The Wine Guy Eddie McDougall: Alternative wine country – Thailand

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The juicy bits
When most of us think about Thailand it’s all about Singha beers, roadside pad thai, awesome scuba spots, sunburnt travellers and elephant rides. But if that’s all that comes to mind, then you’re missing out on a little secret. Thailand has been producing grape wines since the 1980s. Despite the quality of wines at the onset being barely drinkable, the winemaking scene
in Thailand has improved exponentially since then. A new breed of well-educated winemakers is on the scene and producing some ground-breaking blends that are going head-to-head with rival international counterparts. From the get go, Thai winemakers have been on a self-taught viticultural journey. Most textbooks will tell you how and where to grow grapes in New or Old World regions, but rarely in the tropics. The latitude bands that sit between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator – and the wine regions that fall into to this area – are known as New Latitude regions. This zone differs from traditional winemaking countries because they do not have four seasons, there are only two – the wet and the dry.

Technically speaking, with this type of climate New Latitude wineries can harvest their crop twice a year, rather than just once like those in traditional regions. However, over time winemakers have discovered they can only make quality wine during the dry season, so opt to let their vines rest in the wetter periods. Simply speaking, the dry season means less water, less humidity, less disease on the grapes, more sugar and better wines.
Main red grapes: Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, sangiovese
Main white grapes: Chenin blanc, colombard, viognier, verdehlo.

Wine regions of the country:

Phurua highlands Six and a half hours drive north of Bangkok, this region provides the best conditions for wine making, including good soil, reliable water supply, cool nights and sunny days – ideal for the February harvest.
Khao Yai Soils types in this region are clay loam, with temperatures usually ranging between 15-25 degrees Celsius.
Hua Hin Three hours southwest of Bangkok. Situated just five metres above sea level, the Hua Hin region is surrounded by mountain ranges and has the advantage of Mediterranean-like breezes from the sea.

Wine recommendations:
Monsoon Valley, colombard
Medium body with crisp acidity alongside hints of citrus and green apple. Pair with Cantonese-style steamed garoupa with ginger and shallots. $122. Available at City'Super, various locations inc Shop 3001, 3/F, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, 17 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui; 2736 3866; citysuper.com.hk.
Granmonte Bussaba Late Harvest, chenin blanc
Light and refreshing, this chenin blanc has a citrusy acidity that balances the sweetness with a long finish. Pair with a blue cheese, rocket and walnut salad. $140. Available at The Flying Winemaker 604-605 Yu Yuet Lai Bldg, 43-55 Wyndham St, Central, 2522 2187; flyingwinemaker.asia.

Follow Eddie on Instagram @theflyingwinemaker

Illustration by Cat O'neil

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