The Royal Project and Thailand’s Wine
Whether it’s rice wine, herbal wine, fruit wine, Thailand makes all of these but what about “proper” wine produced from the classical grape? The answer is “YES“. Most visitors do not, perhaps, think of Thailand as a wine producing country but, in fact, the viticulture industry is growing steadily. Thai wine, from homegrown grapes, is now being featured on wine-lists at quality Thai hotels and restaurants and is being increasingly exported to European and U.S. markets.
But, it all began some thirty years ago when His Majesty King Bhumibol had the idea that grape growing, for both wine production and dining-table use, might be feasible as one of his Royal Projects. So the King gave encouragement to specialists at Chiangmai’s Royal Project Foundation and at Kasetsart University in Bangkok. From those tiny beginnings, and after many trial and error experiments with classical grapevine stock, the industry has grown to the level where Thai wines are being successfully presented at International Trade Fairs.
The Shiraz grape was grown as part of the Royal Research Project under His Majesty the King’s patronage at Huay Sai. And bottled as “Bin 9 Royal Reserve Shiraz, 2005″. Siam Winery donated the entire lot to H.M. the King Bhumibol Adulyadej commemoration’s of his 60th anniversary on the throne.
As the history of the modern wine industry in Thailand dates back to the early 1980s when researchers at the King of Thailand’s Royal Project in northern Thailand began field testing the viability of plants unknown to Thailand as part of their High Altitude Research Project.
Disease-free grape varieties were brought in from the University of California at Davis and after about seven years in the field the researchers announced that the Syrah grape for red wine and Chenin Blanc for white wine had fared the best under actual growing conditions in Thailand. These two grapes remain the mainstays of the Thai wine industry; however, individual wineries continue experimentation, and wines from new grape cultivars such as Colombard, Pok Dum (a local grape), Viognier and Tempranillo are now being bottled.
All of these wines are excellent for relaxation and healthy nourishment. Selection of each wine produced by Chiang Rai Winery would go well with one of these dishes : spicy salad, roasted meat, curry with coconut milk, and soon.
Visitors to Thailand may already have enjoyed a Thai wine when dining at their local Thai restaurant back home but if not, now is your chance. Costing a fraction of what you will pay in other countries, it is good to enjoy during your time in Thailand and a good buy to take a bottle home. Proudly, Thai wines (white, red, cider made from various fruits and herbs) have been selected to be served during APEC 2003 dinner. Among producers are Khao Yai Winery Co.Ltd., Siam Winery Co.Ltd., United Products Co.Ltd., Chiangrai Winery Co.Ltd., Chiangmai Cooperative Wines Co.Ltd., BJ Garden Winery Co.Ltd. Thai wines really do complement the exciting flavors of Thai cuisine.
If the vintage is labelled with the year “2542” (for example) don’t be concerned it is because of the Buddhist calendar and, anyway, Thai wines are looking forward to a good future. Enjoy!