Wed 13 Aug 2008
I present today on BTYH the first wines I have tasted from the Philippines. These are the Haliya Mango Wine and Haliya Black Plum Wine.
Fruit wines are made all over the world, wherever, I suppose, that fruit can be found. Fruit wines can be very good, that is to say, charming, agreeable, delicious. but they rarely attain the complexity of which vinifera grapes (“regular” wine grapes) are capable. Well, actually, most wines made from vinifera grapes don’t attain that complexity either. Fruit wines tend to be sweet because sugar in some form has to be added to produce a stable entity to support fermentation; vinifera grapes are unique in the structural and chemical balance required to make wine.
So, the Haliya fruit wines are made by VuQo Inc. in Manila, which also makes vodka distilled from coconut nectar, and I can hear the country’s mixologists perking up their ears at the idea of a new exotic ingredient for “signature” cocktails. The website (haliyawines.com) tells up that the mangoes and black plums for the wines are hand-picked and the fruit purees prepared for fermentation are made by hand; no machinery touches these mangoes and plums, certainly a satisfaction for our North American obsession with artisanal products.
The color of the Haliya Mango Wine is pure mild gold with a slight darker blush. The intriguing bouquet is a wreathing of peach, yellow plum, guava, camellia and exotic spice, along with a hint of the foxiness familiar to devotees of muscadine wine, or, as one blogger put it, “the smell of stale cigarette smoke.” That’s evocative and not far off the mark, though “stale” seems a bit harsh. There is definitely something slightly wild and earthy about the wine. Flavors are consistent with the bouquet, and while the wine is slightly sweet on the entry, by the time it slides silkily through the mouth it feels almost dry. I’ll take the fall-back position here and say that this could drink nicely with Southeast Asian, or, of course, Filipino cuisine. I find it a tad sweet for an aperitif. In any case, because of its entrancing bouquet and pleasing layered quality, I’ll rate it Very Good.
The color of the Haliya Black Plum Wine is something else, the brilliant mild orange fading into Rainier cherry of a fire opal, like the hue of a melancholy rosé. This is much drier than the Haliya Mango Wine and in fact conveys something like the nutty intensity of a tawny port, or let’s call it the ghost of a tawny port, since this is paler in every aspect. Pale, too, its impression on the palate, and while I can envision this as an interesting, even delectable but not forceful after-dinner sipper, its other uses elude me. Still, I’m happy to have tried it, and I’ll rate it Good+.
These wines are novelties, as several bloggers have mentioned, but then when do we get to try mango and black plum wines, so, hell, yeah, they’re novelties. Both wines are finished with screw-caps, and both retail for about $15, though that point is somewhat moot unless you live in California. Vu Qo, which has an outpost in San Jose and imports these products, will no doubt launch a campaign to introduce consumers to the esoteric and sophisticated delights of mango and black plum wines. It’s a niche market, but then we’re a country of countless, infinite niches.