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Thai winemaking accelerates tourism

Thailand is quickly becoming a destination for wine lovers. Told by French experts that the climate is wrong and the soil sucks, Thai wineries are about to prove everyone wrong, writes Erik Bergin.

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The French may not agree, but the fact is that Thailand is about to become famous for something else than its world-class beaches and tasty food.

Wine.

Winemakers at PB Valley, Thailand. Photo: PB Valley

Winemakers at PB Valley, Thailand. Photo: PB Valley

 

Just a few hours from Bangkok are three of the nation’s best known wineries. PB Valley and Gran Monte is close at the border to Thai national park Khao Yai, about 150 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, while Hua Hin Valley Vineyard, as its name suggests, is found right outside of Hua Hin to the south.

A few years back, French wine experts came to the land that is now occupied by PB Valley’s viniculture. PB winemaker Prayut Piangbunta remembers the occasion.

“They just shook their heads,” says Piangbunta to the travel magazine Escape 360. “They said it would never work to make wine here. The climate was wrong, the soil was wrong, everything was wrong. Luckily, we didn’t listen to them.”

 

Thailand's wine districts.

Thailand’s wine districts.

For Thai winemakers are starting to make their mark on markets in Europe and America. Today, the Thai Wine Association, according to its website, has six winemakers as members who produce wine in three districts. The association, formed as late as 2004, helps promote the country’s wine abroad, as well as educate its own population on how to enjoy wine.

The three regions suitable for wine production are Pattaya, Khao Yai and Hua Hin. According to conventional wisdom successful vineyards need a cold season, allowing vines to rest so they can produce good tasting wine. But, as BBC reported last year, “International experts have long scoffed at the idea of growing grapes to make good wine in a tropical region, but Thailand is determined to make them think again.”

Some of Thailand's best wines come from Hua Hin Hills. Photo: Hua Hin Hills

Some of Thailand’s best wines come from Hua Hin Hills. Photo: Hua Hin Hills

 

And, as it quickly turned out, the climate has its advantages, too. Thai winemakers don’t ever have to worry about loosing their grapes to frost, for example.

At PB Valley, Prayut Piangbunta expects the vineyard’s products to develop in quality over time.

“It takes a while before the vine is good enough, and of course we made a few beginner’s mistakes. In the beginning we harvested two times a year, but soon we realized it was better do harvest only once, in February–March.”

PB’s and the smaller Gran Monte’s location, close to Bangkok, make the vineries a good destination for tourists who want to get away from the chaos in the capital. Therefore, the vineyards have invested in restaurant services, enabling them to offer “Wine and Dine” packages to visitors.

 

Hua Hin Hills has been recognized for its high quality. There, German winemaker Kathrin Puff claims the producer’s rosé wines almost make the standard of European producers.

“But our red wines don’t meet the same quality yet,” she says to Escape 360.

 

GALLERY Thai winemaking

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VIDEO Thai TV reports from PB Valley

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.