The wine industry in Myanmar

March 31, 2015

I have written about the wine industry in Myanmar a couple of times. Recently, I found the above video clip on the Al Jazeera news channel. They interview Hans-Eduard Leiendecker, the wine-maker of Aythaya Vineyards in Taunggy, Shan State. Mr. Leiendecker is a man from the Mosel. He comes from Bernkastel, the famous wine centre, located in the central part (Mittelmosel) of the Mosel river.

Tropical viticulture (new latitude wines) has its specific challenges which are outlined in the video. Overall, production cost are not insignificant. Moreover, the nascent wine industry in countries sub-tropical and tropical countries is often subject to taxation and a regulatory environment which puts the young sector at a disadvantage.

I am very pleased about the positive outlook for the pioneer in Myanmar and hope that their efforts will one day pay off. The wine industry in neighbouring Thailand is a very inspiring example of an emerging vineyard and winery industry in a country without the many centuries of grape growing experience.

I will follow the progress and development, and hope to present you more success stories in due course.

Cheers

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Good bye Thailand – land of new latitude wines

May 30, 2014

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Thailand

My time in Thailand is coming to an end. After almost six years in Krungthep, the city of angels, we will move back to Europe.

Well, “back” is maybe the wrong word. The last 24 years I have spend in various Asian countries working for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom supporting our partners in their quest for liberty, property and prosperity.

Before coming to Thailand we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia for about 10 years, and it was in Indonesia that I came into contact with the first wine grown in the tropics. It was Hatten wines produced on Bali island. These wines are also known as “new latitude wines” but I learned this much later.

To my great surprise (and because of my general ignorance) I was in the position to discover the secrets of tropical wines in Thailand.

I do not remember when exactly I tasted my first glass of wine grown and produced in Thailand, but I had the great fortune to meet some of the key drivers of the Thai wine industry over the last six years.

In these years I learned to appreciate Thai wines. I also learned about some of the challenges in growing wine grapes and making wine under tropical conditions.

The Thai wine industry is small but its proponents are determined to produce excellence and they are passionate about their wines. And rightly so. Thai wines have shined in international wine tastings and competitions and earned almost every possible award.

I have written about my experiences with Thai wines, wineries, and the people who make them. I will not hide that I have favourites.

My favourite family winery is Gran Monte Family Estate, the only true owner-operator family enterprise (about 17 ha under vines). The founder, Visooth Lohitnavy, his wife Sakuna and their daugther Nikki are all involved in the family business.

Over the years the wines produced by Nikki Lohitnavy have become better and better. It is hard to say what my favourites are, all are good, actually very good. Since 2008 Nikki has won with her wines more than 100 medals and international wine awards, an amazing performance.

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Gran Monte vineyard in Khao Yai

I love the Viognier but also the two Chenin Blanc wines. One of my favourites is the new Verdelho which is coming into the market soon. Also a sprakling wine is produced.

All the reds are exquisite. I like the Syrahs and the Cabernet Syrah blends. Of the two rose wines I prefer the dryer version made from Grenache.

If you should come to Thailand a visit of Gran Monte vineyard in Khao Yai region is a must. Gran Monte has also a very comfortable guesthouse (try the traditional Thai breakfast) and an excellent restaurant called “Vincotto”.

My favourite corporate wine producer is PB Valley Wines, also located in the Khao Yai region. The 80 ha vineyard is owned by the Bhirombhakdi family (owners of the Singha brewery). The chief wine-maker is Prayut Piangbunta.

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Wine presentation at the Great Hornbill bistro, Bangkok

The Great Hornbill Bistro in Bangkok serves as a cellar door. I have tasted their new vintage recently and can tell you that the new wines are very promising. Also at PB Valley, the wines are getting better and better.

Try the Pirom Reserve series of their Chenin Blanc and Shiraz wines. PB Valley also produces a Tempranillo, the 2010 vintage of which won a silver medal from the AWC in Vienna. I also like their Lychee schnaps, very fruity and worth the high price.

At an international wine symposium in Chaing Mai, I had the chance to meet the above vintners and wine-makers, amd some more of the about handful producers active in Thailand.

I will miss Thai wines. And I am glad to have had the chance to learn so much about the wine industry in Thailand. The generosity of the Thai wine people knows no bounds.

Thank you Khun Vissoth, Sakuna and Nikki but also Khun Prayut and Khun Heribert for your outstanding hospitality and generosity. I wish you all possible success in your quest for excellence. The Thai wine industry is on the world wine map. I am convinced that you will grow further also as a role model for producers in neighbouring countries.

Cheers


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.


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

December 6, 2012

GHB

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.


Two young birds

September 19, 2009

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My two little Merbah Kapur – Yellow-vented Bulbuls have grown a little. The parents are very busy collecting insects to fee the two hungry beaks. They have also grown some feathers.

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New chicks on the block

September 13, 2009

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Two eggs only

Today I discovered that the little Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) or Merbah Kapur as we call them in Malay, which had built an elaborate nest in on of the bushes just next to the table on our terrace, and which had laid two eggs some time ago, has had young ones. Our terrace is about 80 sq. meters and we planted a lot of different pot plants. I found the two hungry birds today. Welcome to Bangkok.

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Eggs become chicks


In the tropics

April 11, 2008

Well, springtime in Germany showed all these wonderful blossoms of fruit and other trees so that I was intrigued to present to you one of my most beloved orchids which grows in my tropical garden in Jakarta.

I have to admit that I do not know the name of this wonderful flower. It was given to me by my friend Peter Hagen when he and his family left Indonesia for good some years ago. It has flowered only for the second time and is the only orchid of this kind which I possess.

Happy spring greetings from Jakarta

Isn\'t it beautiful

Tropical garden flower

\"My orchid\"

“My orchid”