A day at the wine symposium in Chiang Mai – some highlights

November 14, 2011

Well, as you know, I am here in Chiang Mai at the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine to learn (foremost), to meet interesting people from the wine industry (and learn) and to enjoy myself (which is not hard in beautiful Chiang Mai).

In the following, I cannot (and do not intend to) present to my esteemed readers all what happened today. Instead, I choose a somewhat eclectic (maybe arbitrary) selection of bits and pieces, incidents, moments of glory which were stuck in my short-term memory and/or excerpts from my notes scribbled in haste on real paper during the symposium.

Let me start with the start. I was joined in my morning breakfast on the river front terrace of the hotel by Khun Visooth, CEO of GranMonte Family Vineyard. We had a pleasant chat and got to know each other a bit more. That was a very good beginning, indeed.

Tasteful flower arrangement for Tropical Wine 2011

The opening ceremony, although delayed by some time, was a ripper of an opening. Our Thai hosts did not disappoint us. The podium was richly and tastefully decorated with flower arrangements. Moreover, wine bottles and glasses on a wine barrel indicated the topic and theme of the event.

Wine and wine barrel

Even if the hearts of the members of the German delegation from Geisenheim sank for a moment when they spotted their “treasure”, a 1957 (in words: nineteen hundred fifty seven) dry Riesling wine from the Rheingau, which the Germans had presented to the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL) as a special gift, on the beautifully decorated display, they kept their composure while wildly speculating what would happen to their beloved wine before the event started.

The treasure from Geisenheim (left, in the ice bucket)

We were to find out soonest. When representatives of the Thai host organizations pressed the “opening button” of the event on an i-pad, the sacred bottle rose from the bottom of the wine cooler it was placed in. Dramatic music accompanied the unexpected and meteoric rise.

A waiter made sure that the bottle was liberated from its cork in no time. Its golden shimmering liquid was poured into three large wine glasses which were presented to the organizers who toasted to the opening of the symposium.

The organizers opening the symposium

Goodness me, how I envied them. That they could taste the golden liquid of my preferred grape, a Riesling from the Rheingau, a wine only three years my junior, was just unbelievable.

I immediately plotted to use an unguarded moment after the ceremony to put my lips to one of these glasses and take a sip of the holy nectar. Wild thoughts darted through my brain.

The occasion did not arise. A waiter took care of the matter and brought the half-empty bottle and the three glasses to a safe place.

As an interlude, a traditional Thai dance troupe performed a welcome dance for us. Rose petals were gracefully spread around and dancers with fans and dressed in colourful costumes entertained the audience.

The professors from Geisenheim

All three keynotes were memorable. Prof. Hans-Reiner Schultz from Geisenheim presided over the session.

First Prof. Alain Carbonneau from Montpellier presented some of the challenges to grow vinus vinifera in the tropics.

The flying wine doctor, Dr. Richard Smart, was second and introduced us to the centrality of canopy management for tropical vineyards. This was my first encounter with Dr. Smart. So far I had only studied his famous articles and essays written in many wine industry journals.

Now here was the man in full flesh and blood. I was surprised about his creaky voice. But having been “conditioned” by my Australian wife, I am in no way a stranger to Australian accents in creaky voices. I loved his powerpoint presentation. I also learned that he has only recently relocated from Tasmania to Cornwall.

Dr. Richard Smart, the wine doctor

The third keynote was by Umberto Camargo from Brazil. For the first time in my life I learned about the wine industry of this coming economic giant and emerging power of the Latin world.

Over lunch I had the chance to meet a couple of wine writers and wine professionals which added to my general knowledge. And as you know from your own experience with conferences, the time after a big meal is the worst of the day. But I made it through.

Prof. Monika Christmann from Geisenheim spoke about the current climatic changes and their repercussions on the wine industry in Germany, among them the need to reduce alcohol levels in wine.

After the good overview of the Thai wine industry presented by Khun Prayut Piangbunta, the wine-maker of PB Valley Estate, I decided to retire to my room and let the many impressions sink in. I also wanted to write this blog entry in order to have a free evening.

Last slide of the presentation of Prof. Christmann

Hope you enjoyed the read. Please visit the websites of the organizers and the Thai Wine Association for more information about the event and the Thai wine industry in general.

To sum it up: this was a very rewarding day for an amateur like me.

Stay tuned to day two of the symposium. More news from the wine symposium in Chiang Mai is about to come.


3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine – Chiang Mai, Thailand 2011

November 13, 2011

Sorry folks, I have been absent from the scene for a while. My day job kept me busy, too busy, i.e. away from wine appreciation and culinary exposure trips. Frankly speaking, I had the chance to sample some good wines (alas) but I had no time to write about it.

