As wine educator and owner of 5 & 1/2 Twists, Chie Gatchalian is dedicated to helping every amateur discover their own palates—here are the wines that tickle her own

They say you never forget your first love, much less when it’s an indulgence as delectable as fine wine. Naturally, this rings especially true among wine aficionados who spend much of their time reminiscing about their favourite pours—at least, when they’re not too busy hunting down the next one.

Here, we speak to Chie Gatchalian, wine educator and owner of 5 & 1/2 Twists: a wine education platform that seeks to bring out the connoisseur in every amateur drinker. “As a wine educator, I believe my role is to really go along with people on their wine journey,” she shares. “Never imposing what I feel they should like or shouldn’t like, but actually taste with them to find out what they like so I can make recommendations and, eventually, open up their palates and their minds to new things.” Armed with a WSET Level 3 certification and over a decade of experience between the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam, Gatchalian is more than capable of doing just that.

Learn more about the expert and her affinity for lesser-known pours, below:

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Chie Gatchalian
Above Chie Gatchalian

What is your favourite wine type—and more specifically, what grape or blend? 

I always find it difficult to answer this question but if I really must choose, I would pick Riesling. I have always loved the fact that Riesling is such a versatile grape variety. It can make anything from dry, zingy, high-acid whites all the way to luscious sweet wines (and even sparkling). I also think it’s one of the best (if not the best) wines to pair with Asian cuisine. While I truly appreciate wine on its own and can drink it without any food, I find that the best characteristics of wine are brought out when paired with the right food. For example, I adore pairing an off-dry Riesling with spicy curries. The sugar brings down the perception of heat in the food while the heat brings out the fruitiness of the wine. Riesling is also one of a handful of white grape varieties that can age well. There is so much about Riesling to learn and appreciate. I also love that it is one grape variety that is truly reflective of its terroir, making an Alsatian Riesling different from a German or an Australian one.

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A Riesling infographic by @mobudays and @fiveandahalftwists
Above A Riesling infographic by @mobudays and @fiveandahalftwists

What is your favourite wine region?

Right now, I’d have to say Burgundy. I know that a lot of people think this wine region is extremely intimidating but I find that it’s mostly because the wines from this region can be pricey. There is good reason for that, though. It’s a much smaller region than Bordeaux. It produces a fifth of what Bordeaux produces. In Burgundy, there are smaller parcels of land and the main red grape variety, Pinot Noir, is difficult to grow, especially given climate challenges. But Burgundy is actually pretty simple to understand. There are only two grape varieties you need to know about in Burgundy (which I believe simplifies things): Pinot Noir for red, and Chardonnay for white. And while, yes, there are super expensive Burgundies (hello, Romanee Conti), you can also find good value Burgundies if you know where to look. Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais are those two areas where you can find good value Pinot and Chardonnay, respectively.

It’s also good to know reliable producers that you know will always give you a good bottle (Faiveley, Domaine Joblot, to name a few). Burgundy is great just because, again, you get to know where a wine is from by simply paying attention to its aromas and flavour characteristics. Burgundy is also something that I feel we here in the tropics can drink all year round because it is not as heavy or highly alcoholic as a Bordeaux or a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

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What was the bottle of wine that first made you consider going into the wine industry?

My “aha!” moment in wine was not inspired by a particularly expensive or complex bottle of wine. As a matter of fact, the wine that made me consider a career in this industry wasn’t from Bordeaux or Burgundy. It was a bottle of Vouvray (Champalou) from the Loire Valley, which I tasted as a WSET Level 1 student more than a decade ago. My very first wine mentor was a French gentleman from the Loire. I remember him taking us through the tasting notes of the Champalou Vouvray while waxing poetic about Chenin Blanc (the white grape variety from Tourraine) and I just simply couldn’t get over the fact that it was my first time tasting this wine that was so delicious and yet so affordable.

I think this bottle made me realize that good wine need not be expensive. It also inspired me to try other “off the beaten path” or lesser-known grape varieties, and it made me want to tell others about it.  As a wine educator, I believe my role is to really go along with people on their wine journey. Never imposing what I feel they should like or shouldn’t like, but actually taste with them to find out what they like so I can make recommendations and, eventually, open up their palates and their minds to new things.

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