Bacchus: A Premium Go for Wine this Holiday Season


originally published at Forbes in Touch, December 2007

I am too sensitive to cold weather, and I feel somewhat fortunate for being born in a country that only rains or shines, Yet this familiar wintry breeze that frosts my feet every morning conveys rather more exciting news. Oh yes, thanks for reminding me; my much loved yearly holiday is here once again!

We are all expecting another round of merrymaking that equally encapsulates all the good things that happened in our lives this year. Apart from creating large food buffets, wines and spirits are definitely not discarded on the shopping list.

A search for the best wine in the metro seems to entail tough luck nowadays. Yet in case you are yearning for such a “Holy Grail” that does not only suit your palate but also expresses your chosen mood or personality, perhaps Bacchus can bestow what you truly seek for.

We’ve Come From the East in Search for Great Wines

Bacchus is truly proud of its 10-year legacy in providing high-quality, highly valuable wines. It only has three branches in the country situated at some of Shangri-la’s hotel chains. From a starting collection 2,000 bottles, wine-passionate Alex Lichaytoo, the owner of Bacchus, now manages a full warehouse of around 300 labels and types of wines both coming from the Old World and the New World. To be exact, Bacchus imports wine directly from classic vineyards in France and Italy and from new players such as Napa Valley in California, Chile and Argentina, New Zealand and Australia, and South Africa.

“Passion first, before business. That’s why this becomes successful by simply enjoying doing it,” Alex exclaims. “We personally know the vineyard owners; relationship is important. It’s not only drinking the wine. It’s also learning the wine’s heritage, the winemaker’s philosophies-knowing why and how they make such great wines.”

Bacchus is obsessed with temperature control and proper handling of their wines to keep its quality taste. Wines are fully refrigerated at 16 degrees while being transported all the way from the vineyards until reaching the warehouse. The store’s wine cellars are also kept in cold temperature. Ensuring such high-quality control over their wines is what they are really known for.

Bacchus also houses rare finds and top-of-the-line wines. Most of their Bordeaux wines range from P2,000 to P5,000. How daunting it is to bring these types of wines in the country since competitors from other countries bid higher in terms of volume and price. It even gets worse when production gets really small (harvesting occurs only once a year). More interesting, Alex also claims that Bacchus still sells more than 30 percent cheaper on similar wines compared with stores in Hong Kong and Japan.

It’s Beyond the Bottle and the Glass

“Every wine has its own time and purpose. Each kind of wine caters to specific occasions. Each wine gives different memories and events which we are actually worth cherishing for,” Alex says. Serious buyers take Bordeaux, who, like him, can associate well with this classic due to its indescribable mystique. A few also explore wines from Napa Valley and Australia. Alex personally favors the Old World due to their hundred years experience in making premium, age-worthy wines. “What is important,” he notes, “is to know which style you can enjoy since each country has its very own; a style yet with good value.”

Alex also puts it that wines can be similar to the personalities of the people who fermented it. French wines are more subtle, complex and complicated, and not so obvious. Italian wines are more upfront but very elegant. Australian wines are the most forward, very upfront, and obvious; you can taste the “sunshine” in their wine, the gregarious nature. “French, Italians, and Australians tend to be that way. I am seeing a lot of similarities to their character,” he summarizes.

Most people believe taht the more aged the wine is, the better tasting it will be, which isn’t always the case. “For the wine to be greater when it ages, it must have started great when it was young,” Alex says. A wine improves and even more gets complex through certain periods, then it plateaus and later on diminishes its taste until alcohol is only left. Yet as he reiterates, proper handling is still an important factor to sustain the wine’s quality.

Best Wines for the Holidays

Noche Buena is definitely a massive feast. We may be in fret as to what kind of wine will suit this huge buffet of various food and somehow decide to put several wines on the table-Chardonnay, Merlot, or Cabernet. Yet according to Alex, the rules no longer apply nowadays; it entirely depens on the person’s taste. Although he personally suggests, “Simple food goes for simple wine; complex food, complex wine.” For example, fish topped with tomato sauce may go well with Pinot Noir or Burgundy red, or bland grilled pork with spicy Chardonnay. Food cooked with vinegar, however, will be a bad match to any wine.

For those who will go for big food festivities this holiday season, Alex highly recommends Italian wines. The Italian’s love for food varieties draws similarly to Filipino’s food culture. Sangiovese, in particular, is made from juicy, fruity grapes and such tangy, zesty taste goes well with our colorful food. For good value, he recommends Chilean and Argentinean wines; for starters, he suggests French wines.

Champagne always plays an important part throughout Alex’s holidays, and explores Bordeaux with vintage years 1985 and 1989. Last Christmas, he took champagne Pavillac 2001 Chateau Cordeillan-Bages.

It is quite a rule of thumb that we pay for the value, but prices can still be very tricky. One example Alex cited is a Chilean wine that may be P200 higher than a P300 one, but when you consider it closely, the former is 10 times better. There is also a wine that is cheaper but can be equally at par with more expensive wines. Antinori Il Bruciato Bolgheri-a highly unique, rare Italian wine because it is seldom produced-has quality taste that equates a more expensive wine.

At any rate, Alex advises to personally try and explore wines of all kinds. He also suggests not sticking to specific labels or stereotyping any specific wines because every person has different palate to satisfy.

Well, this holiday season can not only be a great time to be jolly. It can also be high time to start being adventurous to wines. Granted with this cold weather, it’ll be definitely a lot more fun.

Yes folks, I want to receive wines this Christmas.

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