But finally, my highlight of the year has arrived: I am in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, right now and participate in my first ever wine symposium:

the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine.

The chairman of the Thai Wine Association welcoming the participants, Nikki, wine-maker of GranMonte, on the right

Boy can you believe it, me the amateur among all these experts, the wine makers, vineyard owners, oenologists, scholars and wine scientists. These serious guys come from many countries. Tonight at the welcome reception I talked to people from Thailand, India, Myanmar, Brazil, France, Australia, South Africa and my native Germany.

The enthusiastic wine tasters at work

As most scientist, the organizers did not waste words, but went right into the serious stuff and invited all the participants to indulge in tasting the wines on offer from Brazil, Myanmar/Burma and the host country Thailand.

At first I was a bit hesitant but then joined in the tasting wholeheartedly. I found it so interesting to talk to the wine-makers and vintners, and listen to the experts who went from table to table.

I cannot say which wine and/or winery I liked most. One thing is for sure Terry Cummins and the others at the organizing committee did an awesome job in getting this conference together and running.

Tomorrow the serious part of the symposium is going to start. I will need some good sleep to get ready for the many presentations and talks. Seeya tomorrow.

PS: The Thai Wines Association has currently six members, all of them professional and enthusiastic vintners. Congratulations to you for getting such a distinguished crowd of exerts together, luring them to come to northern Thailand during these times of floods is not an easy thing to do.


Thai Wine: Gran Monte Syrah

April 21, 2009

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Some of my favourite wines from Thailand come from Gran Monte Family Vineyard. The ‘2005 Fiori Unfiltered Syrah’ from Gran Monte is the best I had drunk from this family estate. The wine has 13% vol. alcohol and a very beautiful colour, it is dark, dark ruby-red. It’s a fine example of a wine from the tropics, a beautiful New Latitude Wine.

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It was awarded two medals: one Gold-Platinum by the Wine Style Asia Award in 2007 and a Silver Medal by IFHS also in 2007 (International Exhibition of Food and Drink, Bangkok)

The nose is typical Syrah, one can anticipate the spicy, peppery, fruity red liquid. There is a lot of black forest fruit on the palate. The wine has character, is well balanced, elegant, with a long lasting finish. Just so yummy. The best Thai wine for me so far, i would say. 2005 must have been a great year for Gran Monte.

The wine has its price, though, 2100 Thai Bath per bottle, which is about 45 Euro or US$ 59. But it’s worth it, no worries; a wine for a special evening or just a day when you need a good drop. The only sore point for me is the label. I just don’t like this colour stuff. If in Bangkok just go and get a bottle and take some home: Thai wine, smooth like silk.

Where to buy?
Address:

Gran Monte Co. LTD
17/8 Soi Sukhumvit 6
Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoey
Bangkok 10110
Thailand


Back in Bangkok

April 13, 2009

Our flight from Jakarta to Bangkok was pleasant. Though we had about six hours delay. We arrived in the evening after 9 pm. From the Internet we knew that there were violent clashes between the armed forces and the red-shirt demonstrators in the centre of town. As long as the airport is not occupied…, we thought, it should be fine for us getting home. And so it was. The streets were deserted and it took no time to reach Thonglor, Soi 17. The family had come back from Krabi island the same day. Reunion, what a joy.

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Easter Monday is an official holiday in Germany. Now that the family was together again, we did one of our normal Sunday routines: reading, listening to music, doing some sport and eating together. After about a week on Asian food, I longed for a pasta and a pasta it was to be! (rigatoni ricotta spinaci).

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No better wine than a Thai wine, I thought; it would go well with this meal. I chose a bottle of ‘2006 Fiori Unwooded Chenin Blanc’ from Gran Monte Family Vineyard in Asoke Valley. Chenin Blanc is usually not one of my favourite white varieties but I knew that Gran Monte produces a decent one.

The wine has a nice golden colour, not much of a nose though, but typical Chenin Blanc flavours with a well- balanced acidity. The tropical fruit flavours went well with the pasta. This is a nice wine.

The sun was shining, four people were digging in, hungry like construction workers and busy telling stories from the holidays on Krabi and the elections in Indonesia.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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State of the art trellis systems, spacing and row management

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

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Modern stainless steel cellar equipment

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Freshly fermented grape juice

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The tasting room of Gran Monte

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Another view of the Gran Monte tasting room

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

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The “normal” product range

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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.

Address:
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
Marketing@granmonte.com

Address at Khao Yai

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

Map
map-granmonteweb