Monthly Archives: July 2015

Throwback to France… And Chile (A Look into French Winemaking in the New World)

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I think the reason why I fell in love with France is that the French people (or the ones that I’ve met anyway) have shared my love of history, art, culture, gastronomy, and wine. Similarly, they have also embraced my predilection for the unusual.

That being said, this being my last entry in my #throwbacktofrance series, I decided to do something bizarre and highlight the art of French winemaking in the New World.

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Rows of barrels in Lapostolle’s ageing room

The wines of Lapostolle are a collaborative effort between the makers of Grand Marnier (the Marnier Lapostolle family), thus combining French winemaking sensibilities and the glorious terroir of Chile. Their slogan says it all: “French in Essence, Chilean by Birth”.

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Visiting their property after going to different vineyards around Chile was mind blowing… Prior to Lapostolle, the vineyards I was brought to had the look and feel of being in South America.

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Experimental concrete “egg” barrel amidst all the traditional wooden ones

As I stepped inside the Lapostolle property, however, I momentarily questioned where I was. It was so chic; I really thought I was back in Reims (complete with Fiona, their French sommelier, who let me brush up on my French salutations… Bonjour, choupette!).

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This beautiful fusion translates to their stunning wines. I loved the Casa Grand Selection Sauvignon Blanc, which was a wonderfully gentle take on a typically acerbic wine.

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Bottles in their state-of-the-art cellar

I was also partial to the Canto de Apalta, which is a powerful blend of the signature Chilean red grape Carmenere, with the French staples Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot.

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We got to taste ALL that!

The pièce de résistance, however, was definitely the Clos Apalta. What I can only describe as a big and robust, yet elegantly fancy, this is blended in the Bordeaux tradition, but with a Chilean twist (the addition of Carmenere to the Bordeaux powerhouses Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). I felt that it captured the spirit of the house… Clos Apalta was very “French meets Chile”, and absolutely exquisite.

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Entrance to the Lapostolle Residence

Bonus: Should people decide to fully immerse themselves in the Lapostolle experience (have phenomenal gastronomic experiences, marvel at the Chilean landscape, escape the city for a while, and drink all day… Order of activities unimportant), their property has a residence people can stay in.

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Gorgeous view… Vineyards as far as the eye can see

What’s your favorite French-New World wine collaboration? Cheers!

#throwbacktofrance Part Deux: Champagne Dreams

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I love the fact that Champagne is a story of opposites: It is complicated to make, yet the general production process is easy to explain. Developing a unique “blend” can be difficult, but the grapes are pretty cut and dry. It’s both traditional and modern (think Jay-Z’s rap songs about free-flowing Cristal).

All that, of course, is way too boring (and has been discussed from previous posts, here and here), so let me skip to the best bits (and avoid a potential crucifixion from people reading this article): stories.

Last year, Chad, our niece N, and I were in Reims for a Champagne tour. Chad (who has always been in a De La Salle school) was interested in making a mini-pilgrimage to our school’s founder (St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle was born in Reims, and his mother is a member of the Moët family).

I (with my predictably one-track mind) was interested in wines.

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Pommery’s Façade, An Homage to the Brits

Our first stop was Pommery. Pommery’s façade was a conundrum… We couldn’t quite figure out what it was until the guide told us, “The architecture of the house is a tribute to the British,” because the Brits were one of the biggest fans (and therefore consumers) of Pommery’s bubbly.

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Inverted elephant in Pommery’s showroom

The founder, Madame Louise Pommery (yet another Champagne widow), was also a lover of the arts. Her passion for art started a tradition of having exhibits in and around Pommery’s grounds.

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Staaaaaaiiiiiiirrrrrrssss…

Pommery cellars are also legendary for the stairs (all 116 steps), which descends to the humid cellars housing over 20 million bottles. The house, as a tradition, would name a “hall” in the cellars after a new city they would launch their wines in (I tried and failed to find Manila).

