Basi and Home: How Ilocos Norte Shaped the Wines

It’s been a while since I wrote about the province I grew up in, its beautiful coastline that glides through fine brown and white sand, the sun that creates wondrous colours at dusk, and the mountains that play cat and mouse with the sun during summertime. No matter how beautiful this all is, it is more than the tourist attraction that many know it for. It is home. I would like to believe that you also feel this way about the place you grew up in or at least have your heart somewhere in the world and that you are there.

Ilocos Norte used to feel remote, at least to me but I always saw it as a place where self-sufficient individuals live. It is still like that and that is the beauty of it. Apart from the people, the ruggedness of its terrain is something I could talk about for hours. I always suggest a hike up in Adams or a day trip to Solsona’s rivers. I, the non-beach lover, is even thrilled by the fact that the sea is only a short drive away and that Ilocos Norte’s sunsets evoke so many emotions that if you take time to truly experience it, you could cry.

What is with Ilocos Norte and its beauty and romance? And how has it shaped the wines? Many places in the Philippines are just as beautiful but Ilocos Norte is my home and the home of my wines. Its infertile soil and the lack of rain are two of the things that made Basi del Diablo what it is today. Despite this, we still grow crops. Despite the poor quality of its soil, we can still produce the sweetest of wines. This is all because this place molded us to endure hardship. As W. Clement Stone said, we are a product of our environment.

Had it not been for this environment, I wouldn’t have had the courage and the will to just keep going. Building the brand from the ground up is hard work. It is difficult work that requires toughness and patience. This is why I always say that Ilocos Norte made Basi del Diablo into what it is today.

My great grandfather lived in these parts. He was a farmer. He was hardworking enough that the fruits of his labour afforded him to have a painter paint him and his wife Honorata. It is thanks to his hard work that I know that I got my nose from him and possibly more. A recent study does say that the characteristics of our great grandparents are imprinted in our parents’ genes. While I will never be him nor will I ever be my father or my mother or any of my grandparents, I always try my best to be as hardworking as them. That, I believe, is the best thing that I inherited.

Ilocos Norte, like Basi del Diablo, has cultivated a mythology of isolation. This is enhanced by the way we do things in the north. Like the province and its people, Basi del Diablo refuses to toe a line set by others. The wine brand is as idiosyncratic as its home. Basi, after all, is its own classification in the wine world and the brand intends to focus on that.

Basi Puro, our pure sugarcane brand, is as straightforward as the typical Ilocano. It is a bold, spicy wine that comes with a nice kick. The Ilocano table wine speaks volumes of who we are and admittedly, it is not for everybody. Not all Basi is bitter and rough around the edges though. Some are sweet and welcoming and if done right, you get a frizzante like the De La Bodega. The other variants are no longer pure Basi but that is what young blood brings. We bring a few changes here and there but this modernisation of sort is not us turning our backs on our roots. That is what Ilocos Norte is all about too. We cherish our heritage and improve upon it.

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