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We Found The Perfect Wines To Pair With 7 Of Our Favorite Filipino Dishes

It seems like an improbable thing: pairing Filipino food with wine.

It seems to go against a couple of wine pairing principles: Regional pairing (that rule where winemaking countries naturally have food to pair with them; and we don’t make wine here), and character matching (we don’t have a cuisine that possesses similar flavors as those of wine producing regions, such as rich pasta or gamey lamb chops).

What we do have is affordable, delicious food that has a multitude of subtle flavors, a hint of influence from our colonizers (who actually make wine), and a predilection for anything sweet (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

It all seems vaguely technical, but I think the best way to illustrate this is by going through a list of favorite Filipino dishes with different wines that we’ve successfully paired over the years—including select dishes from James & Daughters by Le Jardin featured here.


1. Sweet kakanin + white Zinfandel

I find that this “pink” wine tends to polarize people. Personally, I think that white Zinfandel is a great way to slowly ease people who prefer sweet drinks into the world of wine. It’s perfect for our sweet kakanin (suman, maja blanca, etc.) based on the principle that sweet wine should be sweeter than the dessert (or merienda) paired with it.


2. Pork BBQ on a stick or liempo + red Zinfandel from California

Classically, Zinfandel goes well with barbecue dishes, so this is no surprise. There are many affordable choices of the wine too, making it a great alternative to the next barkada inuman session.


3. Spicy coconut milk dishes (like Bicol Express and laing) + aromatic white wines such as Viognier and Gewürztraminer

There’s always something fragrant about coconut milk-based dishes, which are a good complement to aromatic wine. I like the fact that a properly chilled sweet wine (though not the nauseatingly sweet kind) is great with spicy food. A precaution: Generally, too much heat in food isn’t great with most alcoholic beverages, so note that the pairings we did were great because the spice was dialed down.


4. Adobo + sparkling wine

What Filipino food discussion is complete without adobo? In general, sparkling wine (I’m talking about cava, prosecco, etc.) goes well with salty food, and the acidity of these wines is great with the greasiness of adobo.


5. Lechon + Chilean Pinot Noir

Lechon (roasted suckling pig) is a staple in most big Pinoy celebrations, which is where I discovered this phenomenal pairing. I’m specific about using Chilean because the price point is great without compromising quality, and their Pinot Noir is subtly fruity, acidic, and earthy. These characteristics are great with the smokiness of the lechon, and the acidity cuts through the grease too.


6. Chinese influenced dishes + German Riesling

I’m an advocate of advancing German wines in the Philippines because they have some of the more Pinoy-friendly wines, perhaps because of our preference for something sweet and the possibilities in terms of Pinoy food and wine pairing. That said, it can be paired with a variety of our dishes, but since it also pairs with Chinese food, it’s natural to pair it with food like lumpia and pancit guisado.


7. Caldereta or menudo + Tempranillo

It’s natural that after 300 years of Spanish occupation, some of Spanish cuisine has been handed down to (and tweaked by) Filipinos. I chose these pairs specifically because Tempranillo is classically paired with stews using different kinds of pungent red meat, making it nice with the liver used in caldereta (and can accommodate the gamey characteristics of kambing) and menudo.


Photos by Gail Sotelo shot on location at James & Daughters by Le Jardin, G/F The Westin Show Suites, 21st Drive corner McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City
Gail Sotelo has a WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits. She is a wine consultant, blogger, and lecturer. She owns the drink blog which aims to make wine and other drinks accessible to everybody, and holds classes at Enderun Colleges.