The folks at winery.ph know a thing or two about making wine tasting fun and exciting.
“Sorry, I think I’ll miss the first few glasses,” I told my friend and winery.ph‘s resident content marketing girlie Patricia “Pacho” Chong while I was stuck in traffic. I was on the way to their showroom at Chino Roces for a wine tasting session, which they’ve been holding it regularly on Thursdays at 5:30 pm, and the cars on EDSA weren’t budging at all.
I glanced at my watch and saw that I still had 15 minutes to spare, but I wasn’t counting on making it on time anymore. Pacho told me not to worry, but I was still quite flustered.
It was already 6 pm when I arrived at the winery.ph showroom. Resident wine educator Chie Gaerlan (certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust or WSET, no less) was already halfway through the bottles for that day, sourced from Chilean wineries Escudo Rojo and Mapu. Pacho greeted me with a glass of red and encouraged me to relax. “We’ll get some time with Chie later, so it’s all good,” she assured me as I downed my drink.
“…and swirl the glass to bring out the flavor…” I overheard Chie as soon as I gulped my wine out of stress. Whoops, too late. Sorry Chie, I thought to myself.
The tasting session lasted until 6:30PM. Luckily, there was enough wine left for me to try from the bottles I missed, so we caught up on that as Chie and Pacho indulged me with a solo session on how to appreciate wine. For starters, they poured me a glass of the Escudo Rojo Reserva Pinot Noir 2021.
“Let me assure you that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to describe wine,” Chie emphasized, noting how people—myself included—still have that impression that wine tasting sessions are intimidating. “That’s what we want to foster here in winery.ph and our events: that wine tasting can be fun and approachable.”
However, to fully appreciate the flavors, textures, and aroma of a glass of wine there are a few steps—five S’s, to be exact—that we can take note of.
Like if “you were promised a young, sparkling white, check if your wine is bubbly and pale. If it’s amber in color and lacking in effervescence, they may have poured you a wrong bottle, or there’s a problem with your wine.” Also pay attention to cloudiness or any sediments, such as cork bits, that may have made it to your glass. I was promised a red, and my glass was a deep wine color, so we’re all good.
“Second, prepare your sense of taste by smelling the wine. If you smell floral or citrusy notes, then that will prime you to expect similar flavors later.” Chie adds that if you can’t smell anything yet, you can try swirling the glass to “open” up the wine more by letting it get in contact with oxygen, allowing more flavors and aromas to come. “However, if you still can’t smell any hint of fruit at all or it gives off a strange aroma, you should get the wine checked.”
In my case, what I perceived was a soapy aroma, which spoke more about how unfamiliar I was with certain smells than the aroma of the wine itself. When I swirled it for a few seconds and sniffed it again, berry notes started to come out.
“Normally, I’d encourage guests and clients to say the first thing that comes to mind when they smell or sip their wine,” Chie said. “For instance, if they say that they taste guava, then I’d believe them.” I thought that it’s a similar principle to whiskey tasting, wherein the notes that you can identify will largely be based on the flavors that you’ve already tasted in your lifetime. As such, refining your ways of tasting different notes is as simple as trying out more kinds of dishes.
It was now time to sip my Escudo Rojo. “Allow your tongue to marinate in the wine and get all its taste receptors activated,” Chie instructed me. The berry-like aroma I perceived earlier translated to a distinct, fruity flavor that reminded me of raspberries. It was smooth on the throat, too—not gritty, powdery, or drying.
Lastly, after my first sip, Chie and Pacho told me to savor the drink. “Enjoy the feeling as the wine goes down your throat, and think about the different dishes that you can pair it with, now that you have understood its flavors and textures.”
In terms of food pairings, I had previously only followed this general rule that steaks go with reds, while fish goes with whites. However, Chie, Pacho, and the winery.ph team shared that they’ve devised several ways to make it fun. They’ve explored fast food pairings, charcuterie boards made with items from convenience stores, and other unconventional combinations.
“I’ve even told guests before to pair certain wines with lechon kawali and lumpia!” Chie quipped.
More than refining one’s wine tasting experience (and making it less intimidating), Chie remarked that she conducts these kinds of appreciation sessions to empower consumers with their purchase decisions.
“When you frequent wine tastings and establish this discipline of going through the five S’s, not only will you get to appreciate the wine in full, but you also get to determine what is it exactly that you like. So, the next time you get handed a list of wines at a restaurant or store, you can confidently say ‘oh, I want a Cabernet Sauvignon’ or ‘I’d like a fruity and complex Pinot Noir.’”
We finished drinking and chatting at around 7 pm, and Chie went ahead for the night. Before I left the winery.ph showroom, Pacho gave me a glass of Knappstein Riesling 2022. “I have a bottle of this for you at the back. It’s one of my favorites, and it has a mineral taste and texture,” she told me.
I did not have the faintest idea how wine could taste like that, but I took her word for it. After all, as they repeatedly said throughout the night, wine tasting should be fun.