The language of wine has always been quite snobby. For many people, there’s nothing more unbearable than being seated next to a self-appointed “wine connoisseur” at the dining table.
But wine appreciation, really, need not be unbearably high-brow.
Tita Trillo, chair of Titania Wine Cellar Inc., has devoted her life making wine more accessible to Filipinos, setting up several wine appreciation dinners and workshops each year. She dismisses the pomposity often linked to wine consumption.
“Wine is something you experience,” she said. “Just read the brief description at the back of the bottle if you feel like you need to know your drink more.”
The language is something wine enthusiasts pick up along the way. Just like cooking—in which one starts by frying eggs before moving on to coq au vin—as wine becomes familiar to a person, so does his/her
Star of the night
On this gathering, “A Glimpse of Bordeaux’s Heritage,” recently held at La Veranda, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, we followed Trillo’s unspoken advice: Relax, enjoy, swirl, smell, sip, repeat. “The food and wine will truly let you fly,” she said.
The star of the night was a 2011 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau d’Armailhac. Twelve bottles were flown in from the family cellars of the Rothschilds in France for the event.
“Once a year we do a gala event in Manila because it’s a very important market in Asia,” said Anthony Gourmel, Asia-
Pacific wine master and director of Baron Philippe de Rothschild-Orient. The Tokyo-based Frenchman has been visiting the Philippines for the last 15 years, not only for wine affairs but also for holidays, bringing his family with him every summer to Boracay.
Pairing the whites, reds
The evening kicked off with Mouton Cadet Blanc paired with Salmone Tartare with pickled vegetables, caviar and salmon crisps. Mouton Cadet Blanc is a blend of the classic Sauvignon Blanc.
White wines are generally fresh to the palate, suited for the tropical climate. The Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, has fruity and vegetable aromas.
One of the keys to food and wine pairing is choosing similar flavors so they complement each other. For example, an acidic food preparation such as grilled salmon flavored with lemon juice extract will be a good match for high-acid wine.
White wines normally have higher acidity than reds, which is why they’re usually paired with fish marinated or flavored with citrus fruits.
Conversely, grilled pork ribs laced with sweet barbecue sauce might not pair well with reds.
“Red is still the main interest here (Manila), although the climate and food call for something fresh like white wine,” Gourmel said. Filipinos love spicy foods, which would pair well with whites to balance out the overall flavor, but generally Pinoys or Asians prefer reds. One theory, said Paige Meneses, Titania director for sales, is that the color red is a very positive symbol in Asian cultures.
Next came the Duck Magret and Foie Gras with sultana and verbena compote, and duck jus. This was paired with the
Reserve Mouton Cadet Saint-Emilion.
The wine has a strong nose of ripe fruits, Meneses said, with slight notes of spice. “Wine preference is very personal. Some will like to have more tannins, some prefer higher acidity or alcohol. I like my wine perfectly balanced.”
Filipinos normally start with sweet wines, staying away from those with more assertive tannins. Tannins, the backbone of reds, are actually quite common. The dryness in the mouth one feels after drinking black tea, for instance, is caused by tannins. The bitter after-taste is also caused by tannins.
Since reds are fermented with grape skins and pips (seeds) where tannins naturally occur, winemakers are faced with the task of balancing the overall flavor of the wine. Depending on how wine is blended, the tannins can be firm, astringent or soft.
The 2011 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau d’Armailhac, with its somewhat smoky nose, has velvety tannins that do not overwhelm. It is well-structured and well-balanced. “It’s almost a bit feminine. Filipinos will love it,” said Gourmel.
This elegant blend was paired with Blackened Denver Steak with summer vegetables, potato confit, leek coulis and Romesco sauce.
Meneses agreed: “The elements that you’re looking for in a wine are present, but it’s so well-balanced that you can enjoy the wine. Too much alcohol would have made this flat; too many tannins would have made it too dry.”
Gourmel said Chateau d’Armailhac was acquired in 1933, the year Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the daughter of vintner Baron Philippe de Rothschild, was born. It is still operated by the same family for 160 years now, although Baroness Philippine passed away last year.
The evening ended with the sweet dessert wine, Reserve Mouton Cadet Sauternes, paired with Warm Pear Clafoutis with apple mint sorbet and nut crumble.
“For a wine to be distinguished, it needs the elements of tradition and history. Bordeaux is certainly a region for that. The Mouton Cadet is the largest brand of Bordeaux wine in the world,” Gourmel said, adding that it’s the official wine of the Cannes Film Festival and the Ryder Cup.