Thailand: New Latitude Wines – GranMonte Vineyard

March 27, 2009

As you probably know, I am busying myself with finding drinkable Thai wines. My first ventures into the world of Thai wines did not yield promising results. Alas, after some more tastings I was successful.


Main building, Gran Monte family Vineyard

We visited GranMonte Family Vineyard, a family winery in the Asoke Valley in Khao Yai, about a two hours drive north of Bangkok. This nascent wine business is owned by the family of Vissoth Lohitnavy. His daughter Nikki is the first-ever female oenologist of Thailand. She was recently awarded a Bachelor degree with honours by the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

The GranMonte Family vineyard is a state of the art boutique producer of fine wines. The return of Nikki marks a new chapter in the development of the family business. A new winery has been built and new equipment was bought including stainless steel tanks from Germany.


During the last couple of years Thailand has become a grape and wine producing country. High taxes on imported wines make sure that the international competition does not destroy the domestic wine industry. However, various awards won by Thai wines at international wine shows are proof that the wine in this tropical land has made good progress.


The general wisdom was that wine grapes could only be successfully produced between the 30th and 50th latitudes north and south. However, in recent years countries in the tropics and the sub-tropics such as Indonesia (Hatten Wines on Bali Island), Brasil, India and Thailand have shown that this is not true.

New latitude wines, a term coined by local wine writer Frank Norel, is the catchword. Much has been written about “New Latitude Wines” and wine production and I will come back to this topic at a later stage in more detail. The climate allows for two, or even three harvests but some producers forfeit the second (and/or third) vintage altogether and go for low yields.


As regards the varieties it seems that Chenin Blanc and Colombard of the white, and Syrah/Shiraz of the red varieties grow well at least at GranMonte family vineyard. The total area under vines is about 40 acres, 25 of which are planted with red and 10 with white grapes.


State of the art trellis systems, spacing and row management


Mr. Vissoth, the owner, explaining the vineyards to his visitors


Modern stainless steel cellar equipment


Freshly fermented grape juice


The tasting room of Gran Monte


Another view of the Gran Monte tasting room


The vineyard owner, Mr. Visooth Lohitnavy, in the tasting room


The “normal” product range


The award winners

I recommend to buy the award winners. They are the best wines. I particularly like the unfiltered Syrah, a great drop, smooth in the mouth, with plenty of fruit and a wonderful explosive finish.

So if you should visit Thailand in the near future, please plan a trip tpo Khao Yai and GranMonte Vineyard. The family of Mr. Vissoth is very enthusiastic and will make you feel very welcome. Below you’ll find the address and a map.

Granmonte Co,Ltd.

17 / 8 Soi Sukhumvit 6, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110

Tel : 0-2653-1522 Fax : 02-653-1977
Mb. : 08-9169-7766

Address at Khao Yai

Granmonte Vineyard & Wines
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
Nakornrachasima, Thailand
Tel : 036-227-334-5


Back in Bangkok, homesick and nostalgia

March 26, 2009

Being back in the warmth of Bangkok and reunited with the family is not bad after all. And I brought back a bottle of Mosel Riesling. To be correct, a bottle of ‘2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Bischoefliches Konvikt’ from the Saar. (It’s a pity that wine bottles are so heavy).

But I still feel torn somehow. The short visit to my mum in Trier was lovely as always. My heart is in at least three different places: Bangkok, Trier and Glenburn.

I apologize to my non-German speaking visitors and put here a short video by Helmut Leiendecker from the band Leiendecker Bloas, a local music group from Trier.

The topic is “zobben” and even people who do not understand our local vernacular will get an idea what Helmut Leidendecker is talking about in this beautiful poem.

Saint Patrick’s day celebration in Berlin

March 24, 2009


What a night. It was very cold and windy when I waited in front of the Kilkenny Irish Pub at Hackescher Markt rail station for my friend Uli Tilly, who was late, which in fact did not come as a surprise. When we were studying at Bonn University (many many years ago), Uli was famous for showing up late; usually about one hour behind the agreed time.

