New frontier for new latitude wines: Cambodia

November 29, 2013

When I opened the Bangkok Post last weekend, I could not believe my eyes. The headline red “Going wild for Cambodian wine”. Well, I thought why not Cambodia. After Indonesia (on Bali island), Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, another Southeast Asian country has joined the club of vine cultivators and wine makers.

The grapes for the wine-making are collected from wild forest grapes, the article says. There are photos available also on the internet but they are not so clear as regards the kind of vinus vinifera (if it is vinifera).

Cambodian wine

Bennett Murray and his piece in the Bangkok Post

The wine-making process described in the Bangkok Post article reads as follows:

“The manufacturing process is much the same as for wine everywhere. The juice is extracted from the grapes, and then palm sugar and yeast added”.

Palm sugar, I thought, that’s not just the usual additive to grape wine as far as I know. The article mentioned the problems with the grape quality. Since it is collected and not estate grown-fruit, I can imagine the magnitude of the issue. However, I am still interested to get a closer look at this product.

But there is also a real winery in Cambodia. Located in Battambang province, Leng Chan Thol and her husband Chan Thay Chhoueng, have planted a vineyard. They grow on a 3 ha plot of land mainly Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

I would love to try some of their wines.
My next trip to Cambodia should provide an opportunity for just that.

Address
Chan Thay Chhoueng plantation is located at
#72, Bot Sala Village, Banon District, 16 kilometres south of Battambang City.
For more information call tel.: 012 665 238.

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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.


2012 Gran Monte Viognier: Thai wine at its best

December 30, 2012

Before the end of the year I want to return to the wines of my host country Thailand. As you know I have written about the Thai wine industry, Thai wines and Thai wineries before. Thai wines have received international recognition, and the industry, though tiny by international standards, is progressing well.

The old vine grower’s quote may still apply, “that grape growing and wine making are easy, that only the first 200 years are difficult”. So in Thailand the search for the right variety and the right terroir are still ongoing and experimentation is the rule rather than the exception. Having said this I believe that the Thai wine industry has made tremendous progress and shortened the learning curve. This is in part due to very talented and open-minded wine-makers and vignerons.

This time of the year is the best season Thailand has to offer. The Thai winter in Bangkok with temperatures ranging from 32 Celsius in the day and 24 Celsius at night, with dry winds and blue sky, is just marvellous. The lower morning temperatures make everybody more relaxed and cheerful.

Summer Salad 1

Greek salad

In such conditions light summer lunches are the fashion. We had a kind of Greek salad and some salmon on beetroot. Very lovely.

Summer Salad 2

Greek salad and salmon on beetroot

Thai white wines are a very good accompaniment with this type of food. Fortunately, I was given some bottles of the Gran Monte 2012 vintage (thank you Khun Visooth Lohitnavy). Gran Monte Estate is one of the top Thai vineyards and winery.

Gran Monte Viognier 2012

The 2012 Viognier is a wonderful wine. I think that Khun Nikki Lohitnavy, the wine-maker, has done a marvellous job. This is maybe the best white wine I have had from anywhere in 2012.

The grapes for this wine are grown at 350 m above sea level in the Asoke Valley, in the Khao Yai region. The skin contact was short, only 3 hours. Wild ferments in new oak puncheons did a great job. The 5 month on lees seem also to have benefited the wine. The alcohol content is only 12% vol. Total acidity is 7.1 g/L. Residual sugar is 1.4 g/L and the ph is 3.26.

I tasted stone fruit, a bit of apricot, and also some tropical fruit. The wine is well balanced, had a superb structure and fine acidity. I love the long finish.

This is the only Viognier wine grown in Thailand! I believe that the variety is well suited to the tropical conditions and shows great promise.

I think the wine is going to be released soon. So look out for this 2012 Viognier by Gran Monte and ask for it if you are patronizing wine bars in Bangkok.


PB Valley Chenin Blanc 2010 – Wines from Thailand

June 16, 2012

2010 PB Valley Chenin Blanc

One of my favourite Thai wines is the ‘2010 PB Valley Chenin Blanc’ by PB Valley Khao Yai Winery in Khao Yai, Thailand. This wine was awarded a Bronze medal by Decanter earlier this year.

It has a good acidity and a nice freshness. The tropical fruit flavours are refined and not overpowering. It is amazing that this grape variety from the Loire Valley in France is growing so well here in the tropics.

Fish and veggie salad

We had it with a white fish and a salad made from various vegetables. The wine was a perfect complement.

Look out for this wine. It’s very good value for your money. You can buy it here in Bangkok at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Soi Sukhumvit 39.


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.