Monthly Archives: December 2014

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Booze

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Don’t panic! These stores may just be able to cater to your holiday wine needs.

If you are anything like my husband and I, you may be at that point in the holidays when you are in a panic while braving the horrendous Manila traffic, crossing things off your Christmas shopping list.

A potential stocking stuffer you may be thinking of buying is wine. But with the many options out there, it can get pretty overwhelming… Or even scary. Questions may swim in you head, like, “Am I getting the right wine?”, “If it’s pricey, it must be good, right?”, “I want to impress my client with a spanking wine, but I don’t want to spend money on what I don’t understand and get laughed at… What do I do?”, “I’m giving wine to a wine-o, what should I get him?”

This is where my blog post comes in. I have compiled a list of places in Manila where you can get decent wines, and have categorised it according to recipients/purposes:

 

1) Bulk buying for people who just want to drink wine but are not wine-os: RUSTAN’S SUPERMARKET 

You can get decent Chilean reds for about 500PHP and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for about 400PHP per bottle (try not to go lower than these prices so you won’t scrimp on quality). They have really good options for new world wines (North America, South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand). Marketplace has a promo going on for wines of the world as well that is worth looking into.

 

2) For foodie friends you want to impress but would not be willing to spend so much on: SANTI’S DELICATESSEN

They have pretty neat Italian reds and entry level Proseccos that won’t break the bank, and match flavourful holiday food. Their staff is very helpful at finding you the right wine, and as an added bonus, you can even get deli items to match the wine (Or, to heck with that and just buy the wine and cheese and serve it at home for yourself a dinner party).

 

3) For intermediate wine-os you want to really impress (in an affordable manner): TERRY’S SELECTION

The owner, Juan Carlos de Terry, personally hand picks his selection. His PhD in Oenology and understanding of the Philippine market will guarantee you fabulous wine options. If you don’t believe me, dine in the restaurant with a bottle of wine you’re thinking of buying for yourself your friends. Try it with their food, and be blown away by a fantastic gastronomic experience.

 

4) You’re in the middle of nowhere/stuck in traffic, and you need to be in a close enough store with a decent selection, stat: RALPH’S WINES AND SPIRITS

They have a huge selection and branches almost anywhere in the metro (and even large provinces like Boracay and Tagaytay), with very helpful people. You can’t go wrong with their Montes selection, their Australian line, and they even have spirits (like scotch, gin, tequila…) just in case you want to add variety (the Johnny Walker we bought from Ralph’s is going to a special uncle of ours).

 

5) You really want a high-end, top of the line wine to impress your clients and are prepared to shell out massive amounts of moolah: BACCHUS EPICERIE (Rockwell Mall)

They have a little private cellar you can walk into; with a gorgeous, high end, old world range to choose from. You can opt for a bottle of Bollinger as an homage to James Bond, or ask their crew for a top of the line Burgundy. Since you’re already willing to impress, go to their deli and grab some truffles to go with it.

 

I hope this helps. I promise that these recommendations came with research and I was not in any way, shape, or form compensated by any of these stores. Resist the temptation to buy (so much!) for yourself, it is always better to give than to receive. Better yet, share your finds in a dinner with friends. I know we will. 😉

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Quoting Katy Perry

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Matcha and Sparkling Apple Cider

This Christmas season in Manila is unusual. One moment it’s hot, the next it’s cold… Not for the best reasons (blasted typhoon Ruby).

One of the best remedies to fight extreme warmth or extreme cold is to drink. For example, some cold parts of the world mandate a drink of Vodka to counteract the effects of freezing temperatures. There’s also the delicious Samalamig during summer in the Philippines.

Two schools of thought come into play when it comes to drinking the temperature away: Some people think, for instance, that drinking cold beverages during a cold day makes your insides cool enough, you wouldn’t feel the outside cold. Others (myself included) believe that a warm cup of tea/coffee/hot choco on a particularly chilly day is just heavenly.

Whatever your belief is, here are a couple of drinks I’ve come across lately, whether you want something hot or cold:

THE UPPER YEAST CIDERS – Sparkling Apple Pear Cider (Facebook, or @theupperyeastciders on Instagram)

Admittedly, I was tempted to start the paragraph in full Gossip Girl glory with a good old, “Hey, Upper Yeast Ciders”. The branding is just that cool, and what with people getting into the home brew craze, this is something interesting to look into.

Traditionally, an apple cider is a drink during autumn/winter/the holidays/in an ice skating rink (see Preacher’s Wife). Unfortunately, we don’t have the cold weather conditions to merit large amounts of consumption.

