Vintage Thailand

A new Thai discovery – wine

Wine from Thailand? Is it possible to do anything good from the grapes grown in the tropics? And can the grapes grow here at all? Thirty years ago, the answer would have been strongly negative. Too hot, too humid, no traditions and no experience. However, today there are about a dozen farms annually producing about half a million bottles of wine which is quite good even by European standards.

Oh, no, it is not because of some dramatic climate change, a lucky combination of stars or black magic. Just once, one person decided that nothing is impossible in this world. His name is known to every citizen of the country — Rama IX, the great King of Thailand, the father of the nation and the darling of all hearts. Brilliantly educated and having numerous talents, he strongly encouraged development of agriculture. It was during his rule that Thailand began to breed cows, started industrial production of milk and cereals, and in the late 1980s the first vines were brought into the country. Rama’s initiatives, as expected, found broad support among the national business circles. As a result, today we have a phenomenon called “Thai wine”.

Why phenomenon? It’s very simple. The traditional boundaries of world wine-making are located between the 30th and 50th degrees of north and south latitude. But Thailand is much closer to the equator. Making any good wines in such extreme conditions is a real challenge for a winemaker. According to Katherine Poof, one of the most famous oinologists of the country: “Here the terroir is problematic, and it takes much more efforts, but the results are encouraging.”

The Thai wine industry is concentrated in the north-eastern regions of the country, primarily in the area of Khao Yai National Park and around Hua Hin. In small valleys surrounded by mountains and windswept, at an altitude of several hundred meters above the sea level, the climate is much cooler than at the coast. Soils are poor here — clayed, limestone, granitic. They are no good for cultivation of grains, but quite right for wine-making. That’s why they yield good harvest if drop irrigation is used.

The sites are extremely picturesque there: symmetrical rows of well-tended vines are surrounded by palm trees and pineapple plantations and, instead of horses, elephants roam along the paths. The territory is planted with Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet, Sangiovese, Merlot and some other international varieties. Almost each winery has its own wine shop and a good restaurant. That’s why the tasting easily turns into a sophisticated gastronomic meditation.

All Thai wineries are fitted with the latest equipment; they all employ experienced Western oinologists. Siam Winery producing more than 350 thousand bottles per year is considered to be the flagship one. The most interesting projects will certainly include Gran Monte, Pb Wines, Silver Lake, Bertani, Villa Maria Estate as well as Hua Hin Hills. Their wines have many international awards and regularly get fine comments from Decanter and Wine Advocate experts. They have a long way to go to be ranked among the top 100 in the world. But as you know nothing is impossible.

Thailand produces all types of wines. White wines are soft and fruity with delicate minerality and purity, a little moderate acidity. Red wines are friendly and tender with a charming spicy and fruity range of flavours, soft tannins and a silky texture. Sparkling wines are light and fresh as a breeze. A naturally sweet late-harvest wines are recognisable with their subtle aromas of tropical fruit shaded with soft walnut-honey flavours.

In other words, getting acquainted with the local wineries can become a self-inclusive and very exciting part of your journey to Thailand.

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