Eventually he showed up (prior to that we had an exchange of sms which was quite funny), only 20 minutes late, and saved me from further frost bites. Standing in the cold makes anybody thirsty. We had not seen each other for about two years. This was another reason for a wet reunion. St. Patrick’s day was a good occasion (two days late though).


Only invitees could join that night. The pub was closed for the general public. Various Irish music bands were performing. That created just the right atmosphere. We started the evening very cheerfully.


I took a time-out from the fermented grape juice. Guinness, the famous Irish cream ale, was the drink of the night and we had plenty of it. There was also Irish food on offer. Lot’s of potatoes, meat pies, fish and chips, and other Anglo-Saxon delicacies could be devoured.

It seemed that Uli knew everybody at the party. We talked about our families, our jobs, politics, the next elections and the prospects for the future. Men in their early fifties have plenty to talk about, it seemed. The only worrying thing is the old man in the mirror when you go to the bathroom in the morning. I’m just joking. Well, there is no real alternative to ageing. But how to master it gracefully, that’s the challenge.


Uli (left) in deep discussions

It was early in the morning when we parted company. We could still walk strait so we were no danger to public traffic. Needless to say that we both started work early, honouring the old German saying, that the one who can drink, can work…

Until we meet again my friend.

Berlin in March

March 20, 2009


The German flag in front of the parliamentary building

It was our family day, but I was far away from the family in Bangkok. My program in Berlin with my Thai visitors ended late. It was a cold night. I walked around the block in circles and found this Italian place, called “Vapiano”. It was a quite fashionable place as the pictures below show. They used a kind of debit card system as we have it in Bangkok. Red was the dominant colour.


An olive tree in the middle of the place


Red chandeliers


And a red light on the table


Rioja wine

I asked the bar tender what wine she would recommend. She poured me a glass of ‘2003 Baron de Ley Reserva Rioja’. I do no know much about Spanish wine, so I was grateful for the recommendation.

I loved the wine. It was luscious and heavy, full of red fruit flavours, with beautiful length on the palate. What a beautiful Tempranillo.

I also enjoyed the atmosphere of the place, the friendliness of the staff and promised to come back for some more Rioja wine. If you are in Berlin, check out the place, that’s my recommendation.

Mittelstr. 51-52
10117 BerlinTel.: +49-30-50154100

Baron de Ley
2003 Reserva
13.5 %

Riesling, Riesling….heaven on a stick

March 16, 2009


My welcome meal consisted of wild boar goulash, mushrooms and Suebian dumplings (Spaetzle). What a treat, so delicious. I washed it down with a bottle of my house wine, a ‘2007 Alte Reben, Van Volxem Riesling’ from Wiltingen, Saar river. I just love the Van Volxem wines.


The very same day, a parcel arrived for me containing a bottle of wine which I won when participating in an opinion survey of a German wine magazine, Weinwelt ( I could not believe it. What a pleasant surprise this was. The wine is a “grand crue” (GG: Grosses Gewaechs) from the Pfalz, a ‘2007 Forster Ungeheuer GG, Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Rheinpfalz. I decided to taste this wine another time and cellared it in my “treasure trove”. Thank you Weinwelt.


However, I could not resist to buy some more bottles of Mosel Riesling. I decided to try wines from Bischoefliches Konvikt. The two terroirs are very famous, one is Ayler Kupp at the Saar, the other is Eitelsbacher Marienholz from the Ruwer, another tributary of the Mosel.

The ‘2007 Eitelsbacher Marienholz Riesling’ I had with another serve of wild boar goulash the next day. It had all the zest I expected from a fresh Riesling from the Ruwer. The wine from the Saar I packed into my suitcase. Destination: Bangkok and reserved for a leisurely Sunday family meal in the tropics. I can only say: visit the Mosel and its tributaries. Here you’ll find heavenly Riesling wines. Cheers and zum Wohl.

Bleak arrival

March 15, 2009

I arrived from Bangkok on a bleak and cold morning in the middle of March. Three degrees Celsius but dry conditions, is what the pilot predicted. Well, what a chilly morning here in Frankfurt. Where was spring, I thought.


