Two Men from Mosel River tasting New Latitude wines in Bangkok

March 18, 2013

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Gran Monte Syrah grapes in Khao Yai

Recently a good old friend from high school times, Thomas Weber from Trier and his wife Birgit, visited Thailand for a holiday. Since Thomas is a kind of a wine geek, someone who has written two books about wine, and who knows every vintner along the Mosel river, I intended to introduce him to a selection of New Latitude wines.

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The two wineries I had in mind where GranMonte Family Winery and PB Valley Wines, both located in the Asoke Valley in Khao Yai, Thailand. Unfortunately, Thomas did not have sufficient time to go and visit the vineyards in person. Therefore I decided to bring the vineyards to him.

We did two tastings, one shortly after his arrival in Bangkok, the second one the evening before his departure. The first wine tasting took place in our home. I had selected three wines (one white and two reds), all from GranMonte Family Winery.

We started with the ‘2012 Viognier’, according to some critics the best white wine Gran Monte has ever made. Thomas was amazed that such an outstanding wine could be produced here in Thailand (I provided him with a farewell gift, guess what it was?).

We followed up with two Gran Monte Syrah wines, the ‘2010 Hermitage Syrah’ and the ‘2009 Orient Syrah’. This was the first time that Thomas had ever tasted wines grown in the tropics, or, as they are also, called ‘new latitude wines’.

He was amazed by the high standard and the outstanding quality of the wines. All of them fully satisfied his expert palate pampered by vintage after vintage of excellent wines from the Mosel. The Thai wines from Gran Monte can positively compare with any wines from Europe, that was the verdict after the first round of tastings.

The second wine tasting was conducted over a dinner (forgive me that I skip the food here) at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Soi 39 Sukhumvit in Bangkok. This place is the Bangkok cellar door of PB Valley Khaoyai Winery.

Again we tasted three wines, one white and two reds. We started with the ‘2012 Pirom Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc’, an excellent vintage and very enjoyable wine. We liked it so much that we consumed quite a few bottles with our entrees. Only for the main course we switched to red.

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The Cabernet-Dornfelder blend is being decanted

First we had a bottle of ‘2011 Pirom Khao Yai Tempranillo’. The wine had a beautiful aroma but the somehow ‘green (gemuesig) taste’ disappointed a little. The more we were looking forward to the ‘2010 Cabernet Dornfelder cuvée’. It had time to breathe after the decanting. This wine, an unusual blend, did not disappoint. It displayed its character, was full of flavor, had structure and an excellent finish.

The surprise of the evening was, that Mr. Gaksch had reserved for us a bottle of the lovely PB Valley Lychee Schnaps so that we could harmoniously end our Thai wine tasting.

The overall verdict is that Thailand produces outstanding wines and that more needs to be done to bring this good message to the world of wine.

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The happy tasting party

I strongly advised Thomas to come back again, and instead of spending time at Thai beaches, go and visit Thai wineries and enjoy the pleasure their excellent wines provide the casual and the “un-casual” drinker.
Spread the gospel.


PB Valley Wine tasting at the Great Hornbill Bistro, Bangkok, Thailand

December 6, 2012

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Friday last week I was invited to the presentation of the new vintage of PB Valley Khao Yai Winery and the tasting of the newly released wines. The event was conducted at the Great Hornbill Bistro which is PB Valley cellar door in Bangkok, one could say.

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The place filled up quickly. I met old and new friends from the Thai wine industry, gastronomy, and journalism. There were also some wine bloggers like myself.

Khun Prayut

Khun Prayut, chief wine-maker of PB Valley

Khun Prayut started the event with a brief overview of PB Valley, it’s grape production and wine making. Lots of things have happened since the start in 1992, the first vintage in 1998 and the international recognition of PB Valleys contribution to the wine industry in South East Asia. In 2011 PB Valley was awarded the Asia Wine Pioneer Award in Singapore.

With a total area of 320 ha of which almost 50 ha are under grapes, PB Valley is not a small enterprise. About 10 ha are for table grapes, the rest is planted with wine grapes such as Shiraz, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Dornfelder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Durif and Petit Verdot.

The flagship wines are Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Tempranillo. Total production is about 65% red and 35% white, but demand is more on the red side, 80 to 20. Some of the residual white wine juice is distilled. To the “grappa” or “schnaps” some lichee juice is added which makes a beautiful “digestivo” called Licci Schnaps.

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The capacity of the winery is about 450,000 liters. Total production comes to 100,000 to 150,000 bottles per year. The newest vintage is, with the exception of PIROM Supremacy Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, all under screw caps!

After that the wine tasting proper was about to start. Khun Joolpeera Saitrakul, wine-maker at PB Valley, introduced the three whites, one rose, and four red wines. He explained all the individual wines, how they were made and what their qualities were. I will come to this in a later blog entry.

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Khun Prayut at our table

At this point suffice it so say that I loved all the wines, but especially the whites. I never thought much of Chenin Blanc before coming to the tropics and tasting tropical wines.

The reds grown in new latitude locations need more time to show their true potential, I think. But a glass of cold Chenin Blanc or a Rose from a winery in Thailand is not easy to beat. I loved the PIROM Chenin Blanc best with his passion-fruit aromas, and the fine acidity. The residual sugar is about 5 grams.

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The four reds in the tasting

Of the four reds, each has its strong points. The PIROM Supremacy is out of my price range (2000 Thai bath/bottle), but delicious. The Sawasdee Shiraz is for easy drinking, the PB spicy Shiraz is good with a piece of red meat and the PB Tempranillo I suggest to have with a South American barbecue.

