Marlborough, New Zealand over the last few years needs no introduction in the country at least in the wine aware population or rather crowd I would say. The Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the regions is the New World’s answer to the Old World heavyweights. India has been seeing a lot of brands like Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, Saint Clair, Brancott Estate, Kim Crawford etc. Sula Selections the import arm of Sula added one more to the list, Mud House a brand from Marlborough whilst it gently withdrew the Kim Crawford.
We were privee to a tasting which saw the Sauvignon Blanc from their label shine through and had a lovely finish. Priced at Rs 2575, this is about 20-25% cheaper than their competition set. Redolent of Elderflowers and Guava this wine showed on namesake greenness to it. The Pinot Noir at Rs 2800 scores on the price point again and had generous fruit in it however more concentration on the palate would have taken it a long way.
The Mud House Soiree saw Ann-Marie Battista the Adelaide based sales consultant for Accolade Wines the parent company of the wine brand, who also unveiled Kumala wines from South Africa again from Accolade. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz are the variants we tasted and our pick was the mouthful Pinotage (Rs 1350). It is great to see Accolade a renowned wine co to show interest in India and Sula Selections under the leadership of Prarrthona Pal Chowdhury accelerating their imported line up. Wine India is ready to experiment albeit with a bit of coaching and a bit of quintessential swagger!
With Thailand comes to mind beers; Singha and Chang. Did you know that there is a wine culture that began to emerge in Thailand at the turn of the millennium!! And at the forefront of this wine movement is Siam Winery which was found in 1986 by Late Chalerm Yoovidhya. The winery is located 30 miles south of Bangkok and they began with Spy a wine based cooler to kickstart the culture and to familiarize the Thai population who were happy with their beer and their local rice based wine/beer like drink Sato. Siam Winery moved to more serious wine when they started Monsoon Valley wines in 2002 and set-up their vineyards 2 hrs south of their winery in the seaside town of Hua Hin. They currently have around 300 acres planted in there.
Located at 12.5 N, Thailand on paper just like India doesn’t fall in the 30-50 degree belt making it a no-go zone for grape cultivation! These are as they call it new- latitude wines and they are adapting with late ripening, high acid grape varieties which can brave the sun and still shine bright in the bottle. In whites the Siam winery does Colombard, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Muscat and in reds they do Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Dornfelder. They even use local varieties like Pokdum and Malaga blanc and have created hybrids like the very inky Rondo which dyes your teeth but is wonderfully refreshing.
Siam winery’s premium wine brand Monsoon Valley is run by German Winemaker Kathrin Puff and assisted by Suppached Sasomsin from Thailand who had trained to be a winemaker in France. Suppached led us through a tasting of various varietals from different barrels, barriques and tanks. ‘At Siam we are experimenting and trying to get the best out of what our land has to offer. We export to over 12 countries and people are slowly taking acceptance to our wine which is evident in the honors we are receiving at international wine competitions. The climate here many a times can let you down with ph levels, ripening etc and hence we blend our grapes to showcase great wines. We tasted the crisp Columbard, an aromatic rose, a toasty Shiraz from the casks and many more varietals under trials. The Monsoon Valley has their Classic, Premium and Flagship wines which include Still Sparkling and Fortifies wines.
Our winery tour replete with tastings and a walk around lasted about two hours and it would be a more fruitful visit during harvest time, January- March where one can see the entire winemaking process. They also host vineyard tours in Hua Hin which I understood are touristier with great views from the deck, a Thai restaurant, Elephant rides and more. We couldn’t visit it due to paucity of time. Next time the Hua Hin vineyards and their Chaoya Phrya floating vineyards are on cards!
Siam winery not only does local wines but is also a major bottler and importer of various international wines from across the globe. We are glad our first tryst with Thai wines began with such an iconic brand and we hope to see them in India soon, given that India loves their green and red curries. One last trivia to surprise you, we certainly were, the energy drink Red Bull was also founded by the man who founded the Siam winery!
To Thai Wines… Chiyo!!
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