Thailand is rightfully proud of a long list of internationally famous achievements. Thai food, whether in restaurants around the globe or from local street vendors, rivals the fame of French and Japanese specialties. Silk, smiles, temples and traditional dance add to the panoply of attractions making the country one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. Unfortunately there are a few areas where being number one in the world warrants retreating into the shadows rather than taking bows for work well done. Monumentally high excise tax specifically targeting wine while barely touching beer and distilled spirits is among them. Adding to this inequity is that Thailand, unlike nearly every other country producing wines commercially, gives no relief from excise imposts on domestically produced wines despite their international award winning stature.

“You can’t fight City Hall,” is a political axiom used to indicate that various vested interests make it difficult if not impossible to change laws once emplaced. While for the present we are stuck with this inequity Thai ingenuity rises to the occasion in several ways as evidenced by the lack of tax stamps on the necks of more than a few bottles being poured in restaurants and homes throughout the Land of Smiles.

Those living near borders know how and where to acquire their favorite beverages at real world prices albeit with slight risk. Then there is the ever present underground market for high quality wines that seem to regularly “fall off” the back of various international airliners while parked at major local airports, although this source has recently been “ drying up” as it were. That leaves air travelers with the safe option of bringing the legal limit of two bottles of alcoholic beverage into the country bought at civilized prices from a foreign duty free shop—hardly worth the price of a r/t air ticket.

For those who love wine with dinner as well as for health reasons but rarely travel and have none of the marginal connections necessary to acquire gray market libations there are a few options to consider. One that gathered a substantial following during the past few years is buying so-called fruit wine which initially came into vogue due to a loophole permitting wine containing a minimum of 15% domestic fruit juice added to wine made from grapes to be taxed as much as 75% less than pure grape wine. Avaricious tax collectors aimed last year to close this tax advantage but vigorous opposition from a powerful local producer resulted in only a modest tax increase rather than complete elimination.

Easier savings on your favorite wines can be made by buying case lots (12 bottles) at a time which should net a 10% to 15% price reduction. At higher price levels this often applies to 6 bottle purchases. Contacting importer-distributors directly may result in further discounts. Distributor contact numbers are on the back labels of each wine. A new technique for several Thailand distributors is direct on-line listings which offer reduced prices on close-out wines as well as labels not available in retail shops. Wine Connection has been a leader in this method. Check for other on-line contacts through your internet search options.

And, please don’t drink and drive! The recent holiday traffic accident death toll was once again one of the highest for that period in the world with analysis showing that 40% involved some level of alcohol consumption. Take a taxi or designate a non-drinking driver when imbibing. Chokdee!!

Written by: R. James Mullen