Five centuries ago, European explorers witnessed how Filipinos loved to drink. A typical Filipino gathering, even then, was incomplete without alcohol.
Magellan sent Pigafetta with gifts to the King of Cebu, who shared a six-hour meal with his guests. Served were jars of palm wine. Each jar had reed straws from which they drank.
Throughout history, sasa (sugar palm) and small scale coconut farmers in the archipelago have been producing tuba and the much stronger lambanog. Today, in more urban areas, the drinks of choice are beer, rum, and gin. In recent years, this list has been joined by wine from grapes.
WARMING UP TO WINE
Wine took a long time to become popular among Filipinos. More than two decades ago, bottles of wine during special occasions were only found on the tables of the rich and famous. But this finally changed. Now, wines of different varieties are served at every celebration.
We don’t have a local word for wine from grapes, and have to resort to using the term alak, which means anything alcoholic. A very recent projection places Filipino wine consumption at 24 million liters a year, with a growth rate of eight percent to nine percent every year.
Considering that the Philippines is not a grape-producing country, one would presume that all of these millions of bottles of wine would have to be imported. But thanks to the pioneering efforts of a father-and-son team, the Philippines now produces millions of bottles of wine per year, and even exports to areas where Filipinos are, such as the US, the Middle East, and Southeast Asian nations.
Novellino Wines is the company that has gone through lengths to promote wine consumption and production in the Philippines.
Today, the company produces millions of bottles of wine per year and outpaces the growth rate of the wine category, which in the last several years has consistently been the fastest growing category in the alcoholic beverage industry. Its modern winery in Laguna, one of the largest in Southeast Asia, is future-proofed with additional capacity to accommodate its continued rapid growth.
Novellino president and general manager Chris Quimbo, Myla Quimbo, Prime Minister Cesar Virata, Novellino founder and CEO Nonoy Quimbo, former Senator Manny Villar, and Novellino board of director Carlo Quimbo
Novellino Wines’ goal is to continue to convert Filipinos to wine drinking and in the process become the brand of choice for everything wine.
Offering more than a dozen wine varieties, it was founded in 1999 by Nonoy Quimbo, an avid wine drinker who held executive positions in two of the largest beverage companies worldwide across five continents.
“Wine drinking has a perceived degree of sophistication, thus making it an aspirational product. Through the foray of Novellino Wines in the Philippines 20 years ago, we have helped build a wine drinking culture among typical Filipino households,” its CEO and founder said.
Chairman of Starmalls and Vista & Landscapes Manny Villar
As it celebrates its 20th year of being the market leader, Novellino continues innovating its products, beginning with the introduction of wines on tap, mobile kegs that will expand brand presence and essentially bring the art of wine tasting closer to Filipino consumers.
With this new presentation, relishing the sweet aroma of the fine wine, swirling the glass to slightly aerate the sweet nectar, and swishing the Filipino-produced wine becomes much easier, as wine drinkers now have a chance to try Novellino without having to buy a whole bottle.
“Innovation has always been our priority. We believe that by constantly implementing fresh ideas on products and processes, Novellino Wines will continue to be relevant in the fast-changing Philippine market,” says Chris Quimbo, president and general manager.
These millions of bottles of wine varietals per year are produced and sold through a state-of-the-art winery in Canlubang, Laguna.
Built on a 1.3-hectare compound, the plant is equipped with the latest Italian winemaking technology, which is responsible for the fermentation, centrifugation, clarification, filtration, chilling, and bottling of the wines.
The winery is one of the largest wine production plants in Asia. It is the only winery of its scale in the Philippines and is ready to meet the demand for more wine products in the coming years.