Wine making go back a long way in countries like Egypt, Greece, France, Australia and the US. In the Philippines, local wine and spirits drinking are rich in culture and tradition, and certainly worth preserving. Lambanog or coco vodka is the most popular alcoholic drink in the Southern Tagalog provinces of Laguna, Batangas and Quezon.
The inventory of other local wines and spirits is even richer in variety and flavors. Aside from lambanog or tuba from coconut sap, it includes basi from sugarcane, tapuy from rice, laksoy from nipa palm, and wines from various tropical fruits such as bignay (Philippine wild berry), lipote, duhat (Philippine plum), passion fruit, banana, dalandan, guyabano (soursop), mango, tamarind, marang, and calumpit. Local wine makers further remain enthusiastic.
Standarding Lambanog Making
The provincial S&T center in Quezon, in cooperation with DTI IV, CITEM and DOST-ITDI, initiated standardization of process and packaging of pure lambanog using the brand name Philippine Lambanog in 2000. Mallari, Buncayo and Capistrano Distilleries based in Tayabas, Quezon sold more than 10,000 bottles that year. They exported to Japan the following year where they joined the ASEAN Food and Beverage Mission.
The following interventions enabled the product Philippine Lambanog to join the ranks of other Philippine export winners. These are the prescription of control measures to ensure safety of process and quality of product, addition of flavors and essences, and the core group approach in development of brand.
A total of PhP0.9M was poured into the project with the LGU of Tayabas, Quezon chipping in almost half. PSTC-Quezon sourced an additional PhP200T from the DOST Grants-In-Aid while the Department of Trade and Industry Quezon granted PhP144T. The cooperator, Mallari Distillery based in Barangay Wakas, Tayabas, Quezon invested also PhP150T. PSTC-Quezon in coordination with DOST-ITDI also worked at the addition of the following flavors namely, cinnamon, blueberry, grape, melon, coffee, pandan and peach. The innovative approach in Lambanog production earned for the product, the 2001 Packaging Excellence Award (Beverage Category) for best packaging design and technology during PHILSTAR 2001, an annual competition sponsored by the Packaging Institute of the Philippines. This also enabled the brand to penetrate the Japanese market.
Initiating the High Impact Program on Tropical Wines and Distilled Spirits
On another note, Lambanog-based tropical fruit wine blends differ from the more widely produced flavored lambanog in that the former uses real fruits while the latter uses flavors and essences. Also widely available are tropical fruit wines but with no lambanog as base. DOST CALABARZON's program on tropical wines and distilled spirits was then thus a new market for a new product.
On April 11, 2007, DOST Secretary Dr. Estrella F. Alabastro launched HIP on Tropical Fruit Wines and Distilled Spirits at the Hotel Supreme in Baguio City. The activity in Baguio City was the start of a series of product unveilings that featured characteristic regional wines and distilled spirits. This was followed by wine fora and exhibitions in Southern Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
By this time, Capistrano Distillery, producer of Philippine lambanog, has already availed of funding assistance from DOST twice.
It first received assistance in upgrading its processing plant in Tayabas. Later it requested for assistance in development of a new packaging design as well as secondary packaging design for its other products. It also availed of training courses on Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. The new label design and packaging materials for flavored lambanog has since provided its regular customers a wider selection. Capistrano has also maximized production and increased sales by 10 percent.
It now regularly supplies six SM City branches and has penetrated a new market in Northern Luzon. Its efforts to join expositions have been met with strong customer acceptance. In 2009, Capistrano Distillery produced nearly 1,400 gallons of distilled spirits with gross sales of PhP4.24M. It also provided employment to nearly 180 local individual distillers and farmers.