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.

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Dokdo Winery – Korean wine?

November 29, 2012

Korean wine

During a recent visit of the Korean parliament in Seoul, I came across the above poster. The advertisement was not about soju, the popular rice wine, but a wine made from grapes.

I was puzzled. Do they grow wine grapes in Korea? When approaching the display, things became a bit clearer.

The award winners

As it turned out, the display was about the islands of Dokdo, which are claimed by Korea and Japan in a territorial dispute arousing nationalist feelings in both places. The display was a kind of political statement.

A winery in the Napa Valley in California was bearing the same name, Dokdo Winery or Dokdo Vineyards. This brand was created by a Korean-American dentist Ahn Jae-hyun living in the Napa Valley, California.

Established in 2007, the winery produces about 20,000 bottles a year. Dokdo wines had also won a gold medal at the 2012 Korea Wine Challenge.

The 2012 Korea Wine Challenge

According to the wineries website, the new product was introduced into the market to draw people away from the controversial debate over which country – Korea or Japan – owns the rocky islands.

“Instead of appreciating the beauty of Dokdo, the world has been too busy fighting over it. The island should not be fought over; it should be shared,” the website said.

Unfortunately, I had no chance to sample the wine.

True is also, that Korea is an emerging market as far as grape wine is concerned. With rising incomes, wine consumption is also rising. In fact every restaurant I visited during my brief stay offered a selection of various wines, often from France but also from other wine producing countries.