Cover A spread of natural wines from Bombvinos (Photo courtesy of Bombvinos)

We speak to Chie Gatchalian, wine educator and owner of 5 & 1⁄2 Twists, on vino’s buzzy trend, natural wine

The Philippines bursts with a tropical vitality fit for any escapist’s fantasy, vino in hand. But as we approach the peak of the heat, our favourite bottles may take the back seat in favour of lighter, more refreshing picks. Enter the snazzy, in-vogue beverage taking the world by storm: natural wine.

“Natural wine is very refreshing because of its lower alcohol content and lighter body,” muses wine educator, Chie Gatchalian. “Even natural red wines can be enjoyed at the height of summer.” Since 2010, Gatchalian has indulged her oenophile proclivities—a zeal that took her to Ho Chi Minh City, where she’d fly to Hong Kong and attend classes at the Asian Wine Service & Education Centre (AWSEC). Here, she completed her Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 Certification and commenced the DipWSET programme before moving to Bangkok. Now back in Manila, Gatchalian continues her wine education platform 5 & 1⁄2 Twists, collaborating with importers, distributors, retailers and fellow educators to host wine talks, tastings, and make “wine understandable, friendly, and non-intimidating”.

See also: Wine Crush: The Allure Of Orange Wine

Like conventional wines, natural wine starts with beautiful, plump grapes and realises as red, white, orange, rosé and even sparkling varieties. The difference lies in the production. “Natural wine starts with grapes grown by an independent grower or producer, with no artificial chemicals and pesticides,” Gatchalian explains. “It is wine at its purest, most unadulterated form where the fruit is at the forefront. With natural wine, there is no masking bad fruit—no oak, no added sugar or acids, no added sulfites [or at least very little].”

She enthuses, “Think: “woke up like this”, or #nofilter, but in a bottle.”

Resulting from this fashionable yet time-honoured practice are incredibly versatile, agreeable wines. “Natural wine tends to go really well with lighter fare but can also hold its own when paired with flavourful food because of its bold and outlandish flavour profiles,” observes Gatchalian. Luckily, Asian food is no exception. “Because Asian food tends to be ‘in your face’, I find that natural wine complements it very well,” she remarks, noting that its lower astringency enables it to “take on the spice in some of your favourite curries”. 

See also: Natural Wines In The Philippines: Will The Trend Catch On?

Of course, one needs no excuse to imbibe. The connoisseur relates: “While you can definitely enjoy it anytime, natural wine is the perfect merienda or day-drinking wine for me. It’s the wine to grab when you’re enjoying an afternoon barbecue with friends or sitting by the pool, reading a book.” She clarifies, “My go-to in this tropical weather would be a lovely bottle of pét-nat— that is, a pétillant naturel, or natural sparkling wine.

The boom of natural wine, though considerably rapid, is relatively new. Gatchalian forewarns: “There is a tendency for people to think that anything labelled ‘natural’ is automatically good wine. That is not the case. To make sure that you’re getting good natural wine, it pays to do your research; familiarise yourself with natural grape growers and producers; and of course, buy from reputable wine retailers.” Still, she remains excited about the new frontier unfolding. “People are slowly realising that if they care about where their food, makeup, skincare are coming from, it’s also time they asked about the provenance of the wine they drink,” she declares. “It’s about time we got out of our wine comfort zones so we can educate our palates and discover new wine favourites.”

See also: My Wine Epiphany: Bombvinos Co-Founder Paolo Monasterio on His Passion for Natural Wines

Chie Gatchalian’s Natural Wine Recommendations

Indeed, navigating the young yet varied world of natural wine can be daunting. Thankfully, the wine educator herself has provided some infallible recommendations to get you started:

Les Vins Pirouettes “Le Brutal de Claude” (Pinot Noir, Alsace)

Red Wine

I tasted this wine in the middle of a Champagne brunch and it blew me away. It is Pinot Noir like I never tasted before; it was like a cherry bomb in my mouth, with mouth-watering acidity that kind of reminded me of biting into a plump and juicy berry.

Best enjoyed with a cheeseburger. I think its refreshing acidity would cut through the fat and goo of the cheese, while its fruitiness and light tannins will complement the saltiness of the patty.

Previously available through Bombvinos.

2019 Renegade “Jaime” (Bacchus, UK) 

Pét-Nat

I bought this wine because I found the label cute and interesting. I also really happen to love sparkling wine of any kind. This was a fun, fizzy, and easy to drink pét-nat made from a grape variety called Bacchus that is produced locally in the UK. If you can get your hands on one, do it as they produce only over 200 bottles each vintage!

Best enjoyed with soft cheeses, seafood, salads or just on its own.

2018 Cruse Wine Co “Monkey Jacket Red Blend” (Valdiguie/Carignan/Syrah/Pinoy Noir, North Coast, USA) 

Red Wine

This beautiful bottle was shared with me by a good friend who also happens to be a sommelier. He was curious about the grape variety Valdiguie, and so was I. Upon pouring, this wine was savoury and meaty but evolved over time in the glass, giving aromas of ripe red berries, herbs and some minerality. A good natural wine to introduce to those who are just new to it; it has enough eccentricities without being overly “funky”.

Best enjoyed with pizza with loads of pepperoni and cheese!

Available through Premium Wine Exchange.

See also: Where to Order Cheese and Charcuterie Platters in Metro Manila

2020 Cluricaun skin, Lisbon DOC Encostas d’Aire (Fernao Pires and Siria, Portugal)

Orange Wine

I chanced upon this wine when I visited Noble Rot, one of my favourite wine bars in London. It was available as wine by the glass, and I was keen on trying a Portuguese wine that wasn’t red or fortified. My curiosity was rewarded because this wine is one of the most interesting wines I’ve tried recently. Lots of citrus fruits (think tangerine and some pomelo), and a hint of salinity at the end. It was beautiful!

Best enjoyed with pissaladiere with anchovies and olives, sardines.

El Rey Del Glam Maestro Tejero (Garnacha, Castilla y Leon Spain)

Red Wine

I was drawn to this wine because of its label. I love the wackiness of the artwork. This wine doesn’t take itself too seriously and its external appearance shows that. But don’t let the whimsical label fool you—some serious thought has been put into this bottle. Meant to tell the story of “where it’s from”, this pure and unadulterated expression of Grenache by Alfredo Maestro is made with hand-picked, organic grapes, wild yeast fermented in stainless steel vats, and bottled without fining and filtration. I loved every single drop.

Best enjoyed with grilled meats, burgers and a sense of humour.

Previously available through Origine.

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Glass Class

Fun and funky wine calls for fun and funky glasses. Complete the natural wine experience with whimsical glassware.

Barbae Handmade Glasses

Made with an ancient torch to hand-sculpt a process rich with improvisation, each of Goldie Poblador’s curvy, handmade glassware is one of a kind. Undeniably unique, the 10-12cm wine glasses are grounded in feminine energy—solemn, yet powerful glorifications of the female vulva.

Available through Barbae.

Stemless Riedel Glasses

Stemless glassware has likewise grown in popularity, though naysaying classicists continue to opt for the traditional, stemmed vessels. Made by celebrated manufacturer Riedel, these stemless glasses marry both ends of the spectrum in a versatile, timeless design.

Available through Bacchus Épicerie.

Tint Wine Glasses, Design Story

Not unlike the natural wine process, these glasses are elegant and simple, made in borosilicate glass. However, the pink-tinted bowl and yellow stem impart a fanciful, easygoing feel.

Available through Design Story.

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