Thankfully, the Upper Yeast Ciders has a refreshingly crisp alternative to give that festive holiday feeling without making the already brutal humidity in Manila feel worse. Yes, it is alcoholic, but not by much (6%). It blasts you head on with full flavors of apple, then tapers off with notes of pear, all wrapped up in a wonderfully fizzy consistency. Best served chilled and consumed immediately. I would recommend drinking it alone (not-all-by-yourself alone, I mean without food), or with chips.

Japanese Matcha Green Tea – Narita Airport

My 29-hour flight back from Chile required a stopover in Dallas and Japan before making it back home.

The 4-hour layover in Narita made me think of drinks in the airport… But oh, what to choose…? I thought to myself, Japan’s correlation with beverages involves a hefty amount of beer (Asahi and Kirin), Sake, and the fabulous tea ceremonies I’ve seen in movies.

I thought my liver was probably shrivelled up because of all the wines (and pisco sour) I had in Chile, so I thought it wise to get myself tea.

After much translation issues, I settled on a can of green tea. At first, I thought I screwed up and got myself yet another loose leaf, regular green tea (the sales lady and I just did NOT understand each other). I supposed, what the heck… I am rarely in Japan, and the packaging is pretty darn cute (this is SO how marketing people get women to buy so many things…).

When I got home and opened the can, I was so happy to find out I had bought Matcha.

I love Matcha as an ice cream flavour or on a Kit Kat bar, but I’ve never tried it as a straight up tea. I neither possess the patience to do the traditional whisking, nor the willingness to venture across Japan to get myself the proper Matcha kit.

Fortunately, I got the instant version that comes in single serve sachets (yay!). I prepared myself a cup and immersed in the creamy goodness of this tea. Deliciously warm and fuzzy in the tummy, it was the perfect drink to wait out the typhoon. Reading some text on it, it apparently has a very high amount of antioxidants and can relieve mental stress.

So, whether you’re hot or you’re cold (you’re yes or you’re no… Couldn’t resist, Katy Perry!), there is always a drink for you. Let me know what you’re having. Cheers!

Hong Kong Wine Expo 2014

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Just some shots in this year’s HKTDC

I try to make a yearly trip to a wine country and/or an exhibit. I normally choose Hong Kong for the exhibit because it’s accessible, they offer a massive quantity of exhibitors, and hey… I’ve traveled to Hong Kong so much I feel like Sheung Wan is my second home. It also helps that I have family there.

This being a blog that is geared towards making wine accessible to Filipinos, let me tell you: It’s worth going to the expo if you want to learn about wines.

First, you can attend seminars. This year, I took one of my BFFs (a fellow wine-aholic) with me and had a blast learning about the diversity of Italian wines. Italian wines are one of the most difficult regions to understand because of the many sub-regions, styles, and grapes (over 1,000 indigenous ones). The seminar conducted by the Vinitalia group helped us organize our thoughts to process the massive information available on Italian wines. And trust me, it’s not boring if you and your BFF attend one featuring 6 wines at 11:30 in the morning.

Another reason to go to the expo is to be exposed to hard to find wine regions. I was personally thrilled to learn about (and sample!) wines from the ancient world.

Take Georgia, for example. Located at the border of Europe and Asia, evidence shows that the first wine making process happened here (between 7,000-5,000 BC). Their wines are still fermented in the Qvevri, a traditional earthenware (clay pot) vessel, which makes the rustic texture of their wines so pronounced. We managed to try their Saperavi, a red grape that produces wines that are almost opaque in color and has notes of licorice, dark berries, tobacco, chocolate, grilled red meats… This grape can be made dry (totally unsweet) to sweet to fortified. Drinking this wine makes you feel like you’re drinking a piece of ancient history.

Speaking of which, we also found wines from Macedonia. Sampling wines from the place where Alexander the Great came from was a thrill. Their signature red grape, the Vranec, is a high tannin red, with flavors of sour cherry liquor. Not an easy drinking wine, but perfect for roasted game and mature cheese.

Another ancient wine that was featured in this year’s expo is Israel. Growing up in a mostly Christian nation like the Philippines exposes you to Bible stories, and I’d like to think most Filipinos know that there is a correlation between wine, Israel, and Christianity. I’m saying this not to cause a religious row but to emphasize how historically significant Israel is as a nation when it comes to wine making. Right now, their industry capitalizes on producing Kosher wines due to a large Jewish population.

That being said, we should definitely talk about an an ancient civilization that is just starting out in the wine making game: China. There is so much controversy in the news regarding Chinese wines (the quality is so-so, etc etc).

To put a positive spin to it, however… We were fascinated with how the labels on the bottle echo the Chinese culture with their use of gold, which symbolizes good luck. Currently, their market is 98% Chinese (locals from the mainland), but I’m going to keep watching their development and how they would fare internationally in the long run.

Do try to visit these expos (and bring a friend). There are accessible, cheap ones which won’t require you a visa. Let me know which ones you’ve been to or are looking to go to. Cheers!