Tag Archives: friends

For the Love of the French

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Please excuse my absence for the past few weeks, all of which will be answered in a different article featuring Korean beverages.

I had an article that I was supposed to come out last Friday in time for Bastille Day… The introduction was such that I was hoping my absence could be forgiven.

Then, Nice happened.

The article (and its introduction) just seemed inappropriate.

I started being aware of France in relation to Paris. During our trips to France, however, I found myself falling in love with the countryside much more than I ever fell in love with Paris.

I understand that this sentiment is bizarre coming from a full-fledged city woman like myself, but who cannot fall in love with gorgeous nature, regionally faithful food, numerous tangible traces of history (from medieval France to evidence of both world wars), accessible regional wines…

Then, there’s the people.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the French is that they’re… Well, snobby.

Having said that, given the idea that wines are a great reflection of the people from the region it comes from, one could imagine how French wines are perceived.

In fact, before I had to scrap my article, I went around and asked non-winos about how they see French wines:

  • It’s the most esteemed/coveted wine in the world.
  • The best wines of the world come from France.
  • You can’t possibly separate a Frenchman and his wine.
  • Some of the most luxurious wine brands come from France (top answers include famous Champagne brands, like Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot).
  • They’re probably going to be good and expensive since they’re French, but for reasons unknown beyond the fact that they’re French.

As I take this time to thank some of my friends for gamely giving their opinions on French wine (some more eloquent than others, but all shall remain nameless), let me also use this as an opportunity to debunk some of them (before I get to the point).

Personally, I think that the aspect of being the most esteemed/coveted/the best can be subjective (search for “Paris Wine Tasting of 1976” or “Judgment of Paris” online, watch the film “Bottle Shock”, or read my article on Stag’s Leap).

Ask a Frenchman (especially the ones who grew up in the wine regions), and they’d probably tell you that there’s more to their wines than the price/luxury (in fact, one of our non-wino French friends told me about how the wines in their supermarkets offer good, affordable options for wine novices).

It’s not all about the labels, either… Granted, I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of Romanée-Conti or a Petrus (preferably in my birth year), but there are a multitude of beautiful options out there that are not necessarily bank-breaking powerhouse names.

I know I’m taking too long to make a point, but here goes: Contrary to how they are perceived, I find that there are more friendly French people out there. I’ve seen many barriers broken by a proper salutation (with apologies for speaking broken French), and a glass of wine. The connections I’ve made (whether professional or personal) are still strong (and the sporadic emails I get consistently touch me to no end).

Here are some of my recent favorites (and their wines):

 

Joseph Cattin

Alsace has a reputation for being the ultimate source of sweet but elegant white wines. Located near the border of Germany (and whose territory has been passed back and forth between France and Germany during wars), the two countries share similar winemaking procedures and grapes… So it’s not surprising to find the very German-sounding Gewürztraminer grapes in their wines, or the wide use of Alsatian bottles (skinny, tall, dark green ones that I love to call “the ramp model of wine bottles”) in Germany.

The thing is, as with anything mass-produced, some of the easily-accessible Alsace wines can be pretty… Well, boring. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great (and go famously with Asian food), but they tend to be so homogenous.

Enter Joseph Cattin. I met Jacques Cattin Jr. and his wife, Anaïs Sirop duing the Vinexpo. They specialize in gorgeous, elegant, boutique Alsatian wines.

The beautiful thing about boutique wines is that the production is so small, winemakers can pay attention to every little detail that goes into their winemaking. Such is the case for Joseph Cattin wines. Their wines consistently retain a gorgeous elegance that keeps their wines sophisticated.

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Jacques Cattin and Anaïs Sirop of Joseph Cattin Wines

Must-Try:

Muscat Grand Cru Hatschbourg – Talk about crossing borders, this appellation (geographical origin) is located in the region that shares borders with France, Germany, and Switzerland. The vineyards of Hatschbourg are located on mountainous slopes, which allow ample sunshine and protection from the mountains. Translation: not too ripe but not too unripe grapes, which gives wine the necessary astringency to keep the wine from being too sweet. This particular Muscat has wonderful floral notes typical of the grape, but with enough complimentary acidity.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) from the Les Cuvées d’Exception collection – Most wines using the noble rot method (allowing fungus to drill holes on the skin of the grape and letting water evaporate, leaving the grape with residual sugar) have a tendency to be saccharine sweet. The wines from the Les Cuvées d’Exception selection, however, are acerbic enough to keep it from being boring.

