Beware of wild Elephants
Usually that is not the traffic sign that you see when going to a vineyard, but here, near Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, it is. Located some 3 hours drive from Bangkok is Thailands biggest national park. A area full of wild life, where better suited locals spend there time off and a wine region.
First, I do have to correct myself; Hua Hin and Monsoon Valley Winery are not on 13th longitude in southern hemisphere, like I wrote before, but 13th longitude north. And they are not the oldest and biggest Thai wine producers – they are “just” the biggest.
The oldest Winery
The oldest winery reward goes to PB Valley winery located near the Nationalpark. And it dates back to 1989 with their first harvest happening in 1998 after nine years of research. A business, with Dr. Piya Bhirombhakdi as the big boss and visionary. During my visit, I found out that the production at the moment is not as it used to be ten years ago. They had between 120.000 and 200.000 bottles per year, but a few years ago they started replanting vines and now the production is around 40.000 bottles. The reason for that is, because of the harsh environment plants cannot survive longer than 25 – 30 years. That may explain why they had two out of three wines on their tasting menu coming from Australia (but made in cooperation with the winery), and only one from own grown grapes. That was very unfortunate for me but nevertheless, I tried them all and some more that was not on the official tasting menu.
Tasting the wines
First one was 2015 PB Valley Shiraz. A dark ruby red with cherries, blueberries, plum jam and oak in the nose and sour cherries, berries, vanilla and pepper on the palette. A full bodied wine that was 18 months in French oak barrels and is at its peak now.
The second one was their pride and joy, a 2012 Pirom Supremacy Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon Blend. With crimson red color and perfect balance it presents itself with dark berries, dried apricot, ripe cherries and wood in the nose, and black tea, plum jam, cherries and vanilla on the pallete. It is a heavy, full bodied red that is just demanding dishes with game.
The most rewarded winery
A few kilometers further located is the second Winery that I visited; Gran Monte Winery. They have a title as well, they are the most rewarded winery in Thailand. They are a family owned business and everyone has their role to play, but maybe the most important one has the daughter Ms. Visootha (Nikki) Lohitnavy as a oenologist and winemaker. She is also the first and only female oenologist in Thailand.
One special thing about their vineyard is, that they have weather monitoring stations scattered all around the estate and therefore the possibility to control the irrigation of the plants at any given time, even in rainy season. They also do a lot of experimenting with varietals, but also with wine aging methods, because during my visit I have noticed some qvevri vessels in the aging room.
More wines to taste
The Wine that I tried was in general interesting, only the first one, their Verdelho, was off. It smelt of wet dog, mold and cheese (not the nice one). That was enough for me not to taste the wine, so unfortunately I can’t tell you anything more about it. Sadly they didn’t want to open a new bottle.
Then came the Rosé. Beautiful salmon pink with strawberries, raspberries and yogurt candy in the nose, and strawberries and cherries with a hint of candied ginger in taste was a pleasant surprise. It would not be my first choice, but it is a good, well balanced and enjoyable wine.
For the red I had Syrah Viognier. Medium bodied wine with dark roses, black currant and jam notes in the nose, and coffee, dark chocolate and berries on the pallete. A wine that you take out for your Saturday afternoon barbecue.
And at the end there was their bestseller, the Orient Syrah. A full bodied, well rounded wine with hints of cassis, cherries and dark plums on the nose, and some jam, chocolate and vanilla beans on the pallete. It definitely has the potential to be stored in a cellar for a few years.
New latitude wine
As a conclusion to this wine discovery, I can just be awed what they have accomplished. “New latitude wine” they call it. The sheer complexity of, well everything, is huge. From having to battle the extreme weather conditions, to having to import every single piece of equipment because no one on Thailand produces them, or just stand out as a black sheep because you want to produce something different. I will be aware of Thailand as a wine producer. And of their wild Elephants…