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Having pancit, queso de bola, or bibingka this Christmas?

WHETHER they are celebrating in person or holding a Zoom party this year, with Christmas fast approaching folks are starting to come up with their holiday menus. Many Filipino favorites are sure to make the line-up, but if you also are into wine the question comes up: What wine goes with XXX (fill in your Pinoy favorite party dish here)?

Since Winery.ph will be holding a major 11.11 sale (that’s Nov. 11), offering about 20 wines at 30-61% off at their website (www.winery.ph), BusinessWorld decided to narrow it down to those that match a Christmas menu. Chris Urbano, the Chief Sommelier and Managing Director of Winery.ph, worked with us for a wine pairing for a typical Filipino Christmas menu.

“This is so exciting because we actually do a lot of posts about pairing wine with different types of food,” he said in an e-mail. “We genuinely love them (pairing suggestions), because most pairing guides focus on Western foods and cuisines, when there’s actually a lot that you can do with Asian cuisines,” he said. Prior to this request, the company has made other lists for menus as diverse as Japanese food to fast food.

For the following dishes, Mr. Urbano suggests pairing them with these wines available from the sale, which are available by the case.

A Christmas Sweet Ham would go with the Dado Red Blend (P3,550 per case, P592 per bottle). “It has fruity, candied strawberry flavors that will go well with the sweetness of the pork and the pineapple glaze that often comes with it. It also has some white pepper aromas and smokiness to give it a little contrast, too,” said Mr. Urbano.

Everybody’s favorite queso de bola can be paired with the Guadalupe Red 2018 (P2,150 per case, P358 per bottle). “(It) balances out the heaviness (or umay) of eating this cheese with a lingering acid finish. Also adds a bit more savoriness with its vanilla and herbal aromas,” he said.

The many facets of Pancit Bihon (stir-fried noodles) benefit from a flourish from the Guadalupe White 2017 (P2,150 per case, P358 per bottle). “It has a lot of bright lime notes that go with the pancit — sort of like how you’d normally add a squeeze of calamansi to the dish. This is also pretty light and complements the freshness of the vegetables.”

Mr. Urbano faced a bit of a challenge when asked to search for a wine for Filipino-style sweet spaghetti, the favorite of children at birthday parties (but also adults at every party). “This one is tough, because the usual rule is to make the wine sweeter than the food, but because Pinoy spaghetti is so sweet, that narrows the options by a lot,” he said. For this he suggests the Ponte da Boga Albarino 2019 (P3,980 per case, P648 per bottle). “The Albarino does something different by instead contrasting the sweetness with a bright acidity that generally goes well with rich dishes. Also has a creamy mouthfeel to go with the sauce.”

Lumpiang Shanghai (fried spring rolls) is a favorite at any party, whether you’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, or someone else. It’s portable, it’s easy to eat, and the flavors are generally accessible — which makes it a match for the Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (P1,850 per case, P308 per bottle). “The vintage we’re selling in particular is a good match because with aging, it’s developed these lovely honey notes to go with the dominant lemon and citrus — so it’s kind of like what we said about the pancit, where instead of acting like the calamansi, this wine would act like the sweet-and-sour sauce you have with lumpia. The crisp acidity is also a bonus because it gives a lift to the heaviness of the deep fry.”

No Filipino feast is complete without a lechon (either a whole pig or a whole chicken), and perhaps one can make these bottles a holiday tradition, too. For the whole spit-roasted roasted pig, Mr. Urbano suggests a Ponta da Boga Mencia 2018 (P3,890 per case, P648 per bottle), which has peppery notes and a great smoky finish that “will go well with the flavors of lechon. It’s relatively light for a red, so it won’t overwhelm the sweetness of the pork.” For lechon manok (spit-roasted chicken), Mr. Urbano suggests the Vina Albali Merlot 2018 (P1,850 per case, P308 per bottle). “It is an easy drinking red wine with dry herb aromas and a touch of oak that goes well with the smokiness of the chicken and the sheer amount of spices that will typically be on it.”

A little more complicated is the Beef Morcon, a roasted beef roulade. For this he suggests the Atalon Pauline’s Cuvee Red Blend 2013 (P7,990 per case, P1,332 per bottle). “It’s a great pairing with beef dishes in general because of its powerful black fruit characters, plus its smoky tobacco, leather, and forest floor aromas. The interplay between its firm mouth-drying tannins and the juiciness of the morcon is also going to make for a great pairing.”

A festive roast beef gets Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 or that label’s Shiraz of the same vintage (both at P2,990 per case, P498 a bottle). “Both have a lot of black fruit and spice in their palates, plus a full body to stand up to the richness of the beef. Both have a nice acidity to cut through that richness as well,” he said.

Finally, we get to desert, with traditional treats served after Simbang Gabi (a series of dawn masses held over nine consecutive days) — though we forgot to ask about our actual favorite, leche flan. Puto Bumbong (purple rice cakes with toppings) goes well with Casa Do Valle Rose 2019 (P2,050 per case, P348 per bottle). “It’s already a crowd favorite on its own, but sings when paired with many different kinds of food. It has a vibrant acidity to cut through the creaminess of the desiccated coconut and the molasses kind of flavor you get from the muscovado sugar (partially refined to unrefined sugar). It also brings a lot of fresh strawberry flavor to the table to keep your palate refreshed and give a lift to the richness.”

Bibingka (another rice cake variety), gets the Ponte da Boga Godello 2019 (P3,890 per case, P648 per bottle). “It has citrus flavors and a vibrant acidity to offset the creaminess that you get from the bibingka and its kesong puti (unaged carabao milk cheese) and salted egg. The vintage that will be part of the sale also has a nutty almond finish that complements the smokiness you get in bibingka.”

Get updates and wine drinking tips by following Winery.ph on Facebook and Instagram (@winery.ph). — JL Garcia

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