Nahe vineyards in March

I decided against the train, rented a car and drove off to the West. When passing the city of Mainz, I decided to go along the Nahe river, the birthplace of my father. It’s a lovely place. The Nahe is a little know German wine region. I will write a separate blog entry to tell you more about this jewel of a wine region. The Nahe region is very deer to me.

I passed the town of Bad Kreuznach but stopped in Bad Sobernheim. There a strolled through the small town just to move my legs little. It was 7 h in the morning, people were on their way to work. I was greeted by all the people I walked past. That’s the charm of those little German places.


Martinstein, river Nahe and vineyards in the back

I spent almost all my childhood holidays in the house of my grandfather in a small hamlet called Martinstein. Here the last vineyards are to be found. Further West are only rocks and forests. I paused and paid a visit to my grandparents grave. When overlooking the surrounding hills vivid memories of my youth danced before my inner eye. I remembered that my grandmother took me to fetch the milk and that I could never get enough from watching the cows and that I had to be taken by force to come home. I also remember rides on horse carts and later the first tractors.


The city of Kirn

My last stop was in Kirn, a small city and the birthplace of my father. This is a beer drinkers place since the famous Kirner Pils is (or was?) brewed here. I went to Dhauner Strasse to see the house were my father was born and where he grew up. From the castle, the Kyrburg, I took a good look around before heading through the mountains (where I found a lot of snow) to the Trier and the Mosel Valley.

Fine dining in Bangkok: Thai cuisine at Patara Restaurant

March 9, 2009

On the 8th of March 21 years ago, I entered an Italian language class and sat next to a blonde girl from Australia. In the morning of the same day, my boss, Luciano Montesi, had send me out to buy flowers for all the women working in our service. This is how I learned about world women’s day.

It was a glorious day in Rome and I was glad that my friend Jim had taken me to his language class. What I did not know at the time was that I would marry that blonde Australian two years later.


Today, we felt like celebrating this first encounter and decided to go out for lunch. We called the Patara Restaurant which is only one Soi away from us in Thonglor, Bangkok, and they sent their tuck-tuck to pick us up at 13:20 h. All four of us like Thai food, so the choice of Patara came very natural.

Patara is located in Thonglor, Soi 19. The building used to be a private residence in a single house with a large garden, I guess. Inside you’ll find an elegant Thai restaurant, just the right place for such a celebration as ours was.


The interior of Patara


The decoration is very tasteful

We ordered two starter platters, a selection of various small Thai dishes and the three dumpling assortment. Don’t get fooled by the colours. The dumplings are most delicious.


This was the first starter platter


Three kinds of Thai dumplings

Then we ordered the main dishes, among them a tofu in red curry, a green chicken curry, an oxtail red curry, some green vegetables and some rice (which came in four colours, unfortunately my photo of the rice was blurred). All of us like spicy food, therefore we just followed our instincts when ordering.


The main dishes


Green chicken curry


The ossobucco-type dish


Green veggies

The food was so wonderful, so perfect, so delicious; our taste buds went from one sensation to the next. This is Thai food at its best, wow. I could not believe it. Margit and the kids had visited Patara earlier but for me it was the maiden visit. This was the best Thai food in ages.

What about the wine? Food and wine pairings in Asia are at times a challenge. Patara has a well assorted wine list. Since the first encounter had taken place in Italy, I choose an Italian wine. The ‘2005 Campogrande Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore’ by Antinori seemd to be just the right choice.

First, many times we had stopped in Orvieto when returning to Rome from Umbria so that a lot of happy memories are tied up with Orvieto Classico wines. Second, just a day earlier we had this wonderful ‘2005 Antinori Tignanello’, so I thought why not stay with the same producer.


Wine is expensive in Thailand. The bottle was under 2000 Bath, not bad for a restaurant offer. I know that this wine retails for about US$ 10-12 in other parts of the world. The wine has a pale straw colour. It is elegant and fresh. The wine has a good structure and a very pleasant palate of tropical fruit.

As typical for Orvieto Classico, the wine is a Trebbiano blend. Varieties include Procanico, Grechetto, Verdelho, Drupeggio, Malvasia and – surprise surprise – Chardonnay (15 %!). Antinori went up to the maximum allowed as regards Grechetto (27%). With the exception of Verdelho and Chardonnay, I have never tasted any of the individual varieties included in this blend as single wines.




