Local Flavors

From Ilocos Norte's Highlands, An All Natural Wine

Ilocos Norte

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | Oct 07, 2019

Story by Ria Galiste

Photos by Keno Winston Rabe

The town of Adams, found one of the upland municipalities in Ilocos Norte, is known as the only town in the province that has a single barangay. Its mountain ranges, verdant fields, and rivers makes the place a potential spot for tourists who want to experience nature and culture in one locale. As its population is a mixture of different ethnolinguistic groups like Ilocanos, Yapayaos, Immallods, Kankanaeys, and Bago, Adams is a hub of diverse culture and tradition that can be experienced by visitors.

[related: The Kalesa Goes Bongga, Travels Back in Time in Ilocos Norte]

The town is also known for producing Bugnay, a bittersweet, all-natural wine, handmade by the wine makers of Adams. It is made from an indigenous wild berry abundant in the region of the highland town. Bugnay is a small, pea sized fruit that grows in grapelike clusters. The tree starts fruiting during the summer months of April and May with reddish berries that darkens into black when they ripen in June. Its sweet and sour flavor made it a perfect candidate for developing into wine.

[related: Proudly Filipino: Wonder Wine from the Country's Sugar Capital]

Wine making in Adams is an alternative source of livelihood for the women and other residents. The industry started when the town was looking for a product to develop for the Philippine government’s One Town, One Product initiative. A group of women from Adams then attended trade fairs, where they got the idea of creating a wine out of fruits. The Department of Trade and Industry assisted them in wine making training, marking the beginning of the industry it is today. Because Bugnay wine is now in demand, the wine makers started planting Bugnay in their garden, their backyards. Some even started Bugnay farms.

[related: Walk Through Ilocos Norte’s History and Future]

Making Bugnay wine requires a lot of patience. It is a long process: from choosing the best berries, extraction to fermentation that lasts for 6 months, bottling, labelling, and marketing. As with any wine, the older the concoction, the better it tastes. The price of 750ml of a wine bottle starts at P120 when bought from the manufacturers. For older vintages, such as those dating 10 years and beyond, these can sell for as much as Php 12,000. Available at the Adams Tourism Office, Pasalubong Centers in Ilocos Norte, and some stores outside the province, it is perfect as a souvenir and gift item, or something to be savored on a personal note.

ALSO READ: For Rainy Days, An Authentic Ilocano Soup

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