Thai wine and spicy Asian cuisine

July 8, 2013

???????????????????????????????

‘2012 Colombard’ by Monsoon Valley

Many white wines go well with Asian cuisine, for instance my beloved Riesling, either in its dry or semi-dry incarnations.

Fortunately, Thailand has his own wines which do pair well with its cuisine. Chenin Blanc and Viognier wines from Gran Monte Winery, as well as Chenin Blanc from PB Valley come to mind.

One of my least favourite grapes, Colombard can also make a good wine to drink with spicy Asian food. Monsoon Valley Wine produces a Colombard wine (Classic Range) which I find ideal with spicy cuisine.

The grapes are produced near Hua Hin, a coastal town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. I personally have not visited the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard as yet but it is on my to-do list.

This Colombard wine is a blend made from Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Malaga Blanc grapes. It is light and fruity with some citrus aromas and fine acidity but has some residual sweetness which makes is well suited to accompany spicy dishes.

The 2012 vintage has won various bronze medals for instance at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2012, and the FBAT Wine Challenge in 2012.

???????????????????????????????

Spicy prawn noodles

Advertisements

Culture and wine – Gran Monte Family Estate, Thailand

March 29, 2013

Remember I promised you two more pieces about the Gran Monte Harvest Festival last February? Here is number two.

What was very positive at the the Gran Monte Harvest Festival is that the event is also a means to educate future Thai wine lovers to grape growing, wine making and wine appreciation. Moreover, such events can be used to promote tourism and local specialties, products as well as culture.

GMonte 20 web

The program of this years Gran Monte Harvest Festival was full of both. At the various food stalls one could sample local cuisine including the Gran Monte wines. Moreover, the Gran Monte shop carries all kinds of food and non-food items made from local raw materials. Furthermore, all visitors were presented with a beautiful traditional piece of cloth to be wrapped around the waist or used as shawl.

But also an entertainment program was carefully prepared consisting of dances and dance performances. This gave local dance troupes an opportunity to show off their skills and promote local culture, the backdrop to which were the stunning mountains of the Asoke Valley.

GMonte 200

From the vineyard emerged the first group of dancers

???????????????????????????????

Colourful Thai costumes and head gear were displayed

This was not all. Gran Monte Family Estate is also deeply involved in supporting charitable organizations and other good causes. One could attribute this to their pro-active corporate responsibility policy. Three cheques were presented and they went to the following initiatives:

1. The Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project (TETP)
2. The Forest Fire Prevention Unit, Khao Yai-Nakornrachasima
3. The Vajiralongkorn School, Pak Chong-Nakornrachasima

Apart from traditional culture, Gran Monte also promotes contemporary arts. The highlight for me is the rock band playing in the evening. Many songs remind me of my youth, the good old days of rock and roll of the 1970 and 1980. It does not take long to get people off their seats and on to the dance floor.

???????????????????????????????

The rock band

Because of the neighbours, the band cannot play all night (this is most likely what the Gran Monte guests would want) and that is one strong reason why one has to come back to the next harvest festival.

Enjoy more excellent wines and the music at the next Gran Monte Harvest Festival in 2014. The 2013 vintage promises to be the best ever.


Wine from Thailand: GranMonte 2011 Heritage Syrah

February 27, 2013

???????????????????????????????

2011 Heritage Syrah by GranMonte Family Estate

My private situation is not conducive to blogging at all. And in fact I should take a complete break, I think at times. But then I just withdraw from my current world to escape into the illusions I have cultivated over the last weeks.

I needed to treat myself to something nice, and my choice was an obvious one, a ‘2011 GranMonte Heritage Syrah’ by GranMonte Estate in Khao Yai, Thailand.

I just love the dark red colour and the intense red berry aromas. The wine is elegant, and I very muchnenjoy the balance of tannins and spicy acidity. I did not give the wine a chance to improve with cellaring but might do this with one or two bottles at a later stage.

???????????????????????????????

Spear ribs and morning glory

My girls had cooked dinner, spear ribbs with morning glory. The ribbs were marinated in an Asian plum sauce, and caramelized glazing was just delicious. The contrast with the morning glories was stricking, and the white rice “glued” it all together.

What a lovely family dinner this was. Thai wine and food with an Asian heritage.


Schnapps made in Thailand – Licci by PB Valley Estate

February 9, 2013

Licci 1

My twin daughters 18th birthday in November last year, was accompanied by a dinner party. The Great Hornbill Bistro in Soi Sukhumvit 39 had kindly provided the venue, the food and the wine.

Together with about 20 of their friends, Lucy and Charlotte held a celebratory birthday dinner at the mezzanine floor of the bistro. I had selected the wines. My choice was the entry level wines of PB Valley Winery, one of my favourite Thai winery.

