TIME TO TRY THAI WINES AGAIN
There are multiple dozens of wineries in Thailand fermenting the juice of everything from pineapples to mangosteen into wine and they’ve been doing it for well over a century. That said the Thai wine industry as most consumers view it is barely three decades old. In the early 1990’s approximately 90 rai of mostly chenin blanc grapes were fermented into wine for commercial distribution at a fully equipped modern winery known as Chateau de Loei in Loei province.
At about the same time Siam Winery in Hua Hin was producing wine coolers from table grapes on a commercial scale and began planting colombard wine grapes to support their entry into the nascent Thai wine production business. In the ensuing three decades a cadre of additional adventurous wine entrepreneurs have braved Thailand’s subtropical environs and punitive government imposed tax hurdles to grasp a share of the global prestige and sometimes economic rewards of being a winery owner.
Among several who have reached or come close to the summit of success in the Thai wine industry are a few members past and present of the Thai Wine Association. TWA holds to traditional internationally accepted standards of vineyard and winemaking practices using domestically grown grapes. Members meet monthly to discuss related production problems as well as join whenever possible in joint promotion activities. They also conduct annual inspections of member vineyards and winemaking facilities in order to share techniques and provide suggestions for improvements.
Leader and founding member of TWA, Visooth Lohitnavy, owns Granmonte Estate winery and vineyards in the Pak Chong area of Khao Yai province, approximately a two hour drive from Bangkok. Khun Visooth’s total commitment to the wine industry is reflected in the education of his eldest daughter, Nikki, who is an honors graduate of Australia’s premier oenology school, the University of Adelaide. Nikki’s sister Mimi rounds out the Lohitnavy family’s commitment to quality Thai wines as scheduling and promotions director for the ever-expanding company.
Now some ten years after graduation Nikki has fine-tuned red and white varietal GranMonte wines into multiple international award winners as well as recently introducing a traditional method sparkling syrah rosé. In addition to her winemaking skills she oversees 40+ rai of vineyards on the home property plus a 30 rai vineyard property an hour east of GranMonte. Last year she also assumed management responsibilities for an additional 100 rai of mature vineyards owned by Village Farm winery near Wong Nam Khiao.
Coupling precision vineyard management skills with advanced oenological knowhow Nikki has led GranMonte to the forefront of Thai wine production. Classic whites from chenin blanc, viognier, verdello and sauvignon blanc bolstered by reds from syrah, cabernet sauvignon and grenache are among award winners meriting attention by wine aficionados not only in Thailand but throughout the world. A visit to the scenic hospitality friendly winery is well worth the effort. Otherwise check out their website at www.granmonte.com for retail purchase points for their remarkable wines.
Written by: R. James Mullen