A not so very shober affair

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By Betsy Gazo

Kaleidoscope

Thursday, March 27, 2014


ONE day, Chef and Sommelier Guenther Sannin, the founder and director of the Bacolod Academy of Culinary Arts (BACA), decided to hold a Wine Tasting and Pairing at the BACA featuring French, Italian and Spanish wines. I went.

So, what’s a teetotaler like me doing in a place like that? It turned out that I wasn’t alone. The lovely ladies whom I met at the academy were not all oenophiles nor had the habit of having a nightcap.

Yet, there we were, drawn by curiosity and glamorous images of rolling vineyards in Tuscany or taking sips of red from a Baccarat wineglass under the shade of an olive tree in La Rioja.

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Wine drinking holds a certain snob appeal. The French are to blame for elevating the cultivation of grapes and their eventual fermentation into a snotty activity, the process culminating into a picnic of Bordeaux wine, chevre and baguettes on Champs de Mars under the imposing steely gaze of Monsieur Eiffel’s masterpiece.

Somewhere, in a fashionable cozy café some mustachioed and beret-ed gent is wooing a tres, treschic mademoiselle over hors d’oeuvre and merlot.

Now, now, hold the accordion because the reality is, wines need not be expensive to be enjoyed. The BACA Wine Tasting and Pairing in cooperation with ELG Foods featured affordable wines that went with various hors d’oeuvres from the kitchen of the academy.
The participants filed into a small classroom where two long narrow tables were equipped with wineglasses and pieces of paper that turned out to be rating sheets for the wines.

Chef Guenther started the lecture by enumerating the 10 most famous wine regions in the world. They are Baden (Germany), La Rioja (Spain), Alsace (France), Southeastern Australia, Maipo Valley (Chile), Veneto (Italy), Douro (Portugal), Napa Valley (California), Tuscany (Italy), and Bordeaux (France).

Chef Guenther said that beginners at wine tasting can take a maximum of six glasses although we were taught that sampling wines doesn’t translate to swallowing them. We just sip enough to fill our mouths, take in some air and taste the wine by making smacking sounds to help us appreciate the flavors.

Each table was supplied with a receptacle for spitting out wines or disposing of leftover wine in the glass. This is to ensure that no one gets inebriated. We started by tasting a white – the French JP Chenet Sauvignon-Colombard.

Like nice girls (and boys) we looked, swirled, and tasted. Some of us heeded Chef Guenther’s advice and poured out the remainder. The disobedient ones (moi included) preferred to swallow. We didn’t want to waste good wine, you know. Never mind the consequences.

The rating sheet was for us to note down on a scale from 1 to 5, the wines’ aroma, appearance, flavor, taste, and other characteristics. But since we weren’t experts at discerning the subtleties of wines, cheating was allowed.

By the way, we just made up that rule right there. And sealed the agreement with clinks of our glasses. When one clinks glasses, contact should be done at the bowl or globe and not at the rim or this will chip the glasses.

When drinking white wine, hold the glass by the stem so that the wine doesn’t become warm. For red wine, it is all right to hold the glass by the globe.

The first glass was followed by four other wines, i.e. JP Chenet Cabernet Syrah, LambruscoBianco (Italy), Flamenco Chardonnay (Spain), and Augoste Antonin Merlot (France). Each wine had hors d’oeuvre to accompany it. Peppercorn-flecked strawberry in syrup, prune-topped blood sausages, herbed goat cheese, two other meats, and the pairing ended with ELG Foods’ strawberry mousse.

When we had the merlot, we were told that that would be the last. We looked at each other with disappointment and a perceptible murmur ensued from the tables. Weren’t there supposed to be six? The truth was that Chef Guenther had to stop at five kinds because of the, uhm, unruly behavior we were displaying. We weren’t aware of it but it seemed that our tongues were loosening by the second glass and, by the third, Chef couldn’t be heard above the din.

Small as the room was, our poor lecturer had to raise his voice another level after each round of wines. The quiet, poised ladies and gentlemen who had filed into the room had transformed into a boisterous group obviously Under the Influence. But I swear, “Hindi kami lashing!”

If the room was bigger and this was a social gathering, it would have been an excellent setting for a cocktail party. Here are some tips for hosting a cocktail party. Allot at least two glasses for each person to make an allowance for those who forget where they put down theirs. A large group will need six kinds of hors d’oeuvre while a small one can do with two. Scatter subtly scented candles around the house or room including the powder room and replace high-wattage white bulbs with lower wattages in more flattering colors. Throw in great conversation by reading beforehand the paper of the day for the latest.
The BACA Wine Tasting and Pairing was limited to only 20 persons, so, co-organizer Elsie Gonzaga had to turn away a few disappointed prospects. There will be a second time, we were assured. We had so much fun that it would be great to attend the next one, too, and end the evening D.U.I. (Delighted Under the Influence).

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 28, 2014.

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