Mystery of the grape
I’m a beer and old-timey cocktail guy. Give me a Scots Ale, a fine Pilsner or a dry martini (but hold the Budweiser and that silly Whipped Cream flavored vodka stuff), and I’m happy. Wine has never been my strong suit. I tried to be a little knowledgeable about wines back in Seattle. And there, it was easy.
Washington wines are world famous now, some even more so than their comparable wines from California. A good wine was easy to come by in Seattle, with the shelves at even the neighborhood drug store brimming with local Washington favorites.
But wine in the tropics? That’s another thing entirely. The other day, Menchu and I walked into Forth & Tay in Lanang here in Davao because the fine folks at Davao Mobile Bar had suggested I might find a bottle of Angostura Bitters there (an ingredient used in certain cocktails). They didn’t have the bitters but they had a pretty wide selection of wines and some spirits in the small shop. The only problem I had was that I didn’t know a thing about most of the wine makers available there.
They had Italian and French wines but those had always been above my $pending level in Seattle. They also had Australian, South African and New Zealand wines which were only offered in limited quantities in Seattle stores.
So here I was, confronted with wine makers I’d never heard of and prices that were all across the board. Banrock Station? Is that a good wine maker? What about Hardy’s? A good name or what? Screw caps? No corks? Really? The last time I drank wine from a bottle without a cork in it was when my buddy and I sneaked bottles of Boone’s Farm Apple into the local lumberyard back in our teens.
Weighing the variables
Prices ran from about ₱300 to way out of my league. Back in Seattle, a decent wine could be had for $8 and up. So the lower-end prices were comparable to those in Seattle. The catch was, of course, that in Seattle, I could easily figure out what to try at most price points.
Standing in Forth & Tay, facing a bunch of unknown brands (and some “jug wine” brands I’ve thought were considered inferior in the U.S. (like Carlo Rossi and Robert Mondavi) left me squirming.
Searching for help on my phone didn’t bring very much help at all. There seems to be little information on Australian wines and I was most interested in them. We were left with choosing by label and price.
We wanted Moscato because we’d enjoyed it in Seattle and Menchu, especially, likes sweeter wines (as do many Filipinos). We settled on Banrock Station Moscato. When we opened it a couple of days later at Menchu’s birthday party, it seemed quite good with an almost buttery flavor to me. So, one good choice.
I wanted a Shiraz. My first Shiraz was a Washington wine where the pepper was pronounced and I really liked that aspect. In my former job I had found a case of Shiraz hiding in the closet of one of my buildings months after a restaurant’s office staff had moved out. It was seven years old but when opened, it was wonderful!
There were a lot of choices for Shiraz, many of them well over $20 a bottle. I settled on the Hardy’s VR (Varietal Range) at about $8. Once I got home, the reviews I could find were mostly bad with reviewers claiming they’d only cook with what was left after tasting it. I haven’t opened it yet but I will follow-up when I do.
I must say that having a screw cap without a cork turns me off but I understand that is maybe a cultural thing. Like I said above, the capped wines of my youth were junk wines so that’s a holdover from my past.
We also bought a bottle of Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada. We bought a bottle at S&R here in Davao (a store modeled after the American “Costco” stores which carries many American brands) because we were used to buying Jaume Serra Cristalino back in Seattle. It’s much more pricey than the Cristalino but it is very tasty.
It’s a sure thing that I need some help with finding good wine in the tropics. I’ll need to brush up on my wines of the world and see just what bargains are out there. I will keep you all up to date on what I find.