The Wine Similes for Presidentiables

Presidentiable Senator Bongbong Marcos as Carmenere wine

WE are now just weeks away from our extremely crucial presidential election, and the poll frenzy is close to peaking as seen in the intensifying propaganda hurled at each other by the candidates’ camps.

While I am not a political journalist and do not intend to be one, I thought it would be entertaining to compare the current top five presidentiables to grape varietals that make up commercial wines.

I did similar articles for the past two presidential elections, where Noynoy Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte ended victorious in 2010 and 2016 respectively, but back then I compared the presidentiables to specific wine brands. In those articles, written when I was still contributing to another newspaper, I had former President Aquino as Bordeaux’s Chateau ClercMilon, a 5th growth from the Rothschild wine royalty (obviously referring to Noynoy’s parents Ninoy and Cory, both political powerhouses), and present President Digong Duterte to Screaming Eagle, Napa Valley’s iconic, robust, and out of nowhere wine that changed the Napa luxury wine landscape in the mid-1990s – it also helped too that the eagle is also symbolic of Davao where our president was mayor for decades.

This time, I feel the wine varietals make for a better comparison. In order of most recent survey standings:

BONGBONG MARCOS – CARMENERE
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. is a former governor, congressman, and senator, but better or even notoriously known, depending on ones’ political leaning, as the son of former Philippine president and dictator, the original Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Like Senator Bongbong Marcos to the Carmenere grape varietal.

Carmenere, like the Marcoses, has been around for ages it seems. Yet it took cuttings from Bordeaux, mistakenly taken by Chilean oenologists in the mid 19th-century who thought at first it was Merlot, to give this varietal its second lease on life. Carmenere would eventually flourish under Chilean vineyard conditions.

Carmenere was one of the six original red varietal grapes used in the blend to produce the world-famous claret of Medoc Bordeaux before the phylloxera plague.

Phylloxera is an insect pest that destroys vineyards by feeding on the roots and leaves of grape vines. Phylloxera was first sighted in 1863 and by 1870 it had become a plague that was devastating the majority of the vineyards in Europe, especially in France and in Bordeaux. Carmenere was the most affected varietal in this region during phylloxera devastation and is close to extinct in post-phylloxera Bordeaux.

However, in Chile, Carmenere has risen to superstar status and is now taking the wine world by storm.

Concha y Toro’s Carmin de Peumo and Montes Purple Angel, both made with Carmenere, are just two examples of very sought after Carmenere wines – both are critically acclaimed and selling at $ 100 / bottle each.

Like Carmenere, the Marcos family’s political status was thought to have been dead or dying after the EDSA Revolution of 1986, where Marcos Sr., his family including Bongbong, and cronies were among the 80 or so individuals sent to exile in Hawaii. Bongbong Marcos’ political career is therefore like a rebirth of the Carmenere varietal in Chile – but it did take much less time.

Just five years after their exile, Bongbong Marcos returned to the Philippines as Marcos Sr. passed away in Hawaii, when then President Cory Aquino agreed to let the Marcos family come back to the country to face trial. In 1992, just a year after his return, Bongbong Marcos returned to politics as the elected congressman of the 2ndnd district of Ilocos Norte, the known bailiwick of the Marcoses.

Another parallel between Bongbong Marcos and Carmenere is that Bongbong ran for his first national post as senator in 1995 and failed to make it to the available 12 slots. Carmenere, on the other hand, had been mistaken for Merlot for close to a century and a half, and it was only in 1994 that Carmenere was recognized by Chile as its own varietal, and since this acknowledgment, Carmenere has become Chile’s proudest signature varietal .

Carmenere’s star started shining more brightly only in the 21stst century but there were a lot of hiccups along the way in competing with far more popular varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Bongbong Marcos ran a second time as senator in 2010 and this time won his first national post. He lost in the vice-presidential run in 2016, albeit a very close race, but is now going for the top position of presidency.

Could Bongbong Marcos pull off a “Carmenere” act?

LENI ROBREDO – GRENACHE
Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo is a Filipino lawyer, social activist, and former congresswoman who is the incumbent vice-president of the Philippines. She was the wife of the late Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo. I like VP Leni Robredo to the Grenache grape varietal.

Grenache – or Garnacha as it is called in Spain – is not big as a mono-varietal wine but is the major varietal in top wine regions like Spain’s Priorat and French Northern Rhone wines of Gigondas, Chateau neuf-du-Pape, and Cotes du Rhone. Like Grenache, VP Leni is largely recognized as unassuming and down-to-earth, yet she has undeniably played an important role in the ongoing fight against the COVID pandemic despite being at odds often with the present Duterte administration – just as Grenache provides the flavor backbone of several of these top-notch regional wines without getting its due recognition as a great varietal like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir.

In Australia, Grenache is doing well as a single varietal wine, with their Old Bush Vine Grenache being extremely popular now because of its aromatics, lovely acid backbone, and berry-laden flavors.

The other similarity between VP Leni and Grenache is that Grenache also makes arguably the best quality dry rosé wines in the world. The best-known rosé wine regions, like Provence France and Navarra Spain, make their wines with Grenache.

