THERE’S no stopping Olivia Limpe-Aw of Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc. After launching revolutionary Manille Liqueur de Calamansi and Manille Liqueur de Dalandan, the indefatigable president and master blender of the oldest distillery in the Philippines has just rolled out three new wines, this time Ilocano-inspired wines called Vigan Philippine Sugarcane Wine (Basi), Dragon Fire Dragon Fruit Wine and Imeldifique Cooking Wine.
Launched in a star-studded grand event at Victorino’s Restaurant in Quezon City, these three value-added products are aimed at aiding farmers in the Ilocos region. They transcend the regional border between Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, as Vigan Philippine Sugarcane Wine was created in collaboration with Ilocos Sur Vice Governor Deogracias Victor ‘DV’ Savellano, and both the Dragon Fire Dragon Fruit Wine and Imeldifique Cooking Wine were formulated with the support of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.
The project actually began back in 2004, when then Ilocos Sur Governor Savellano started looking into ways to elevate the traditional basi (sugarcane wine) of Ilocos Sur and make it acceptable not only on the national level but also make it into the international scene. He sought the help of Destileria Limtuaco’s president Olivia Limpe-Aw. Together, they went to San Ildefonso, Ilocos Sur, and Limpe-Aw learned the process of basi-making from the best basi maker in town. To produce basi commercially for the national and international markets, improvements had to be made on the process. Destileria Limtuaco adopted internationally accepted wine making and processing standards and methods while maintaining the unique quality of traditional basi. Limpe-Aw also added local Ilocano herbs into the formulation, and the result is the Vigan Philippine Sugarcane Wine (Basi) that was recently launched.
As for the Dragon Fire Dragon Fruit Wine, Limpe-Aw and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos met during the International Food Exhibition 2015 (IFEX), where both Destileria Limtuaco and the Province of Ilocos Norte were exhibitors. Governor Marcos saw the Vigan Philippine Sugarcane Wine (Basi) that was specially produced for the Province of Ilocos Sur, and so she met with Limpe-Aw to ask if something similar could be done using the native sili or dragon fruit of Ilocos Norte. Limpe-Aw chose to work with the dragon fruit and, through careful R&D and fermentation, a high quality dragon fruit wine was produced. It made use of only red dragon fruit, so the wine has a vibrant magenta color, and since dragon fruit is low in glycemic index (GI) and the seeds are rich in fiber, it is actually good for the health.
Then came Imeldifique Cooking Wine, also produced with the local government of Ilocos Norte. Limpe-Aw’s idea was to use sorghum spirit as a base (sorghum is endemic to the Ilocos region), infuse it with native garlic, onions and salt to get the Philippine ginisa flavor into the cooking wine, and successfully did so. Imeldifique Cooking Wine can be used to marinate meats and seafood, sauté in oil, bake or fry, or added to stews for an instant natural ginisa flavor and aroma.
All three wines are available at Unimart, Cash & Carry, Landmark, Robinsons, Rustan’s Department Store, Shopwise and specialty stores such as SM Kultura, Tesoro’s Wines and other selected groceries.
During the formal launch of the new wine products held at Victorino’s, dubbed Maysa a Rabii nga Napekpek ti Ragsak (Isang Gabing Puno ng Kasiyahan or One Evening of Celebration), the three new products took center stage. The program began with celebrity tour guide Carlos Celdran welcoming everyone to an evening that celebrated the Ilocos Region. Then Ilocos Sur Vice Governor Savellano introduced Vigan Philippine Sugarcane Wine (Basi), followed by Ilocos Sur Governor Marcos talking about Dragon Fire Dragon Fruit Wine and Imeldifique Cooking Wine. Limpe-Aw discussed the collaboration afterwards.
A surprising twist came towards the end, when five transgender models in ternos made with abel Iloko in Imeldific fashion by renowned designer Renee Salud took the stage. They impersonated Congresswoman Imelda Marcos, who was also in the audience with Senator Bongbong Marcos, as they lip-synched to the song Dahil Sa ‘Yo. After this, Governor Marcos, Vice Governor Savellano, Congresswoman Marcos, Chef Heny Sison (co-author of the book Naimas! with Vice Governor Savellano which was also launched), and Limpe-Aw gathered together for the ceremonial breaking of the tupig.
Then it was dinner time, with bountiful servings of Ilocano dishes—sinuglaw, bagnet, pinakbet salad, poqui-poqui, utong and kabatiti—prepared by Chef Heny Sison and Queenie Paras of Victorino’s Restaurant.