Watch Out, San Miguel: Wine Picks Up in the Philippines

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Filipinos have long preferred beer — specifically San Miguel — to wine, but wine distributors believe that’s changing.

For now, the vast majority is on the cheap side. According to James Du Vivier, president of Future Trade International and Forth & Tay, a Philippines wine distributor, sales grew 20% last year, though 80% to 85% of them were of wines under 250 Philippine pesos (less than $6).

Sellers hope to see the prices rise along with the country’s income. Mr. Du Vivier cites New Zealand’s Monkey Bay, Australia’s Penfolds and California’s Robert Mondavi as wines that Filipinos could turn to next — the expensive wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy are rarely drunk in the Philippines, with fewer than 200 cases sold a year.

In March, Future Trade auctioned a 2004 Penfolds Grange at 105,000 pesos, roughly $2,400 for for six bottles. A rare, five-bottle set of Penfolds Grange, ranging from 2001 to 2005, sold for 90,000 pesos. The auction also sold top U.S. wines, including Robert Mondavi Napa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.

In many ways, the Philippines is following others in Asia, where wine consumption has grown with the countries’ economies. Filipinos, for their part, have their own ideas about what makes a good wine.