 

Domaine Gérard Tremblay

I (shyly) met Vincent Tremblay, president of Domaine Gérard Tremblay in one of the smaller booths during the Expo.

As evidenced in a lot of my articles in this blog, I have this predilection for boutique wines (wines with a small production), and I figured a formidable looking guy in a diminutive booth from a tiny appellation in one of the French powerhouse regions promised an excellent conversation.

I was right.

He shared his sentiment on how a lot of people over-complicate wines from his region (it’s a lot simpler than people think), his adventures while working in Argentina, the fact that he was the fifth generation winemaker in their family owned domain, and his passionate love of rugby (which explains his build).

“Where I come from, we just (casually) open a bottle of wine for dinner,” Vincent said during our discussion on why some people treat wine too seriously.

 

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Vincent Tremblay, President and Fifth Generation Winemaker of Domaine Gérard Tremblay

Must-Try:

Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume “Vieilles Vignes” – Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can go wrong with a Premier Cru from Chablis. Fourchaume as a region is close to the river Serein, which cools down the vineyards during an otherwise scorching summer. Translation: well-balanced grapes producing well-balanced wines. Add that to the fact that the grapes come from “Vieille Vignes” (old vines), and voila, a beautiful Chardonnay with just the right amount of acidity, character, and notes of honey and white flowers… Perfect with food or just lounging around a terrace with friends.

Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir – Vincent was actually hiding this baby in his booth… Given that there are very limited quantities to these bottles during production, I understood. As with most things rare, this was truly a gem and worthy of its classification, the highest in the region at Chablis Grand Cru. Located in Vaudésir, a tiny location also close to the Serein river, this location has the best Kimmeridgian soils that Chardonnay thrives on. This velvety Chardonnay with notes of honey and ripe fruits was truly breathtaking (and destroyed my palate for other Chardonnays).

 

Domaine Haute Perche

I never really read up on wines from the Anjou region… Frankly, we don’t have enough of them here to spark an interest.

In comes the effervescent Véronique Papin, Vigneronne of Domaine Haute Perche. Her energy was so much that I had to stop from going around the booths during the expo and have a couple of drinks with her (and she was sweet enough to teach me how to pronounce an element of their vineyard’s soil, schist, in a truly French way).

Anjou as a region is generally known for making sweet wines (although a decline in demand got winemakers from this part of the world to start producing dry wines), and being the only place in France that still produces Grolleau grapes (light, low in alcohol, earthy, dark grapes mostly used in rosé production).

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Véronique Papin (in action), Vigneronne of Domaine Haute Perche

 

Must-Try:

Anjou Blanc “Le Caractere” – A beautifully intense, floral white wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes, this is an excellent showcase of how beautiful white wines from Anjou are supposed to be: rich, with a touch of sweetness, and a fresh finish.

Cremant de Loire Rosé – This was an excellent application of two of the major red grapes of Anjou (Grolleau and Cabernet Franc) as a sparkling wine. It’s fruity but elegant, with notes reminiscent of ripe berries and flowers.

Cabernet d’Anjou – Deemed the best of what Anjou has to offer, as per appellation standards, the Cabernet d’Anjou is a medium-sweet style rosé made from Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. Domaine de Haute Perche’s take on this rosé highlights the organoleptic characteristics of the wine, complimented by notes of very ripe red berries.

 


 

I had a marginally different ending to this entry, which as I’ve mentioned, is unsuitable given the recent attacks.

So let me end things this way: Intolerance should stop. Intolerance can be as simple as being a wine snob, to generalizing an entire race (which leads to prejudice and hate), to murder en masse for (reasons). When I think of the old and new French friends I’ve made, the frequency of attacks in their beautiful country (and that they’re acts of terrorism) saddens me to no end.

That being said, let me post a message from the French Embassy in Manila for an event in Alliance Française today:

Following the deadly attack that struck Nice last July 14 and that put France in grieving during our National Day, the President of the French Republic has declared three days of national mourning (July 16, 17 and 18) to pay tribute to the victims. The flags of public buildings have been on half-mast since July 15.

