Traveling for experience, part 3 – the impossible wine
The impossible vineyard
Leaving Cambodia and after celebrating Lao New Year in Vientiane we landed in Bangkok in Thailand just to take a train straight to Hua Hin. To visit their oldest and biggest wine producer. Up to this point I thought that Cambodia did the impossible, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. We all know that grapes do not grow outside of latitudes from 30 to 50 degrees. Well, the city of Hua Hin and their vineyard is 13 degrees south of the Equator. Thirteen! With tropical temperatures reaching well over 40°C during dry season, and dry season lasting for months, they have to fight through the monsoon season afterwards. That’s how Thailand’s biggest and oldest winery and the whole region got their name: Monsoon Valley. And when I say oldest, we are talking 20 something years old. The first grapes were planted here in the beginning of 2000s.
The pride of the entire valley
Being in the valley, they do actually have a fighting chance. With temperatures dropping sometimes to mid 20 degrees during the night, having a steady ocean breeze and irrigation system they manage to grow grapes. Production costs are high but after trying their wine I can assure you, it is worth every single cent! The people also show a great pride in working there, and to see how much the whole region and community is involved and how much the winery gives back can be overwhelming.
But how do they taste?
Colombard, Rosé blend (Colombard, Chenin blanc and Shiraz) and Shiraz were the ones that I tasted.
Colombard was for me like a crossover from Sauvignon blanc and Riesling. Dry, fruity, sharp, spicy, acidic wine, with notes of yellow plum, stone fruit, butter cream, fresh grass and tropical fruit in the nose took me by surprise. Long lasting taste, well balanced with beautiful bright yellow color was a perfect start to my tasting. It is also a perfect companion for their spicy seafood and salads.
Rosé was a glass full of berries, honey comb, passion fruit and lime and is also a perfect wine to pair with local food. But you can also just sit somewhere on a terrace and enjoy watching people passing by and have a glass of perfectly chilled wine.
Shiraz was nothing like the ones I’ve tried in Australia. All the tasting notes of Shiraz were there, but like on steroids. Everything is so elevated and more present. Dark roses, cherries, black currant in the nose, and plums, blueberries, spice and pepper on the palette. Pairing it with smoked duck was a match made in heaven.
The sweet ending, or a new beginning?
And then I saw something interesting on the menu: it wrote “Chenin Blanc Late Harvest”. Being left only 10 days longer on the Vines, grapes produced unbelievable amounts of sugar to give way to make so far the best dessert wine that I have tried. Gold medal from 2022 Vienna competition just cemented my opinion. Gold yellow in color, with bouquet of white flowers, mango, stone fruit, dried peach and taste of honey, apples, brioche and ripe pineapple it is just an amazing wine to have with some blue cheese.
The Journey never ends
As I am writing this and eating some tropical fruits that taste and smell like nothing that we know, because they get to ripe on the tree and not in some ship container, I am so thankful that I went on this journey. The experience, the people that I have met, products that I have tried, only tells me that us sommeliers have to travel if we want to truly understand wine. Not a single book can teach you that. Nothing can replace the feeling of walking trough vineyards and talking with the winemaker and learning their tricks of the trade. You have to explore and experience things for yourself. The world of wine is evolving, and we have to be there to see the change and to tell the world about it. It is my first wine journey, and I still have a month left before I come home. But I already know it won’t be the last one…