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Some of the old Pommery bottles

The cellar had (and still has) “dummy” partitions that housed some bottles during the war. In fact, some of the plans have been lost and to this day, they still discover bottles hidden behind walls. One treasure they discovered was a bottle dating back to the 1800s. Their cellar master had a sip of the champagne and said that it tasted like candy apples. Needless to say, it kept well.

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An actual riddling table

We were welcomed back aboveground by a welcome sight: a few Champagne flutes. One was filled with their signature distinctively blue labeled Brut Royal. Crisp, refreshing, elegant, and incredibly citrusy, it was something perfect for a romantic afternoon date on the beach.

I, however, fell HARD for the Brut Silver. In Manila, we have a relatively limited selection of champagnes, most of which would require you to pay through the nose. I rarely get to try champagne that’s meant to be paired with proper food (and not just for hors-d’oeuvres). Brut Silver was exquisitely creamy, complimented by some notes of grapefruit, apricot, and nuts. I can imagine pairing it with something as heavy as truffle pasta. Or, throw out traditional wine pairing rules and just have glasses and glasses of it over an entire multiple-course dinner… It can hold its own.

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POP!

What I love about Champagne, however, is that it’s not all about history and tradition… They have gradually moved to the 21st century by recognizing their place in parties. Pommery is no different, having introduced their colorful POP line. These tiny bottles are consumed by the younger set (of legal drinking age, I hope) in clubs. They can even provide straws so as not to ruin lipsticks.

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Dom Perignon and Moët & Chandon

Now, as I’ve mentioned, Chad is a Lasallian (who, incidentally, married one too… Animo!). Our trip would not have been complete without a trip to Moët and Chandon. Moët is a staple in fashion shows and many glamorous events, but what we sometimes fail to remember that it is the non-vintage version of the prestigious, save-it-for-a-really special occasion, Dom Perignon.

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Champagne “tower” in Möet

Bottles of Dom have been paid homage to by many rap artists because of its aspirational characteristics (and price tag). Wine geeks like myself love the history behind the brand… Dom Pérignon was a Franciscan monk who introduced the use of the three grapes I’ve previously mentioned in the making of Champagne.

Some misconceptions about him included the myth that he exclaimed, “I am drinking stars!” when he tried Champagne’s sparklers. This gave birth to another myth that he was the one who invented secondary fermentation.

Au contraire. He actually worked to keep the wines still (not-sparkling) because the bottles at the time could not stand the pressure (secondary fermentation, which is a necessary process to add bubbles to the wine, was an accidental phenomenon, brought about by yeast “sleeping” in the winter and “waking up” during spring). It caused accidents with the workers, and a significantly diminished production.

Presently, Dom is associated with prestige… All bottles are vintage* champagnes. This means that they would only make bottles from grapes harvested in phenomenal years (non-vintage champagnes would be blended from different years to keep consistency).

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The scarves of the tour guides in Möet are by LV. Fancy!

And speaking of prestige, Möet is part owned by Louis Vuitton. 😉

What’s your favorite champagne brand? Cheers!

*Helpful hint: if you see a year on the bottle of champagne, it’s a vintage year, and would be a wee bit pricier than a non-vintage version

Burgundy (You Will Never Forget Your First Thirst)  

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I feel wretched for not putting out an article regarding French wine on Bastille Day. France to me is les vignobles (the vineyards), and I find that the lack of a proper wine tribute to the first country that welcomed me in their vineyards is a travesty.

To make up for this, I’ve decided to write a three-part series on French (and semi-French) wine regions I’ve visited, kicking it off with Burgundy.

What a way to #throwback.

We were young.

I just finished my WSET exams, eternally grateful that we mapped out Burgundy (I paid particular attention to the region for our trip).

I was masochistic and stubbornly cocky (I decided to go to one of the most complicated wine regions on Earth to have our first wine tour for our honeymoon!).

Chad wanted to make it an exceptionally memorable experience, so he decided to book a private tour with a dedicated guide.

