• February 26, 2024

It’s always a good idea to stock up on wine during the holidays because you can give it away as gifts, bring it to holiday parties you’ll attend, and serve it during Christmas dinners you plan to host—including Noche Buena in your own home.

That said, you can’t just buy any random wine you find in the grocery. It pays to know at least a little bit about what wine you’re getting and what your gift recipients, hosts, or guests can pair with it. Well, we’re here to help.

Speed recently had an exclusive interview with Andrea Macarena Cardenas Villafranca, Viña San Pedro Tarapaca (VSPT) Regional Sales Manager for Southeast Asia; and Sherwin A. Lao, partner director for sales and marketing of Golden Wines, Inc., the exclusive importer and distributor of Gato Negro, 9 Lives, and 1865 in the Philippines.

Besides getting to know each of these wines, which are all popular globally in their own right, we learned which of them are best to pair with typical food Filipinos serve during the holidays.

Holiday food and wine pairing

During the interview, Speed named a holiday dish and both Andrea and Sherwin gave their takes on what wine to best pair with each of them. We list their wine recommendations for each dish below:

Ham and cold cuts | Pair with: Carmenere

Pinoys love to serve ham during Christmas dinners, ranging from Christmas ham to Jamon Iberico carving stations. Some also like to serve charcuterie boards filled with varieties of cold cuts. Both Sherwin and Andrea recommend pairing these with Chilean Carmenere.

“Carmenere has an inherent spiciness [that comes from] the grapes either harvested right when they’re starting to mature or even a little bit earlier, [which] give that green profile to the Carmenere. It will have that peppery, even cardamom notes to it,” explains Andrea. “So for me, that goes really well with ham and cold cuts because you have similar notes in cold cuts depending on how they processed it. And in ham, peppery notes and saltiness will go very well with this medium-bodied red.”

“Carmenere has inherent flavors of herbaceousness, spiciness, and earthiness,” explains Sherwin. “It’s not a straightforward fruit, like cabernet or merlot which are fruit-forward. Carmenere has a lot of this earth, leather, herbal flavors, and because of that, it has enough acidity which…goes with any food that are presumably saltier. [9 Lives] is a decent Carmenere in any level. It’s not the overpriced one, it’s not the cheap one. It’s good value.”

Assorted Cheese | Pair with: Sauvignon blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the best wine to pair with any cheese, especially Edam cheese or what Pinoys love to serve during Noche Buena: queso de bola. And because of the popularity of charcuterie boards, a wide variety of cheeses are served with them, too.

“I love Sauvignon Blanc with sharp cheeses. They complement each other so well,” says Andrea. Sherwin agrees. “This is what you call the complementary effect: You have something creamy with something with very good acid. That sharpness and creaminess of Edam goes with the acidity.”

He adds, “For cheese, if we’re talking the whole spectrum—from soft camembert to tough ones like Cabrales and say, blue cheese, and especially Manchego, it’s so neutral and grainy—for all of this, Sauvignon Blanc, like that of 9 Lives.”

Pork Barbecue | Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon

If you love serving pork barbecue on a stick during all your celebrations, including for the holidays, then better have a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon ready to pair it with.

“The Cabernet Sauvignon’s signature taste is always on the berry side, like blackcurrant, and on top of that you’ve got toasted oak (from the charred medium barrel), which gives you that vanilla flavor. It goes well with skewers, like the barbecue, even with a thick sauce. The sweet berry flavors together with the charred medium barrel [gives] a very good mirroring effect,” says Sherwin.

Lechon and Cochinillo | Pair with: Syrah, Carmenere, and Red Blend

Sherwin and Andrea recommend several wines to pair with lechon and cochinillo, depending on how you’ll serve and eat these festive roast pork specials.

“The lechon, I’d have it either with the Syrah of 1865 or even with the Carmenere of 9 Lives,” shares Andrea. “What I like about the Syrah with the lechon is how the aromatics of the Syrah would go very nice with the peppery, and also very well developed berries that I think Syrah has. I think that would also go very nice with the cochinillo.”

