The long and wining road: My journey from Red Horse to Red Wine

Lapu-lapu with bone marrow and chorizo foam balanced with my second favorite from the Escudo Rojo line, their Sauvignon Blanc.

Lapu-lapu with bone marrow and chorizo foam balanced with my second favorite from the Escudo Rojo line, their Sauvignon Blanc.

Two decades ago, I was invited to my first wine pairing event.

As a dyed-in-the-wool probinsiyana who was raised on dorm-room Red Horse bottles and Laguna’s lambanog, my proclivity for
alcohol was more of the plebeian persuasion.

That evening, I dressed in black (which always seem apropos for glittery gatherings) and sat at the table of Dr. Vivina Chiu, a pediatric nephrologist who is more famous for her forays into gastronomic delights; she had bought my ticket to the glamorous Chaine de Rotisseurs and I was a guest at her table.

Two courses into dinner, she leans towards me and asks me about the wine. Without blinking, I told her it tasted like nuts and smelled a little bit like bitter leaves, crushed and swirled into the scarlet liquid. But that I liked the bite. “Tannins, you are tasting the tannins,” she tells me, with a wink in her eye. I swirled it in my mouth as she directed, inhaled the bouquet, coated every taste bud in my mouth with the flavor before I declared anything. She smiled her approval. I was never going to be a connoisseur, but she made me look at wine differently. That bottle no longer meant a means to get drunk, it became a way to make memorable dinners like this quite unforgettable.


Three nights ago, Joe Meneses, President of Titania Wine Cellar, sat me across him and his Chilean wines, specifically bottles from their Baron Philippe de Rothschild Escudo Rojo collection, at a private room in the Radisson Blu. The first Chardonnay from 2013 was as it should be, a crisp and
refreshing glass of white to go with our lentil and fried pork belly salad and speck foam, which I assume referred to pork fat, a clever if not naughty play on a dish that purports itself to be healthy. It did call itself a salad.

The next white, a Sauvignon Blanc, accompanied a dish that had myself and Cebu Daily News food columnist Aissa de La Cruz all excited. A generous slice of Lapu-Lapu (grouper) lay innocently on the plate, but laced with bone marrow and chorizo foam. “They’ve made the Lapu-Lapu evil!” exclaims tita Aissa, and we laugh because it was another wicked twist to dinner from Radisson Blu’s Chef, and it worked brilliantly by layering in the salt and savory into the blank canvas of my fish.

But my favorite wine of the evening came much later with the manchego, and it was one I had never heard of before. The Carmenere, it turns out, was an originally French grape of the Cabernet family that is now planted mostly in Chile, making it an integral part of the Chilean wine industry. And while it smelled of berries, it held spice and chocolate and even a leathery taste that I find appealing. “It’s a little less bitter, it’s tannins are gentler,” says Mr. Meneses.

Beside me, the beautiful Margie Lhuillier swiped quickly on her phone, nodding, and then smiling impishly to me. “Vivino,”she whispers. “It’s a wine app that gives you all these reviews and prices, you have GOT to download it, darling.” While I was swirling the Carmenere in my mouth, she had already downloaded the pertinent facts about my new favorite, frowning at some low ratings, and visibly excited to see that nothing was above a thousand pesos in the entire line we enjoyed throughout dinner. “Very, very good for these prices.”

What better approval does one need than from an elegant Frenchwoman with Cebuano sensitivities? Well done, Escudo Rojo.


TAGS: journey, long, longer, red, road, wine
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