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Somewhere in Dijon…

Our bags were packed, and after a whirlwind tour in Paris (on a tight budget, complete with a sagging bed that was made up for by the most charming patisserie down the street), we set off for Dijon in a tiny Peugeot (which we named “Tomtom” after the GPS system it came with).

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My first ever vineyard sighting along Route des Grands Crus

Dijon is the nearest city in the Burgundy wine region, and for a fraction of the cost of our Paris hotel, we got the most charming room a few steps away from a galette shop run by the sweetest old French lady.

We were picked up for our tour by one of my favorite tour guides on earth, Sacha. He was a dry, blunt, quintessentially French guy with a vast knowledge (and pride) of the wines from his hometown of Beaune (a region in Burgundy).

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Sacha and I in the Marsannay cellar, having a seemingly intense discussion on the map of Burgundy

We had a first stop with a tour group in a small winery, and after I eagerly asked him technical questions about the wines of the region (“Does biodynamic farming really affect the quality of the wines here?” “How close is the closest distance of two vines that change classification?”), he said, “Oh, I’m happy you know about that. Most of the few Asians we get here are from *insert country here* and do not understand that. Then they would end up disappointed.”

“Really? How do the people here feel about it?”

“Annoyed. If you don’t understand our wines yet and are looking for free bottles, we normally would suggest Bordeaux.”

“Oh.”

He looked at me thoughtfully. “I really feel that the rest of the itinerary would be boring to you, since you already know things. May I change the rest of the itinerary to something that would probably interest you?”

I should have probably thought to myself, “You’re the only Filipinos I’ve seen since Paris. You don’t speak the language. Your embassy is about five hours away. A tour guide is asking you to get into his car to go to a place that you don’t know, a continent away from where you live. Are you &%#@$ crazy?!?”

Of course, I said yes.

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Château de Corton André

He ended up taking us to Château de Corton André where I’ve had one of the best Chardonnays (in the form of an Aloxe-Corton) I’ve ever had in my life.

Let me break down some very simple, “survival” facts on Burgundy wines for your potential tour:

  • Red wine of Burgundy is primarily Pinot Noir (arguably the most delicate wine grape on the planet… It requires such a delicate handling of the grapes and the wine they become, and really cold temperatures plus specific weather patterns to be at its optimum).
  • White wine of Burgundy is primarily Chardonnay; incomparable to the entry-level supermarket varieties I’ve tried. Burgundy Chardonnays are gorgeous, elegant, deeply characterized whites that have beautiful notes of honey, subtle hints of butter, and a little bit of pear. The key is a lot of character balanced with equal amounts of subtlety.
  • Burgundy is home to one of the most expensive red wines of the world, Romanée-Conti.
  • The soils of Burgundy have extremely unequal mineral distribution, which means that vines three feet away from another set of vines can have a vastly different classification (and price).

That being said, I fell in LOVE with the glass of Chardonnay I had deep in the heart of my first wine cellar. To this day, that breathtaking glass is still my benchmark for a proper Chardonnay (a friend and fellow wino argued that it was unfair, but hey… When you’ve had the best, right?).

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I almost had to be dragged back to the car after this photo was taken

Speaking of Romanée-Conti, we were treated to a trip outside their vineyard. I was flabbergasted (and star-struck). Despite the fact that a few years prior to our trip, there was a legitimate threat by an individual to commit extortion by herbicide, their security involves a small wall I could easily scale, even with my ACL.

One of the things that make Romanée-Conti expensive is their use of biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming involves a holistic understanding of the agricultural process. It involves sustainability, and treats all aspects of a vineyard (soil, ability for the plant to grow, and even the livestock) as ecologically interrelated tasks in a seemingly “spiritual science”. There is emphasis on using manures and composts as opposed to artificial chemicals.

It sounds mystical, and admittedly, I don’t know enough about the methodology to be able to concretely explain in detail how it works. Apparently, however, it is really effective. As an archbishop in the 1780s once said, the wines of Romanée-Conti are like “velvet and satin in bottles” with their smooth texture and multi-faceted character.

