After a 3-year hiatus, the biggest wine-tasting event in Southeast Asia is back
On any given day of the week, head to a Ralph’s store along Arnaiz in Makati or Molito, Alabang, and you’re bound to find a group of old friends or young professionals convening over a bottle of wine. This is the same spirit of vivacity that pulses through the annual Grand Wine Experience (GWE)— multiplied by 1,000 bottles of wine.
A 20-year old video of what started as an intimate gathering at the original Ralph’s shop. The Grand Wine Experience has since evolved into a massive occasion.
After a 3-year hiatus, the most eagerly awaited and biggest wine-tasting event in Southeast Asia is back. Established by the four Joseph brothers: Bobby, Ralph, Ronnie, and Raymond, what started twenty years ago as spontaneous gatherings at the very first Ralph’s store, The 20th Grand Wine Experience has since evolved into Asia’s most eagerly awaited tasting event. On its 20th year, the event will be held on November 17, 2023, Friday at The Grand Ballroom of Marriott Manila — accommodating guests from 5 p.m. till midnight.
What to Expect
The event is not so simple as a wine show, but a “celebration of the art and science of wine-making.” The event, while centered on wines, goes beyond to present an expansive selection. Apart from the 1,000 wines, there will be 150 Japanese Sakes and 21 Brewers, with other spirits brought in from around the world.
Open to the cultivated palette of connoisseurs as well as the modest drinking enthusiast, each selection will be curated by experts, while presented by renowned winemakers and distillers.
Beyond being a beverage showcase, the event also includes food pairings. Expect culinary treats prepared by top chefs and designed to complement the libations. With international cuisines wall-to-wall, also keep an eye out for the freshly flown-in fish of bar koji as well as the Ralph’s store’s classic cheese pizzas.
Besides the unlimited tastings, expect to enjoy live entertainment as well as the excitement of raffles and prizes.
“Bud Break” — A Meaningful and Symbolic Theme
After two decades, the 20th iteration of the Grand Wine Experience is poised to be a landmark edition. The milestone coincides with the revival of the hospitality industry, following an extended period of lockdowns and restrictions due to the pandemic. This is in addition to a pause after the passing of the Philippine Wine Merchants Chairman Bobby Joseph, the deeply loved oldest brother of the family business.
The theme “Bud Break” symbolizes the first stages in the cycle of a grapevine. This is the time when the dormant buds burst to life and grow into fresh shoots—a pivotal time that determines the yield and quality of grapes, all in a lovely spectacle of life.
A Deeper Look into the Finer Things in Life
Drinking over 1,000 wines is not feasible for most. So a good tip is: to spit moderately. And don’t drive. Booking a hotel at the Mariott is highly recommended as well.
While the layout can be overwhelming, there are many ways to go about the experience. You can concentrate on either New World or Old World wines. If you’re feeling a little freer, mix up a little bit of both worlds and compare the tastes. Event organizers are also exploring the potential of holding guided tours.
While a tasting can be intimidating, the event opens up an experience where you can go face-to-face with the merchants, know the stories behind each sip, and bring each bottle to life.
On a night that can tend to indulgence, the event organizers strive to have the guests leave with something substantial. After a casual lesson on wine tasting, Director Ronnie Joseph expresses,
“We want people to learn by drinking, tasting, pairing.”
To which the next-generation Robbie Joseph adds,
“We want it to be accessible — not focused on intricacies, but educating subtly.”
The 20th Grand Wine Experience promises to be an evening devoted to discovery, learning, and sheer enjoyment, in an opportunity to connect with old acquaintances, create new friendships, and relish the finer points of life—all through exploring the regions of the world in a bottle.