Sherwin has a caveat on pairing these wines with lechon sauce. “The problem with the lechon sauce is it’s very sweet, thick liver sauce, and that one could mask the taste of the wine. So for lechon and cochinillo, I would go with red blend [like that of Gato Negro] because [if you’ll eat] the skin with the sweet sauce, you just want a wine that shows some flavors and not a wine that’s overpowering. I need something that’s light and not overly sweet,” he suggests.

Seafood | Pair with: Chardonnay

Not too fond of meat dishes? Having a seafood spread is always a good idea, too. And when you have seafood like fish, crabs, shrimps, or even lobster—whether it’s just steamed or most especially when cooked in delicious garlic butter—both Andrea and Sherwin recommend pairing them with Chardonnay.

“If you’re eating fish and there’s garlic there, Chardonnay is your go-to. Gato Negro’s Chardonnay has the flavor of peach citrus,” says Sherwin. His tip: “When you eat something like lobster, instead of drizzling it with lemon, just drink Chardonnay. You’re using the Chardonnay as your condiment. The citrus comes from the wine.”

Steak | Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon

The holidays are definitely the best time to feast on steak. And the best wine for that? Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sherwin points out, “What do people do with steak if they don’t drink wine? You know what’s the most popular? They put steak sauce. And if you read the ingredients, it says cassis, blackcurrant, sugar, and vinegar. Blackcurrant, that’s a cabernet flavor; vinegar, there’s acidity in wine. All these flavors and spices they put into popular steak sauces is actually a wine. So instead of that, I’m drinking a good Cabernet—that’s the complementary effect.”

Bread | Pair with: Chardonnay or any wine

All holiday feasts include bread, whether paired with some olive oil or garlic butter a la garlic bread. Sherwin says this goes perfectly with any wine, but most especially Chardonnay.

He shares, “Garlic bread is my go-to if I want to drink any wine. Oreven just olive oil with bread. When you’re drinking wine, the food you’re having should have some texture. Bread gives you that, and the garlic or olive oil is just like some coating, making it beautiful to drink with any wine, red or white.”

“Garlic, and to a certain degree shallots, are wine-friendly herbs. You put garlic on anything, and wine, even reds, survive. These are the ones you use to cook with anyway,” he expounds.

Dessert | Pair with: Moscato

Whether it’s fruitcake, another type of cake, or even fruit salad, Moscato pairs perfectly with any holiday dessert you can imagine.

According to Sherwin, “Any holiday dessert, Moscato would go with it, from fruitcakes to chiffon cake and sansrival (which is more buttery than sweet), maybe even fruit salad if they take it with wine. And our sweetest wine from VSPT is only this Moscato from Gato Negro.”

He explains the reason for this pairing: “Sweet wine to sweet food, that’s what you call the mirror effect—they mirror each other. But the rule of thumb always is, if you’re taking something sweet, the wine has to be sweeter than the food.”

Holiday offers

If you’re thinking of stocking up on the wines mentioned in the pairing, you’d be happy to know these holiday promos: For every purchase of two bottles of Gato Negro, you get a free Gato Kitty (miniature bottle) of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Meanwhile, 9 Lives has a 2+1 promo, where you get three varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenere) for the price of two.

According to Sherwin, they are not doing packages for 1865 “because we expect this to be a good gift-giving item.”

Andrea adds, “1865 is a beautiful wine from the taste to the looks as well. It’s excellent for gift giving.”

So here’s a quick trick for deciding what wine to buy at the store: If you’re thinking what to serve during dinner or parties, you can turn to the range of wines from Gato Negro and 9 Lives. If you’re thinking of what wine to give your boss, friends, wedding ninong and ninang, and other special people in your list, give them 1865. 

There are five Gato Negro wines available in the Philippines: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend, Chardonnay, and Moscato, each priced at P375. 

Nine Lives is available here in four varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, each priced at P470. 

The only two 1865 varietals available in the Philippines are Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, each priced at P1,125. All brands are available at S&R, SM Supermarkets, and The Marketplace. 

Words Trixie Reyna-Benedicto

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