We couldn’t get in the premises (appointments were costly and hard to come by at the time), but just to see the vines over the walls and touch the marker was divine.

After much prodding from Sacha, (who insisted that the weather outside was “crazy” and cold… Of course, it took him a while to convince me, as I was thisclose to hugging the marker and cause an international relations issue), we headed back to the car. An eternally grateful (and sufficiently warmer) Sacha looked at me and said, “I have one more treat for you.”

We were taken to this wonderful wine shop in Beaune named Mon Millésime (“My Vintage”, click here for their website), where were treated to the art of vintage wines.

The proprietor, Philippe Renaud, explained that some of the more expensive, sought after wines are the ones which barely moved… Hence, he prefers to purchase wines that are kept in a cellar, unmoved, and located in the same region as the wine’s origin. In fact, because his shop is in Beaune, he has a preference for wines of Beaune.

I also learned from Philippe that Beaune wines prior to WWII might have inaccurate vintage labels. This is because the people of Beaune, rather than give their best vintages to the Nazis, mixed up the labels and kept the good stuff for them, and for posterity.

Well, that was certainly one way to stick it to them.

It was also a good insight to the value they put on their wines. I’ve always said that wine is a reflection of the culture of its origins, and to see the French be proud of their wines so much was just amazing.

Next stop on our French #throwback: Champagne. 😉

What’s your favorite French wine region? Santé!

Working Weekend!

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It is an occupational hazard for people like myself (professional boozers, educated alcoholics, or beverage connoisseurs) to work during the evenings and/or weekends.

Since I love what I do, however, it has yet to feel like work… I also recognise that I’m incredibly fortunate to be given opportunities to pursue my passion, and be surrounded by wonderful people while I’m at it.

I guess this post is a way to give a shoutout to the lovely audience I’ve had over the weekend in Poco Deli Kapitolyo for the French Wine 101 class*. It was such a trip!

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If you’ve stumbled upon this on Facebook, you must be looking at the right account. 😉

I looked at my blog and, I realised, they’re right: There’s no way to contact me. Please follow 2shots (and leave a message or two) on our official Facebook account.

I will admittedly spend the rest of this day hammering out overdue articles (an ambitious three-part series which will be posted sometime this week).

Meanwhile, see you in social media. 🙂 Cheers!

*Note: This post is also an apology for not being able to finish the article I was supposed to have posted last week… Gasp!

Brew-Blended Wines: The White Edition

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White Label Fresh from the Carafe

We finally managed to try out the White Label version of Cyrano’s new Brew-Blended Wines last night… We weren’t able to do so last time because, according to Alex, it was all Fiona’s fault.

Seriously, people should drop by Cyrano just to see these two banter.

Anyway, the white counterpart of their home-made cocktail is refreshing, easy to drink, and easy to finish. It’s perfect for people who like drinking more feminine, effervescent beverages.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The crisp notes of this drink can appeal to beer lovers as well (especially those who prefer Pilsners).

Try it out and tell us what you think. Cheers!

Brew-Blended Wines

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“You’ve never liked a drink this much this soon”, said Chad.

I agreed.

Well, he has seen me drink so often that I took his word for it (in my defense, I tried very hard to act cool in Burgundy while having that divine glass of Aloxe-Corton).

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Cyrano’s Own Brew-Blended Wines

Going back to the drink I was having at the time that merited Chad’s statement, it was the newest offering of Cyrano, simply called “Brew-Blended Wines”.

By definition, the drinks are classified under the “beer-wine” cocktail category. They come in two flavors: The “White Label” Torrontes-Weizen, and the “Red Label” Sherry-Shiraz-Weizen.

Oh, and did I mention that these are proudly Cyrano’s own concoctions? Alex, the bartender, told me the recent craft beer trend inspired them.

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Yummy, creamy Red Label

For that evening, I decided to try the Red Label.

