As a company that sells wine in the Philippines, we often get asked the following questions:
Whilst these seem like easy questions to answer, it can be hard since everyone’s tastes in wines are personal. In other words, something we might love you might hate and vice versa. Nevertheless, we know that for those just starting their wine journey simply don’t know where to start. You might even avoid buying any wine in fear of wasting your money on a bottle you’ll hate - this writer is guilty of this on many occasions.
This led us to write this article. A wine buyers guide to help wine drinkers in the Philippines start their wine journey with confidence, one sip at a time.
There are many different places to start when it comes to wine. You can go over the main types of wine, key wine producing countries, or main characteristics of wine. For now, we think a good place is to start with the latter. This is because many bottles of wine you’ll come across, whether in a physical store or an online store, will use terms like “tannins” “dry” “medium bodied” - but what do these actually mean?
Here we’ll answer this in brief so you can better understand what a bottle of wine is telling you about the wine. Understanding these characteristics, 5 to be specific, of wine will help guide your decision making when it comes to what wine to buy.
Sweetness is probably the easiest to understand. Wines are often described as either sweet, semi-sweet, or dry (meaning it has no sweetness at all) making it easy to find a wine that matches your taste preferences.
When a wine description includes a reference to the wine's acidity it refers to how tart the wine tastes. In other words, the more acidity there is, the more tart it will taste. So if you like more tart flavors, look to a white wine such as a Pinot Grigio or Riesling. On the other hand if you aren’t a fan of tart flavors, stick to a red wine which will typically be either on the sweeter or spicier (in terms of spices like black pepper rather than spicy chili) end.
Unlike sweetness, tannins can be the more elusive characteristic of wine - but once you know what it is, it’s easy to determine whether a wine has tannins or not. They are naturally produced from the grape skins. The more tannins present in wine, the drier it will feel in your mouth, particularly in your cheeks or gums. Typically red wines will have more tannins since the wines are produced with the grape skins, whereas with white wines the grape skins are not used in wine production.
When a wine is described as heavy-bodied or light-bodied this refers to how heavy it feels in your mouth. More often than not, red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec will be medium to heavy bodied whereas white wines like Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay will be light to medium bodied.
In general, all wines have alcohol. However, some have a higher ABV than others and this is a result of various factors. But in terms of taste, you’ll detect the level of alcohol by the warmth it builds in your throat as you drink it. A higher ABV wine will taste or feel warmer as you swallow than a lower ABV wine.
Now that we’ve gone over the 5 main characteristics of wine, let’s go straight into our beginner wine recommendations. In other words, what are the wines that are a great entry point into the world of wine. Everyone will have their own opinions but the list below, broken down into each type of wine there is, is based on our own experiences talking about and tasting different wines.
When it comes to sparkling wine, the first thought that comes to mind for many is Champagne. Expensive Champagne. With other types of sparkling wines like Prosecco or Cava being regarded as cheap and not as good. Whilst Champagne is generally great and often worth the price, we do believe that there are other alternatives that are just as good with a more favorable price point. After all, the main reason Champagne carries a high price tag is because it is made in small batches in one region of France.
So if you don’t want to spend too much on a bottle of Sparkling Wine, we suggest trying a bottle of Chandon, which is from the same house as Moet & Chandon, with bottles starting at only P860. A best seller amongst our customers has also been Valdivieso Sparkling Wines, in particular their Moscato which leans towards the sweet side and their Brut which is a more classic Sparkling Wine profile.
If you want to venture into white wine, there are plenty of options to choose. However, for those just starting out we recommend trying either a Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris) or a Chardonnay, which are some of the most popular varieties in the world. The reason we suggest these two is because we think that they exemplify the different characteristics you’d come across with white wines. Pinot Grigio on one hand will typically be more light-bodied and more tart, whereas Chardonnay is often more buttery and oaky.
For a quintessential Chardonnay we recommend the Printhie Mt Canobolas Chardonnay 2017. In this wine you can really taste the butter and oak notes as well as some fruit notes. Another popular Chardonnay is the Chateau Croix de Labrie Camille Blanc Chardonnay. This best-seller is a great entry-level wine because of its mellow flavors and low levels of acidity.
In terms of Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris, one of our best-sellers has been Chrismont La Zona Pinot Grigio 2018. Clean and fresh, this dry Pinot Grigio has a gentle citrus finish that makes it a true crowd-pleaser. For a more creamy Pinot Grigio, we recommend the Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2018, which is more medium-bodied dry wine with notes of peach, nutmeg, and pear.
Generally a more fresh and fruit flavored wine, Roses come in beautiful pink hues and are often associated with summer. Rose wines actually get their color from grapes typically used in red wine by allowing the juices to stay in contact with the grape skins for a few hours. This is why you’ll often see Rose bottles that say Pinot Noir or Shiraz. In general, you can expect to taste flavors of strawberries, raspberries, and even floral notes. You can think of Rose as somewhere in between white wines and red wines: you get that more crisp element found with white wines but with a more fruity rather than citrus flavor profile as with red wines.
Some of our favorites include the Beach House Rose 2020 and the Oscar’s Rose 2019. Although typically enjoyed alone, Rose wines are actually great pairings with Korean BBQ as they hold up well against kimchi. So if you want to try out a food and wine pairing, grab a bottle of Rose to drink with your KBBQ.
Often red wine is the one that people build up to when they’re first starting out drinking wine as it can often be too bold. However, we’ve actually found that for Filipinos, red wine has been a popular choice as it matches many of the bold flavors found in Filipino food and liquors. In fact, Cabernet Sauvignon has become a popular red wine in the Philippines. Yet for some, especially those first delving into wine, Cabernet Sauvignon can come off too bold. This is why we actually suggest trying a Malbec as your first red wine.
Malbec wine has almost all of the same flavors as Cabernet Sauvignon with the added benefit of being slightly less bold and being a more affordable option - most of the time. As Argentina is the home of truly fantastic Malbec wine, especially in the Mendoza region, we recommend the Santuario Malbec 2018. Expressing flavors of plum, blueberry, and blackcurrant, this Malbec has enough complexity to show what red wines have to offer. It also pairs great with Filipino favorites like pork BBQ.
So there you have it. Our quick wine buyer’s guide. This is by no means an extensive guide as there’s a lot more to discuss such as how to taste wine, what type of wine glasses to use, etc. But we think covering the 5 main characteristics of wine and applying those to your taste preferences is a good stepping stone to buying wine with confidence. After all, you don’t always have the luxury of going into a wine store and asking for recommendations from the owners. Sometimes all you have are the tasting notes found online.
If you are ready to start your wine journey, Winery.ph and the whole team are here to help guide you. You can browse our selection of wines curated for Filipino wine drinkers complete with our own tasting notes as well as those from the winemaker themselves. Alternatively you can always chat with us through our website or our social media accounts for our recommendations on where to start.