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.


3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine

February 13, 2011

I am very excited. Recently, I was invited to the above event. From November 14 to 16, 2011 the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL) in Chiang Mai, Thailand will host the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine.

It will be the most significant gathering of wine experts, scientists, vintners and wine drinkers here in tropical Asia. Thailand is maybe the best developed producer of new latitude wines. Although the Thai wine industry enjoys some protection from outside competition, it’s technological progress is remarkable, many of it’s wines are outstanding.

Wineries such as GranMonte Family Vineyard and PB-Valley Khaoyai Winery have become household names. Many new latitude wines have won major awards at international wine competitions. Chiang Mai and it’s surroundings will be a wonderful location for the event.

Needless to say there is a facebook group to promote the event. I suggest you better join this exciting group to always be up to date about the progress we make.

See you in Chiang Mai in November.