Happy children


After lunch the children entertained themselves in the garden.


These are the ingredients for Irish coffee. It’s worth to order it. It’s freshly made at the table, a spectacular show, truly amazing.


The finished product: Irish coffee


Before we got on the tuck-tuck again, we were served refreshing towels. What a wonderful celebration this family meal was, a delight for the palate, a pleasure for the eyes. The staff at Patara is incredibly professional, very friendly and extremely helpful.


Happy diners

If you want to experience something special and you have the chance to drop in a Patara Restaurant, please do so. I highly recommend it. And if you are in Bangkok, the choice is clear: visit Patara, its’ worth it.

Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
375 Soi Thonglor 19 Sukhumvit 55, Klongtonnua Vadhana,
Bangkok 10110.
Tel. 0-2185 2960-1 Fax. 0-2185 2962

PS: Patara restaurants can also be found in Singapore, Taipei, London and Geneva.

Salve da Firenze

March 8, 2009


Our friends Lucija and Giuseppe came by on Saturday afternoon to treat us to a special treat. They brought with them a bottle of ‘2005 Antinori Tignanello’ from the Toscana.


Lucija and Giuseppe

Friends from Firenze had given them this wonderful wine and they wanted to enjoy it with us, and enjoy we did this heavenly drop. We sat on our terrace, I grabbed a couple of wine glasses and opened the bottle. Immediately, the djin was out: what a “profumo”. You could smell the scent from a distance.

My nose registered forest berries, dark fruit, moss and forest floor, hmm. In the mouth it felt round and silky. I loved the intense flavours of fresh fruit. The wine is full-bodied with very fine balanced tannins, a treat indeed.


2005 Tignanello

Later on the internet I found that Robert Parker had awarded 92 points to this wine. This blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a wonderful wine from Antinori which I can highly recommend. The Wine Spectator says it should be drank after 2011. We could not wait that long.


Captured by a wine

One bottle for four does not last long. But we had memorable minutes of utter pleasure. Thank you folks for this wonderful treat.

PS: Later that day we were joined by about 10 more people and had a barbecue on our terrace. It was a jolly good day with lashings of food and drink.

At about 10 at night I found myself laying on the terrace tiles, feeling the heat emitting, my head on a pillow which I shared with my two daughters Lucy and Charlotte, the crown of our heads touching and our bodies radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. We were watching the night sky of Bangkok, the moon and the clouds travelling fast elsewhere. We talked about life and the universe and our thoughts attached themselves to the clouds. Our dreams carried us away, and in a heartbeat we were gone into other worlds.

A poem a day….

March 7, 2009


A screenshot from google images: Omar Khayyam

Speaking of health, there is the spiritual dimension of it. One of my favourite poets is Omar Khayyam, the famous 11th century Persian scientist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet, and here is my poem of the day:

Some bread, some cheese and a jug of wine,
with you beside me beneath a lush vine!
I know a great king who would, if he could,
barter his crown for that which is mine.

Source: From “The Rubaiyat” (translation by Hazhir Teimourian)

Some good among the bad

March 6, 2009

Sitting on my terrace this Friday morning, I read, as always, my morning International Herald Tribune . On the second page new findings about the health benefits of wine are described by Roni Caryn Rabin. What a pleasant surprise.

After all the bad news, the fires in Victoria, the loss of our 2009 vintage, the downturn of the Australian wine industry, global warming and the general disaster of the global financial crisis, there is finally also something good in the news.

My paternal grandfather died of esophageal adenocarcinoma (Barretts’s esophagus), a cancer of the throat linked to heartburn and acid reflux. There is, however, another form of esophageal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, where alcohol is a well established risk factor. So maybe the avoidance of one cancer might lead to the emergence of another?

Caution is warranted as with all kinds of nutritional studies. And after all, I do not drink wine to avoid a certain disease but because I enjoy the taste of the glorious liquid.

Maybe a flower a day will do as well?


A gardenia flower from my rooftop garden in Bangkok

You might think the guy is out of his mind. Come and visit me in Bangkok and experience first hand.