Many Filipinos drink wine only during special occasions, usually paired with food bought in upscale delis. We’ll toast a glass during a wedding or New Year’s Eve, but when the daily 5-thirsty rolls along, we usually reach for a bottle of beer or cocktail. Well, Planet Grapes aims to change how we perceive wine drinking, starting with your favorite pulutan.
In the non-European parts of the world, drinking wine is still largely perceived as a delicate and complex procedure, where words like delicate and complex are thrown around to describe bouquets, aromas, and flavors. While there are true aficionados, for the rest of us, developing a taste for and knowledge of wine is still possible. It all starts at the same place and that is, according to Planet Grapes marketing executive Lhady Dizon, “what tastes good.”
Located at Tuscany, McKinley Hill
Starting with wine bar’s logo, which uses the movie Planet of the Apes’ iconic font, to its interiors, which resembles a very cool wine cellar, Planet Grapes seeks to bring down wine-drinking’s snooty image and make it relatable, comfortable, and even entertaining. Their staff has been extensively trained, not only on the different wines, their flavors, and recommended pairings, but also on how to approach to apprehensive customers. Planet Grapes is all about what the customer wants. In fact, if you want to taste the wine before buying a whole bottle, you can buy a “sip” from their own Enomatic machine, which looks like soda dispenser and stores several wines in airtight compartments. Each bottle and its label are clearly displayed, along with a short description of the flavors, country of origin, grape variety, and even awards. Here you can choose between a sip, half-glass, and a full glass.
Planet Grapes also differentiates itself from other wine bars with its food. While there are plenty of serious wine bars in the metro, none of them serve Chicharon (deep fried pork skin and fat - P160) with a Sauvignon Blanc or pair everyone’s favorite culinary hazing tool to foreigners, Balut (boiled fertilized duck eggs - P40), with a chilled glass of Riesling or Chardonnay. White wines, which tend to be lighter and crisper, are usually paired with fatty fare, including the Roasted Camembert Cheese (P380). Meatier food, such as Pork Siomai (P220), Naked Kikiam (P185) and Spiced Chicken Fillets (P225) usually pair best with bolder reds, such as a Shiraz, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, if you would rather a Syrah with your Penoy (P40), you’ll find no resistance from the staff. As their tagline says, this is wine without the drama.
Chicharon paired with Sauvignon Blanc
Penoy gone gourmet with some wine pairing
Bottles of Red
Pork Siomai and Naked Kikiam go best with Planet Grapes' selection of bold reds
Why street food? Well, because it’s fun and unfussy. Also, in many wine-producing countries like France or Italy, wine is often enjoyed with simple working-class food and not just with aged bistecca and foie gras. By making the food familiar and approachable, Planet Grapes hopes to help educate Filipinos more about wine and how to pair them with food. This means that while you can enjoy your plate of squid balls with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, you might find that a Moscato is a better complement. Oh, and one thing about Planet Grapes is that you won’t find your suka, toyo or patis. This is because your wine will serve as the “sauce”.
Wine without the drama served with fun and unfussy food
While wine can be enjoyed however way you like it, there are certain ways to deepen your understanding and appreciation for this age-old tipple. Ms. Lhady Dizon outlines the basics of proper wine drinking:
Step 1: Hold the glass at the stem instead of cupping the goblet. This helps keeps the wine at the correct temperature longer. Wine is sensitive to changes in temperature, affecting their taste.
Step 2: Aerate your wine. Letting your wine “relax” and “breathe” also affects the flavors, generally making it smoother to drink. You can do this by gently swirling your wine around the glass. If you’re unsure, the staff will show you how to do it properly. Mastering this step immediately gives you major pogi points.
Step 3: Breathe in. Yes, stick your nose in your glass and take a slow, deep breath. 90% of you think you’re tasting is actually what you smell, which is why wine reviews are rife with aromas and bouquets. You may not immediately discern the tropical fruits, chocolate, or other flavors, but if you like what you smell, you will most likely love how it tastes. This is also an important step to know if the wine is still good or is rancid.
Step 4: Slurp it in. Take a sharp and sizeable sip of the wine and let it coat your entire tongue. This gives you an immediate taste of the wine’s different flavors. Let it stay in your mouth to really get a feel of it. Again, if you’re unsure how to do it, let the servers show you.
Remember, this is just a basic guide. Wine aficionados will debate on the benefits of airing wine or if cupping red wine helps release more flavors. It may take you some time to get comfortable swirling or sniffing and learning the jargon. But it’s all right. In Planet Grapes, the most important thing is to enjoy your wine, your food, and the people you’re with!