The team

The success team from PB Valley

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Dr Piya Bhirombhakdi presenting gifts

I was a lucky draw winner of a bottle of PB Valley wine and took it from the hands of the famous Dr. Piya.

After that the buffet was opened, and we all indulged in the delicious food of the Great Hornbill Bistro. The evening continued with discussions about wine, food and everything. To sum it up, this was a great event, well prepared and executed by the very motivated staff of the Bistro and PB Valley.

My verdict: try some Thai wine next time you are in a restaurant in Bangkok. Ask for it, even if they don’t have it, make it known that you want to “taste the land”.

PS: I also learned why there is so little Thai wine on offer in the many wine bars in Bangkok. Importers of foreign wines give concessions to the wine bars, meaning they only have to pay for the wine after they have sold it. Thai wineries cannot afford this level of generosity.


Easter Sunday at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Sukhumvit 39, Bangkok

April 8, 2012

The Great Hornbill bistro

It was a glorious Sunday morning, this Easter in Bangkok. The four of us had booked a table at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Sukhumvit 39 which is basically the urban cellar door for PB Valley Wines.

We came for a late breakfast and had planned to spend a couple of hours at the Great Hornbill so that we could also have lunch. I also intended to buy some of PB Valley’s wines.

The inside, light, but the tree in front provides some shade

From the grand opening, we knew that the Great Hornbill offers excellent food and great service. Moreover, we also like the wines of PB Valley Winery. We had not been back since that event, somehow it never worked out with all my travels, school and sport events and so on.

So let us see what we had: Breakfast first.

We start the day at around 5.30-6.00 in the morning, usually on our terrace where we read and linger. So we had had our morning coffee (cappuccino) and a cookie with it. Naturally we were ravenous at about 10 when we got to the Great Hornbill Bistro. At this time of day, the place was not crowded, the waiters were very attentive and very accommodating to our needs.

So what did we have?

Egg Benedictine seemed just the right stuff, one was with salmon the other regular. The girls went for the sweet stuff, a banana pancake. All very yummy. What a good beginning this was.

Salmon

Regular

The sweet stuff

Then (after we had some pleasant parent-teenager conversation) came lunch.

(I admit we ordered a bottle of ‘2010 PB Valley Reserve Chenin Blanc’ with the breakfast. Not because we are alcoholics, no, but because it felt like the first full meal of the day which warranted a proper glass of wine.)

PB Valley Chenin Blanc

This is a very nice wine, medium bodied with a good structure, with tropical fruit flavours and some vanilla from the oak barrels the wine is aged in (12 months). Very refreshing in the tropics, just the right wine to go with breakfast and a light lunch.

..and lunch was????

Lucy ordered the duck a l’orange

Margit went for the spicy penne with sausage

Charlotte had a chicken curry with roti

And I had this lovely pasta

Needless to say, we had a second delicious bottle of PB Valley Reserve Chenin Blanc.

The food was very good, fresh and with great taste. The pasta was “al dente” which in Asia is not easy to get (cooks often seem to think “noodles are noodles”). We had a great time, placed our wine order (the Great Hornbill delivers the wine to your home), and will be back soon.

Do you look for a pleasant place to have breakfast? The Great Hornbill Bistro is it.

Address:
The Great Hornbill Bistro
59/3 Sukhumvit 39 Road
Klongton Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Tel:+66 2 262 0030 Ext. 118
Fax:+66 2 262 0029
Mobile: +66 81 834 7910
Email: hospitality@pb-partners.com
GPS Location: 13°44’15.58”N 100°34’17.62”E


Opening Night – The Great Hornbill Bistro, Bangkok

February 29, 2012

The other day, Heribert Gaksch, responsible for marketing and business develpment at PB Partners which include restaurants and the PB Valley Winery, invited me to the official opening of its newest venture: the Great Hornbill Bistro in Bangkok.

The opening was a great opportunity to also present the whole range of the wines produced by PB Valley Winery. I had visited the winery some years ago and reported briefly about it on this blog.

With the opening of the Great Hornbill Bistro, the winery has come to town, so to say.

At the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine in Chaing Mai in November last year, I had also met Prayut Piangbunta. PB Valley oenologist and wine-maker (he is also the director and manger of PB Valley). Khun Prayut was Thailands first oenologist. From 1996 to 1998 he had studied in Weinsberg, asmall town in my native Germany.

Needless to say, Prayut was also in town for the opening, despite the fact that in the middle of vintage time, the chief wine-maker has to organise pickers and winery staff in Khao Yai for harvesting and processing of the new grapes.

I did not take any photo of the event myself. This is why I just put photos of the brochures into this blog entry. I was just to busy enjoying the food, the wines and the great company at the opening.

Everything was impressive. It was a splendid evening. The wines of PB Valley are just wonderful. I will have more of them, especially the Chenin Blanc and the red blend with the Dornfelder.

So my suggestion to Bangkok wine and food lovers is to check out the Great Hornbill Bistro and sample the wines of PB Valley.
Cheers

Address:
The Great Hornbill Bistro             
Bistro and Wine Shop (B.B. Holding Co. Ltd.)   
59/3 Sukhumvit 39 Road                         
Klongton Nua, Wattana,                                                     
Bangkok 10110, Thailand  
Tel:+66 2 262 0030 Ext. 118     
Fax:+66 2 262 0029
Mobile: +66 81 834 7910     
Email: hospitality@pb-partners.com
GPS Location: 13°44’15.58”N 100°34’17.62”E