A minute of silence will be observed on Monday, July 18 at 12:00pm all over France. To join this tribute to the victims of this tragedy in unity with the Nation, I invite all our compatriots in the Philippines to observe this minute of silence on July 18, 6:00pm (local time). A brief memorial ceremony will be organized at the Alliance Française de Manille. Those who wish to attend are invited to come to the following address: 209, Nicanor Garcia St., Bel Air II, Makati City, no later that 5:45pm.

Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to the Philippines

 

Confessions (A Third Year Anniversary Special)

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I cannot write well enough to convey how floored I am after realising that, man… It has been three years since we had the insane idea to start a blog.

I say that initial statement with conviction (albeit with a touch of self-deprecation) because that is the honest to goodness truth, which I feel I can expound on by talking about how the blog started.

See, I never planned to do this. My life goal was to put up a wine school in Manila (either a WSET accreditation school or a lifestyle-esque venue for people who just want to know how to appreciate wine), or work as a freelance consultant for food service and wines (which I’m currently doing).

I was fine, contributing to that goal by teaching in a university and doing personal research to enhance my knowledge (whether by meeting people, going to events, traveling to wine destinations, or going online).

As I went about my business, I discovered a lot of things while going online for wine research: First, the materials available were erroneous, outdated, too complicated for my students, impossible to relate to by a lot of Pinoys, or just plain boring (mostly those written by people who take themselves and wine too seriously). Don’t get me wrong, there are awesome ones out there (I’m totally team Oz Clarke, Natalie Maclean, and Jancis Robinson), but they tend to cater to hardcore wine enthusiasts and can get a bit intimidating for novice wine drinkers.

That being said (and here comes my confession), during one of these online researches, I kinda picked a fight with a higher-ranking guy overseas in a thread after he failed to see the humor on certain statements I made. Not my finest hour, I admit, but I came from a perspective that while the alcohol industry is indeed serious business, the people who are only beginning to learn about them get too scared with such seriousness.

Fine. I may have said really stupid things to defend my point, but hey… I was young. I just (passionately) knew that beginner winos get overwhelmed by technical talk (and the insistence on certain preferences over others’) that they never get encouraged to explore, or give up wine altogether (sidenote: that being said, there is a MASSIVE untapped market out there).

Anyway, I ranted about the argument to my poor, hapless husband who, using that beautiful marketing-trained brain of his, suggested that I stop complaining about the lack of accessible (and friendly) resources and make some.

Seriously, make my own? This was during the time in my life when I was starting to slowly navigate through my introversion and fear of rejection… I thought, wouldn’t putting myself out there (at the mercy of cyber bullies and grammar fiends) be counterproductive?

So, I decided to take a deep breath and just post. I totally refused to take it seriously (after all, I had a day job), and had each article edited by a friend (who I would also like to credit for helping me come up with a name for the blog over coffee and booze).

This is why, if someone tries to look at the archives, I only wrote sporadically when we started. I just did not want to emotionally invest in it… So much so that I didn’t even bother to fix the layout (hah!).

All of this changed about a year later. I suddenly met like-minded people (read: anti wine snobs), legit people who believed in what I did (and prompted me to edit the living daylights out of the blog from April 2013 to about June 2014, then told me to at least write once a week but twice would be better), supporters, and partners who encouraged me to actually launch this thing.

So here I am, three years later… A non-writer of an educated alcoholic who chucks out about 1.5 articles a week… A crazy, barely creative, self-effacing freak with a bizarre sense of humour that actually had an article published… Someone that normally shies away from social media but actually put up a Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest account for the blog (kicking and screaming)… A neurotic, chaotic geek who wound up halfway around the world and got to meet (and befriend) some of the best winemakers in the world… A disbelieving wine professional that constantly pinches herself just to realise that working with fabulous people is a reality and not just a dream.

I’ve harped so much about the people around me because I really don’t think I could have made it through the years without them.

Chad, my husband, is a given (and I’ll save everyone the cheese by not gushing about him online). Mark was awesome for getting me started along with Gerry’s breathtaking graphics. CJ was marvellous for solving the banner issue (because I cannot code to save or end my life). Tin was splendid for constantly sharing my work and guiding me around the inner workings of Philippine media. Paul is incredible for letting me use him as some sort of a grammar sounding board (and bearing the brunt of one of the blog’s first haters).