The ‘2010 Sawasdee Khao Yai Chenin Blanc’ and the ‘2010 Sawasdee Khao Yai Shiraz’, both very fruity and lively wines, seemed to be ideally suited for newcomers to the world of fine wine.

Licci 2

My daughters had asked me to serve them shots when the meal was over to conclude the event. It was also a signal that the night was still young and that they could troupe out to spend the rest of the evening at a place of their choice, probably near Khaosan road and surroundings.

Fortunately, PB Valley Estate produces a fine Schnapps (40% alcohol) distilled from fresh Lychee fruit grown in Northern Thailand. The kids, used to shots of vodka and other taste-neutral alcohols, could not believe it. The intense Lychee aromas just blew them away. They all liked it.

For me, it was also the first time that I had a go at this “Schnapps”. I just loved it. Licci, although not cheap (quality has its price), is a great product and ideally suited as a digestive after a beautiful Thai or Western meal.

PS: PB Valley Estate is currently celebrating their vintage festival. You should visit. Have a look and enjoy to explore Thai vineyards and wineries. The Khao Yai national park is just next door.

Address:
The Great Hornbill Bistro
59/3 Soi Sukhumvit 39, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongton Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Opening hours: Mo – So. 11-22 h
Tel.: +66-2 262 0030
Email:hospitality@pb-partners.com

The Great Hornbill Bistro is the cellar door of PB Valley Khao Yai Winery in Bangkok.

PB Valley Khao Yai Winery
102 Moo 5, Phaya Yen,
Pak Chong 30320, Thailand
Tel.: +66 (0) 2 262 0030
www.khaoyaiwinery.com


Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Thai wine at its best

February 4, 2013

???????????????????????????????

Gran Monte Family Estate Harvest Festival 2013

I just returned from this years Gran Monte Harvest Festival in Asoke Valley, Khao Yai, about two hours northwest from Bangkok. The Gran Monte Family Estate is a true family wine business with the whole family engaged in some part of the venture.

Overall my experience with the Thai wine industry is that all of the protagonists are very hard working, charming, committed and passionate people. This is why they have created the Thai Wine Association to jointly promote their passion for the fermented grape juice here in the tropics, creating exquisite new latitude wines.

It was the second time that I attended this lovely event. You can read about last year in this blog entry. Needless to say that it was utterly enjoyable. In fact it was the highlight of the wine season for me.

???????????????????????????????

Vineyard view from the guest house

This is the first of about three blog entries on the Harvest Festival at Gran Monte which I plan to write. The first one provides you with a general overview.

The second will deal with the local economy, culture and corporate responsibility.

And finally, in the third one I will take you on a walk through the Gran Monte Vineyards.

Please stay with me and share my Gran Monte 2013 experience.

???????????????????????????????

The map of the locality

The Harvest Festival is a well planned and organised affair at Gran Monte. We were picked up at the Emporium in Bangkok by a van and made our journey to the vineyard. I shared the vehicle with an Indian family of three and a couple from Hongkong, Ms Anty Fung, project manager from Asian Palate and her partner.

Khun Visooth had put me up at the Gran Monte Guest House. I settled in and enjoyed the vineyard views from the balcony. At about 5 in the afternoon it started with traditional Thai folk dances. The place was buzzing with local and some foreign guests. The car park was quickly filled up.

This years program was a bit different from the previous one. Much has happened sind 2012. A new vintage was just released, quality wise even better than any before.

And let me tell you a secret, if the weather plays along the 2013 vintage will be even better. Trust me, I have seen and tasted the grapes.

???????????????????????????????

Food stalls provided Thai local cuisine, and you could also start tasting various vintages of Gran Monte wines. Gran Monte had won many new awards during the last 12 months at various international wine shows in Asia and Europe.

???????????????????????????????

I have written about some of the new wines, the Sakuna rose, the Voignier and the Asoke, but there is the Chenin Blanc, the Vedelho and the Syrah about which I will let you in another time.

???????????????????????????????

The whites

The whites include the Sole and the Spring, then there is the Sakuna rose which is also available as a sparkling wine, and the new flagship wine, the Voignier which has its price.

???????????????????????????????

The reds

The reds are as spectacular as the whites. Since oak is expensive the well grafted reds of Gran Monte have their price too. And remember there is a 400% luxury tax on wine in Thailand.

I had ample time to taste the above wines during the celebratory dinner. I danced my heart out to the music of my youth.

And I met many new and old friends and engaged in stimulating discussions about wine and the Thai wine industry.

Soon more about wines from Thailand. Cheers


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.


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.