Visitors to Thailand are often surprised to find that the country is a wine producing nation. The varied landscape and altitudes mean that even tough it falls outside the traditional 30-50° latitude north and south zones, some areas offer the ideal climate for vineyards.
Wine lovers on a trip Thailand will be pleased to learn that the Kingdom boasts no less that three distinct wine regions, each with different soil and climatic conditions and wineries that produce a range of different types and bouquets.
Although Thai wines are relative newcomers to the international market; the labels that have sprung from the Kingdom's wineries have been carefully developed based on technology and know-how used in other New World wind detonations such as Australia and South Africa. This means the quality of the wind is very high for such as a young industry with each successive vintage improving on the last.
Thailand also has its own one Association, established in 2004, that monitors quality standards and labelling requirements for Thai-produced wines, in line with international standards.
The association includes six members who all produce quality grape wines in the country's three main regions, and these wines have been dubbed "New Latitude Wines" as a recognition that they are difficult to produce, being outside the traditional 30-50° latitude north and south zones.
Over the years, Thai wines have won more than 100 awards, including Gold Medals at international wine competitions. More than 800,000 bottles of wine are produced each year, includng dry and sweet still wines, plus sparkling wines made in the traditional method.
Here are three of the best known vineyards in Thailand with examples of the winds they produce.
Hua Hin Hills
A vineyard belonging to one of the country's best known wine distributors, Siam Winery, Hua Hin Hills vineyard is located on a former elephant corral. The area is characterised by sand and slate soil and fresh sea breezes, both of which allow a range of grape varieties to thrive.
The vineyard produces one of Thailand's most famous wines, Monsoon Valley, which come in three ranges: Classic, Premium and Flagship. The grapes include Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Sangiovese and Columbard and the "Bin 9 Royal Reseve Shiraz 2005" was the result of a Royal research project under the patronage of HIs Majesty King Bhumibol.
Monsoon Valley wines have won innumerable awards and can be ordered in restaurants around the world. They are also specially designed to pair with Thai and Asian dishes.
The PB Valley Estate is located 150 kms northeast of Bangkok a on the edge of the Khao Yai National Park, a mountainous region northeast of the capital that is always a few degrees cooler and therefore also a popular weekend retreat.
The vineyard was created back in 1989 by Dr. Piya Bhirombhakdi, now recognised as one of the pioneers of Thai wine making, and the first vineyard covered 20 hectares and was planted with Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and featured French rootstock and Tempranillo from Spain. With its harvest of 1998, PB Valley Khao Yai Winery celebrated its first milestone and the 1999 vintage was lauded as proof that quality wine could be successfully produced in Thailand.
PB Valley wins include a fine Chenin Blanc 2010, the PB Khao Yai Reserve Shiraz 2009 and Pirom Khaoyai Reserve Tempranillo 2010. Several of the PB Valley wines have been awarded AWC awards and the international seal of approval.
Covering an area of 480 acres, Silverlake Vineyards are set amid natural surroundings near Pattaya. The vineyard was started in 2002 by Surachai Tangjaitrong and his wife Supansa Nuangpirom, a former actress. It is the first and only vineyard in this part of Thailand and the natural, elevated lakeside setting means the soils feature prominent viticultural elements.
The vineyard is best known for its red Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and after years of effort and experimentation, Silverlake released a special rated vintage "Private Reserve" in 2010. In 2011, the vineyard also produced a smooth "Jazzanova" Syrah Rose. Silverlake also produces a selection of products such as jams, jellies, grape juice, and assorted pastries made from grapes.
Visitors to Thailand will find that most good wine lists (including those in private villas) now carry at least one bottle of Thai vintage. In fact you can even find the more prolific brands in most international supermarkets. Most Thai wines are best drunk with food, particularly a delicious selection of Thai dishes. A bottle of Thai wine also makes for a novel and tasty gift to take back for family or friends – if you can resist the temptation to drink it yourself, of course.
by MAX VEE