she saw the list and proceeded to tell us how we should go about the evening’s Bordeaux flight, which started with the Cap Royal Bordeaux Blanc. I wondered if she’d had a hand in coming up with the tasting notes, which involved the words “a fresh and dynamic attack, making it harmonious, greedy, and long.”
Cap Royal Bordeaux Supérieur
The tasting notes involved the wine being rich with creaminess enhanced by vanilla notes (cheat sheet 2: vanilla notes typically indicate that the wine has been aged in French oak), but honestly the ones featured that evening were relatively young. It took a while (and a bit of coaxing) to get a definitive idea as to what the wine’s style was, but hey… I take it as the wine being coy, coming out and showing its true, exquisite flavors after a few years.
Vivens par Château Durfort-Vivens
I know some hardcore wine snobs that would rather scrub their tongues with steel wool than drink a second or third growth. Cheat sheet 3: In Bordeaux, first growth wines are the wineries’ “signature” wines, typically pricey but with stupendous quality to match. The thing I learned from my trip to Bordeaux, however, was that it wouldn’t make economic nor romantic sense to stick with just having a first growth. The purpose of second growths (and beyond) is to offer a pretty good introduction to the château’s wines without the intimidating price tag. It’s kinda like getting a 5ct diamond with a slight flaw in the clarity versus a perfect 5ct diamond from the same big-named jeweler. Anyway, Vivens par Château Durfort-Vivens may be Château Durfort-Vivens’ second growth, but it delivered in its richness, balancing acidity, and dark fruit flavors.
Château Pichon Baron Les Tourelles de Longueville
Boy, was this wine ready to be drunk that night. The superb 2015 vintage was wide open and showed off its splendid, elegant, structured and complex flavors of spices and redcurrants. I was happily swirling and sniffing the wine by the wine cart making conversation because after all, I feel like that was the best way to enjoy it. No disrespect to that evening’s tasty feast, but I feel like it was a thinking wine and was meant to be enjoyed sans food… not that I would have said no to pairing it with the evening’s lamb.
Disznóko Tokaji Late Harvest
This is me apologizing in advance because my setup doesn’t have the correct accent for the last o in Disznóko… but accurate accent or not, this was – not unlike a great meal – the best, sweet ending to the evening’s event (and went so well with the cheesecake). It was a sticky sweet dessert wine with notes of marmalade and preserved apricots that absolutely hit the spot.