The start of the “dry” season in Thailand signals the beginning of the wine grape harvest at wineries and vineyards throughout the country from December through February.
To those unfamiliar with grape growing here I’ll outline how grapes can be raised in Thailand. The pruning or “cutting back” of the vines takes place twice during the growth cycle of the grapevine and is called “double pruning”. After the grapes are harvested in January, they are left alone a bit and then pruned severely to weather the upcoming rainy season. Following that, the vines are pruned again at the start of the dry season to bring forth the desired crop in January.
Right now there are six wineries in the Thai Wine Association. The wineries crush about 1,000 tons of grapes that yield around 800,000 bottles of wine a year. The wines may be made only from grapes grown in Thailand. If imported grapes are used to bring the level of Thai-grown grapes down to below 90 per cent, it must state that on the label. Actually, I have never tasted a Thai wine using imported grapes.
There are several wineries that can be reached and returned by auto from Bangkok for an interesting day trip or overnight excursion.
GranMonte Estate is located in Asoke Valley, Khao Yai and is adjacent to Khao Yai National Park, approximately 160 kilometers from Bangkok, a 90-120 minute drive from Bangkok. The winery was started in 2009 by the Lohitnavy family and the vineyard is approximately 36 acres at an elevation of 350 metres (1,155 feet). A new guesthouse has been built that can accommodate groups and overnight stays. And there is a restaurant. This year the winery has won 3 Gold and 6 Silver Medals and 5 Seals of Approval at the AWC Vienna tasting this year. Nikki Lohitnavy is the winemaker. A full range of table wines is produced. My favorite is the Viognier. The main red wine grape is Syrah.
Village Farm Resort and Winery is 230 kilometers north of Bangkok on the Korat Plateau at an elevation of 500 metres (1,650 feet) above sea level in Wang Nam Khieo, Nakhon Ratchasima province. The 80-acre vineyard and resort features two wine labels, Village Farm and Château des Brumes. The most interesting wine is a red wine, “Le Prestige” under the Château des Brumes label that is harvested at night. Night harvesting is not unusual in warm climates as the grapes are cooled when the sun goes down. The wine is a blend of Shiraz (Syrah) and Cabernet Sauvignon. A Chenin Blanc and rose wines are also produced under the Village Farm label. There are numerous locations at Village Farm for overnight stays and the on-site restaurant, Cuisine des Vignerons, noted for its European-style food with a Thai flair.
PB Valley winery is the oldest winery in the region having started in 1989. The vineyard/winery is 150 kilometers northeast of Bangkok in Nakhon Ratchisima province at an elevation of 350-380 metres. The vineyard comprises 200 acres spread over 800-acre. These grapes are grown: Shiraz, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc, Dornfelder,Colombard and Cabernet Sauvignon with a production level of 200,000 bottles. The Chenin Blanc Reserve took a medal at the Decanter international judging. Prayuth Pienbunta is the head winemaker. The Great Hornbill Grill is the on-site restaurant.
[Article by David Swartzentruber]