Thai wine – a tropical surprise!
Thai wine… Thailand is not pre-eminently the country that makes you think of wine. White beaches, spicy soups, rooftop bars, intense massages. Wine doesn’t belong in that list. Let me tell you…that’s about to change!
For a break of wine, I was in Thailand for a few months. I traded in my wine for a margarita and took a massage every day. Of course, blood creeps where it can’t go and I went furiously in search of wine in a country where wine is not at the forefront.
The wine scene in Thailand
I started in Bangkok where I mapped out the wine scene. Hip natural wine bars, delicacy stores with Thai cheeses (yes that’s a thing) and local wines. Chiang Mai in the north had an extensive list of wine stores and some really nice wine bars. Thai wine was only available in the five-star resorts, and often only the most commercial wines could be ordered by the bottle, no variety there.
Via Google and Instagram I found a number of wineries. I tried in vain to schedule a visit at the Monsoon valley vineyard in southern Thailand and had more success at GranMonte Estate, located above Bangkok.
A nine-and-a-half-hour road trip took us into the Kao Yai wine region, the region where modern winemaking in Thailand began about twenty years ago. What I found there went beyond all expectations. Vast vineyards, a state-of-the-art winery, a female winemaker who had traveled the world, and the wines… I tasted fantastic wines in Thailand! Wines with character (lots of spiciness like clove, anise) low alcohol percentages and invigorating acidity. How is that possible you ask? Let’s answer the most obvious questions!
Making wine in Thailand
Of course, for making good wine, the climate is extremely important, after all, without the right conditions viticulture is impossible. Thailand has a tropical climate and therefore we do not expect viticulture here and certainly not “good” wine. The Kao Yai region is a cool area in Thailand where temperatures drop to 10 degrees Celsius at night in winter and reach only around twenty degrees during the day. The wine plant here is green all year round and never goes dormant. Pruning is done twice a year but harvesting only once, to keep the quality of the grapes high.
The grapes that grow best in Thailand have been determined through extensive research, they are chenin blanc and syrah. In addition to these varieties, wine is also made from viognier, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, colombard, verdelho and sauvignon blanc. At GranMonte Estate you will find an experimental plot where as many as forty different varieties are planted. The soil in the Kao Yai region consists of clay, red clay (terrarossa), loam and slate.
All in all, I was very impressed with the wines I tasted during my visit to GranMonte estate. I definitely recommend everyone to stop by. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the Thai wine experience, you can stay at the winecottage and dine at the luxurious Vincotto restaurant.
Want to know more or my visit to GranMonte? Check it out on Instagram under my highlight Thailand! Rather read about European wine? You can do that here!