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Thai wine

Thailand is not only known for its scenic beaches and exotic foods, but now also for its unique contribution to the wine industry.

by: Reuters: Rosalind Russel | 05 Jul 2007

"I knew we couldn't make a Bordeaux here, but I thought we could still make a unique wine," Laurent Metge-Toppin said on a tour of the Siam Winery.

"Our idea was to make a wine to drink with Thai food." The result, 10 years on, is the Monsoon Valley range of reds, whites and roses created to complement the fiery flavours of Thai cuisine.

The delicate, dry, low acidity vintages are exported to 14 countries and have won plaudits from critics initially suspicious of "new latitude" wines produced outside the traditional heartlands of winemaking.

"The Monsoon Valley wines are fascinating: clean, light, dry and very drinkable," wrote British wine expert Hugh Johnson.

The grapes, the local dark-skinned Pokdum for red wine and Malaga Blanc for white, are bought from farmers who ply their wooden boats along the canals and handpick the fruit at dawn.

Siam Winery is one of six Thai companies producing wine, joining winemakers in Brazil, China, India and Kenya challenging the dogma that wine can only be produced in temperate regions.

A headache for Thai vintners is tax. Thailand is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy wine, with taxes of nearly 200 percent on locally-made vintages and a swingeing 360 percent on imported wine.

It is cheaper to buy a bottle of Monsoon Valley white in London, at ₤4, than in Bangkok, where the same wine costs ₤6.

So for now the focus for Siam Winery, owned by businessman Chalerm Yoovidhya, whose family sold the energy drink Red Bull to the world, is on international growth. Specifically, targeting Thai restaurants across the globe, hoping to become the house wine of choice.

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