I was immediately blown away.

As Alex said, the taste is reminiscent of a Duvel Stout Ale in terms of flavor profile and effervescence. I personally love the notes of chocolates, raisins, prune, and earthy malt, all tied together with a decadent, creamy texture.

It can be consumed in any situation: A nice dinner, while watching TV, having dinner with friends, watching Eurovision (I have Alex to thank for this), and even on date night (especially if the decision between having wine or beer leads to an impasse).

So, if you’re a traditional beer drinker who wants to develop a taste for wine, a wino looking for a change, or an adventurous drinker willing to try something deliciously different, you should try a carafe (or two) of these fabulous beverages. Tell me what you think. Cheers!

*Cyrano is located in C. Palanca corner Legaspi street, Legaspi Village, Makati

Booze with Friends 2.0

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“…good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.”

William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

I believe Shakespeare understood my sentiments (although he expressed in such an eloquent manner) on friends and wine.

So thank you, my good man, for providing a superb introduction to a couple of wine soaked adventures we’ve had with friends last week.

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The Essential “Morning After” Bottle Shot

Dondi and the Great Gasul Misadventure

Dondi (who I talked about in a previous entry) came as I was having a mini-meltdown over the stove. See, we forgot to replace the gas tank (irresponsible adult moment), and halfway through slow cooking a brisket and during the beginning stages of making gratin dauphinois, I (literally) ran out of gas.

At 5pm.

Petron Gasul doesn’t deliver past 5pm.

Gah.

As I ranted to him over text, he offered to swing by with the best message ever: “I know a red colored cure for stress.”

Of course he was as welcome as an angel from heaven above with his bottle of Corte Riva Merlot.

A bit of a background: Prior to that evening, I was already a fan of Corte Riva. The Napa label is actually owned by an awesome Filipino couple that emigrated from the Philippines in the late 70s (their story is AMAZING, you can check it out here). I have tried the Cabernet Sauvignon from our friend Jay, and it was one of the most breathtaking wine moments of my life. I remember the beautiful, elegant notes of blackberries being tapered off by a healthy (but not overpowering) amount of tannin… It was heavenly.

Admittedly, I was hesitant to try the Merlot… I have never been the biggest fan of new world Merlot, but I was more willing to give it a shot.

Thank goodness I did. The Merlot was a fantastic symphony of chocolates, berries, plums, and dark cherries… It went divinely with the ratatouille I served while waiting for the heroic Chad… It must be said that he braved the storm to get a replacement gas tank (thankfully I made the ratatouille the night before to give the tomato sauce ample time to seep in the vegetables).

Gasul came, I managed to make a decent gratin, and despite the fact that I wasn’t able to save the brisket (it hardened from the “suspended” cooking), the dinner was saved, thanks to Chad’s superhuman Gasul retrieval efforts, and Dondi’s Corte Riva.

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Photo courtesy of Jocen’s Facebook account

Jocen and Passing with Distinction

Jocen is a semi-former colleague of mine from my university teaching days (I’m still allowed to teach anytime I want to, it’s just that my schedule has been crazy the past couple of years). We share a passion for travel (we went to the last Hong Kong Wine Expo together), food (he’s a really good chef), and wine.

Chad had a last minute trip to Taiwan, and Jocen decided to pop in to check on me.

As we shared updates on each other’s lives, he found out right then and there that he passed WSET Level 3 (with distinction). We did what any normal wine lover would do: open a bottle of red, and rapid chill (this involves putting salt on a bottle that needs to be cooled down very fast) a bottle of Prosecco (the news was so new that we didn’t have time to get a bottle of Champagne, so it had to do).

Hey, what better way to celebrate than a bottle of bubbly, right? Prosecco is simple, affordable, and decent enough for a last minute, unplanned merriment… Having it over a 90s playlist (Debbie, your playlist is AH-MAY-ZHING) makes it even better.

What do you and your friends like to drink? Cheers!