Turning from the color “Yellow” to “Pink” during this presidential campaign was a smart strategic move, and, with the sweet Pink Moscato and a slew of dry-style rosé wines becoming more and more popular and mainstream with wine lovers, could VP Leni make that run too and be our next president?

ISKO MORENO – TEMPRANILLO
Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domogoso is the present mayor of Manila and a former movie star who grew up in the slums of Manila. Mayor Isko is known for his candid stories of his past, including collecting junk as a livelihood, and for scavenging for leftover food in restaurants to be able to eat. I like Mayor Isko Moreno to the Tempranillo grape varietal.

Tempranillo is Spain’s number one go-to red varietal and is key in Spain’s most renowned wine regions, including in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro. Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word “temper”Which means“ early ”and is a reference to this varietal ripening earlier than most Spanish red grapes. This can easily be said of Mayor Isko who also had an earlier career in local politics than most of the presidentiables.

He started when he won his first elective post as a city councilor in the first district of Manila when he was only 23 years old. Isko Moreno was a three-time councilor and then a three-time vice mayor with consecutive terms from 1998 to 2016 – all serving his constituents in Manila.

After a failed senatorial bid in 2016, Isko Moreno was back in Manila, running for mayor this time in 2019 and he easily bested his two powerful predecessors – Erap Estrada and Alfredo Lim.

Mayor Isko is exactly like Tempranillo, as outside of Spain, Tempranillo hardly gets as much recognition as it should be given considering how amazing and complex this varietal is – same as Mayor Isko’s Manila transformation in just one term as mayor.

Mayor Isko is a Manila phenomenon that may not translate to the national level as experienced by his senatorial loss in 2016. Could this 2022 presidential election prove Mayor Isko is more than a Manila hit the same way Tempranillo needs to transcend Spain?

MANNY PACQUIAO – TANNAT
Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao – better known as Manny Pacquiao – is a current Filipino senator and a renowned recently retired professional boxer nicknamed the “Pac-Man.” Senator Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao is regarded as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time, having been the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing, with an unprecedented 12 major world titles. Senator Pacquiao is also the only boxer to hold world championships across four decades – from the 1990s through the 2000s, 2010s, and the 2020s. I like Senator Pacquiao to the Tannat grape varietal.

While Tannat is the least known among my wine varietal references, it is big in south-west France in the region of Madiran and is known for its firm, rustic, and powerful tannins – same as Senator Pacquaio who as a boxer was gifted with brute force and a one-punch knockout power.

Tannat also ages better over time, and Senator Pacquiao, over the course of his close to three-decade boxing career, also improved with time as he was able to move up in weight classes and remained successful as he reached his 30s and 40s.

Tannat is a mystery grape varietal to most wine consumers who rarely get a chance to try it. Only in Uruguay, South America does this varietal flourish. This is similar to Senator Pacquiao as a politician. While his boxing excellence would never be questioned, his political contributions remain a huge mystery given that he only recently retired from boxing to become a full-time public servant. Prior to retirement he was juggling being a champion fighter and an elected official (as a senator, and previously as a congressman) at the same time.

Tannat varietal grapes make good complex and delectable wines, but unless wine drinkers know of it, it will remain an enigma. This is what I feel Senator Pacquiao is going up against as a politician and a potential next president of our country.

PING LACSON – GAMAY
Panfilo “Ping” Morena Lacson is a long-tenured senator and a former director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 1999 to 2001 during the shortened Joseph “Erap” Estrada presidential term. Senator Lacson was one of the highest-profile PNP personnel in the country and his heroic exploits rescuing rich “Chinoys” from big-time kidnap for ransom syndicates in the 1980s and 1990s are well-documented. Like Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson to the Gamay grape varietal.

Gamay is best known as the little brother to the illustrious Pinot Noir of the famous French Burgundy region. Just like Gamay, that is known as a high-yielding and prolific grape to grow for wine production, Senator Ping is super productive and highly decorated both in his PNP career and as a legislator.

I also feel that Senator Ping is also just like Gamay’s position in Burgundy, where it excelled in the southern-most sub-region of Beaujolais but is never seriously looked at as part of Burgundy. Gamay is the only allowed red varietal in Beaujolais, while the rest of Burgundy uses Pinot Noir. There are amazing Gamay wines that are found in the 10 Cru villages within Beaujolais, foremost of which are two of my favorites: Moulin-a-Vent and Fleurie. Some of these Gamay wines are at par, or even better than, but always not as expensive as their overpriced Cote de Nuits burgundy counterparts. This seems to be the case too with Senator Ping where Filipinos in general know how good of a leader he is, but to be viewed as the president of this country, there always seems to be someone the majority would prefer over him (as surveys suggest ).

In 2004, Senator Ping ran for president and lost. But in the 2016 senatorial election, he still ended up in the top four. This is the case with Gamay too, which sadly could never replace Pinot Noir in terms of grape varietal ranking, preference, and even higher price appraisal.

With all due respect to the Commission on Election on their liquor ban on May 8 and 9, I am still proposing a toast before or after the election to a peaceful, honest and credible election. Any wine or sparkling wine of any varietal would do – this one is for the future of our country!

The author is the only Filipino member of the UK-based Circle of Wine Writers (CWW). For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, email the author at wineprotege@gmail.com, or check his wine training website https://thewinetrainingcamp.wordpress.com/services/.

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