New frontier for new latitude wines: Cambodia

November 29, 2013

When I opened the Bangkok Post last weekend, I could not believe my eyes. The headline red “Going wild for Cambodian wine”. Well, I thought why not Cambodia. After Indonesia (on Bali island), Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, another Southeast Asian country has joined the club of vine cultivators and wine makers.

The grapes for the wine-making are collected from wild forest grapes, the article says. There are photos available also on the internet but they are not so clear as regards the kind of vinus vinifera (if it is vinifera).

Cambodian wine

Bennett Murray and his piece in the Bangkok Post

The wine-making process described in the Bangkok Post article reads as follows:

“The manufacturing process is much the same as for wine everywhere. The juice is extracted from the grapes, and then palm sugar and yeast added”.

Palm sugar, I thought, that’s not just the usual additive to grape wine as far as I know. The article mentioned the problems with the grape quality. Since it is collected and not estate grown-fruit, I can imagine the magnitude of the issue. However, I am still interested to get a closer look at this product.

But there is also a real winery in Cambodia. Located in Battambang province, Leng Chan Thol and her husband Chan Thay Chhoueng, have planted a vineyard. They grow on a 3 ha plot of land mainly Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

I would love to try some of their wines.
My next trip to Cambodia should provide an opportunity for just that.

Address
Chan Thay Chhoueng plantation is located at
#72, Bot Sala Village, Banon District, 16 kilometres south of Battambang City.
For more information call tel.: 012 665 238.

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Dream or nightmare? Wine prices in Thailand

January 17, 2013

California dreaming

Bangkok Post page on “California Dreaming”

I am always happy when I find essays and articles about wine and wineries in newspapers and magazines. So it was with the above piece, published on January 11, 2013 in the Bangkok Post.

“California Dreaming” is mainly about wine-maker Peter Vella and the wine empire of the Gallo family in California.

The author of this article tries to address the “angst” of people who are new to wine and wine drinking and first-time wine consumers. Fortunately, wine was never the drink of an elite only. This is only so in Thailand because the high taxes on imported and domestically produced wines which are taking wine out of the reach of the common person.

Fortunately, I come from a different tradition. In the Mosel valley where I grew up, it was the simple people, the famous “man on the street”, the villagers, the workers, who were wine drinkers and many of them are experts as far as the quality of the heavenly fermented juice is concerned.

Further down on the page some wines made by Peter Vella are mentioned. These wines are now available in Thailand it seems. Vella offers among others a “Fresh White” (Chardonnay), a “Smooth Red” (Cabernet Sauvignon) and a “Rich Red” (Shiraz).

And then it comes.

The retail price of these wines in Bangkok is 299 Thai Bath only, the equivalent of about 7.5 Euro per bottle. Don’t forget there is almost 400% taxes on these liquids. For this in a Thai context modest price, I would get a solid, hand-made (artisan) Riesling in my native land. Instead, what will I get for my 299 Bath? An industrial product of a mass produced grape by a giant winery in California.

When considering the level of wine prices in Thailand, tears are dropping from my eyes. We need to be happy that we do get wine at all. And that the variety and choice of wines in Bangkok wine shops and wine bars has improved over the almost 5 years that I live in the City of Angels.

How about the wines produced in Thailand? Thailand has a small but vibrant wine industry.

There are about 10 grape and wine-making ventures, some of them boutique family vineyards, others medium to large sized wineries. They have to strive for the premium segment of the market, not the mass-produced base-wines as the ones mentioned above.

I highly recommend you try some of the indigenous products the next time you order a bottle of wine in Thailand.