I’m so grateful for supportive partners as well: The Embassy of Chile in Manila (especially Ms. Fernanda Vila) for taking a lowly, startup, non-writer like myself and sending me on one of the most amazing adventures in my life. I’m thankful for the team of One Mega Group for legitimizing my work and actually publishing it. Urbangeppetto is super cool (especially Garp and Lois) for patiently working on gorgeous designs for us (despite my head and my schedule being all over the place… Which is why it’s taking time for the new layout to materialise).

I’m stoked about working with equally cool friends (that I sometimes consider family) as well: Poco Deli has been wonderful for hosting wine dinners with us, with the same intent of getting wine neophytes to start on their own road to great wine adventures.

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Come one, come all! Artistic wines from Provence, featured in Le Jardin Manila’s Wine Dinner on May 18, 2016 at 1830. Tickets at PHP5,000.00+ each, which includes five wines and a five course meal. Limited seats available, please reserve yours through +63917-8112171 

Le Jardin Manila (led by the phenomenal celebrity chef Jonas Ng*) has been a great partner with their desire to introduce high quality French food and wine in an accessible yet intelligent manner. We’ll be working with each other again for a Provence dinner event on May, showcasing breathtaking, unusual wines from Provence with delectable food to match.

Lastly, I’m happy that we get to reach out to people in different parts of the world (I mean, seriously. Our stats tell us we have readers from Russia, constant readership from Brazil and Austria… I’d love to visit those places one day, and I’m glad the blog has had a head start).

So, here’s to three years (and beyond). Cheers!

*Catch his show Chef Next Door on the Lifestyle Channel… Reruns are playing constantly but new episodes will start June. That, or see him around Le Jardin. 😉

The Year That Was (2shots of 2015)

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“To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history” – Clifton Fadiman

 

If that is the case, then 2015 was the year I became a true historian. 😉

Here are a few of some of my favourite moments in 2015:

 

Tons of Travel

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Amsterdam, Sancerre, London… Oh My!

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Singapore, Hanoi, and Napa

I thought 2014 was an amazing traveling year (I wound up halfway around the world on the opposite hemisphere!), but 2015 was just as fun. I enjoyed being part of a Vietnamese tea ceremony and partaking in my favorite Singaporean libations. I loved drinking through London, Paris, Sancerre, and Amsterdam. It was also a blast to end the year with a trip to Napa.

 

Healthy Living

Sharing my discoveries on health benefits of different beverages (juicing, chia, tea, etc.) was a rewarding experience. If you meet me in person, I’m far from being an Adriana Lima (I always use her as my ideal body peg because man, she’s healthy and sexy), but I’ve been consistently happy with my yearly checkups… I just have to be more mindful about the stuff I eat with wine (eheh).

 

Friends and Family

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Titas Drinking Spritzers for Lunch (How The Mighty Have Fallen)

Some of my favourite articles included chronicling a wino friend’s pregnancy and looking back on the drinking habits of our youth. Chad, the rest of our family (I’m still eternally grateful for the surprise trip to Napa), and our spectacular friends have been loving and supportive (even drinking with me and sharing their discoveries, all in the name of beverage research of course) throughout 2015.

 

The Great Chilean Adventure

CHILE COLLAGE 1

Gillmore Winery, Valdivieso, Via Wines, Montes, Lapostolle, Caliterra

CHILE COLLAGE 2

Morande, Sta. Rita, Tremonte, Uva Dulce, and Valparaiso

 

CHILE COLLAGE 3

Checked One Thing on my Bucket List: A Visit to Concha Y Toro!

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My First Foray Into Becoming a Legit Non-Writer Writer 😉

Narrating my Chilean wine adventures throughout 2015 was marvelous. To this day, I still can’t get over the beautiful sights, wonderful people, and phenomenal wines of Chile. The icing on this cake was the Lifestyle Asia article about the trip (OMG I’m a legit non-writer writer now!)… It was fabulous to share my experience with so many people.

 

Local Flavours

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The Beginning of a Fantastic Pinoy Adventure!

The epiphany I had in looking in my own backyard for beverage inspiration has led to many adventures (from coffee to craft beer and everything in between). I’m not done writing about them, and I’m excited to talk about even more truly Filipino drinks (and explorations) to the world.

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Ville de la Reine (available in Wine Story branches)

That being said let me do something quintessentially “new year” with you, my dear readers, by toasting with a glass of Champagne. This bottle of Ville de la Reine is a creamy blanc de blancs (translation: made from 100% Chardonnay grapes) perfect for toasting as the clock strikes 12, or with tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Cheers to 2016!