Visionaries and Thai–French teams of winemakers have contributed to create this proud Thai wine-producing valley.
by Laurence Civil.
Traditionally wine grapes are grown between the 30th and 50th parallels in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Thailand pioneered New Latitude of Wine in the narrow band between the 14th and 18th parallels in the Northern hemisphere.
PB Valley Khao Yai Winery (102 Moo 5, Phaya Yen, Pak Chong; 036 226 415–6; firstname.lastname@example.org; GPS 14.3433N – 101.1456E) established the Khao Yai wine region. Dr. Piya Bhirombhadki, the visionary entrepreneur and owner of Boonrawd Brewery, planted his first 20-hectare vineyard with Shiraz and Chenin Blanc from French rootstock and Tempranillo from Spanish rootstock in 1989. He declared his first vintage in 1998.
Today, there are 80-hectare areas under grapevines sitting at 320 to 360 meters above sea level. Prayut Pingbunta, Thailand’s first native-born oenologist, graduated in viniculture and oenology Staatliche Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Wein- und Obstbau Weinsberg (LVWO). On his return to Thailand he was appointed winemaker and manager of the vineyard and winery. Since then he has planted Dornfelder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
A year after PB’s first harvest, Visooth and Sakuna Lohitnavy planted their first Shiraz and Chenin Blanc grapes in the Asoke Valley. Their early vintages were made under contract by PB, with mixed results. The turning point for GranMonte was their daughter Nikki’s graduation in oenology from the University of Adelaide. On her return to Thailand she became the winemaker, and a winery was built for her to craft her style of next generation wines. Her whites and rosés are clean and crisp, with tropical fruit characteristics sealed under screw caps. Hubert de Bourard from Chateau Angelus from Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, mentored on her reds, teaching her that a large part of winemaking is the work done in the vineyard. PB was the first Thai winery to produce an estate fruit Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard has its VinCotto restaurant and a Tuscan-style seven-room guesthouse.
Village Farm & Winery (103 Moo 7, Thaisamakee, Wang Nam Keow; 044 223 407–8; email@example.com; www.villagefarm.co.th; GPS 14.38901N – 101.874565E), located in Baan Pai Ngam Village, in Wang Nam Keaw district at the other side of the national park, was formerly a corn and potato farm. At the same time as the Lohitnavys founded GranMonte Vineyard & Wines (52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong; 044 009 543–4; GPS 14.34082N – 101.15654E), Viravat Cholvanich planted his 80 acres of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon here at an altitude of 500 meters above sea level on the south-western edge of the Korat Plateau, between Tublan and the national park.
Because Cholvanich wanted a French style of Thai wine, Jacques Bacou, the owner/winemaker of Chateau du Roc in Corbiers, was retained as consultant winemaker and was brought to Thailand to design and build Chateau des Brumes Winery (the name means “Castle in the Mist” after the region’s climate). The grapes are harvested in the cool of the night to ensure they are safely stored before sunrise. The grapes are pressed and the wine is made using traditional French winemaking techniques by a combined Thai–French team.
The newest is Alcidini (176 Moo 2, Pak Chong; 08 0784 6969; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alcidini.com; GPS 14.54343N – 101.6028E) the vision of Supot Krijpipudh, an engineer by profession who planted his hillside site 550 metres above sea level, with 20 acres with mostly Shiraz and few rows of Muscat Blau. The location enjoys sunny days and cool breezy nights all year round. The terra rossa soil has a lime base with ample minerals and good drainage, ideal for cultivating quality wine grapes. They are the only winery in Thailand to use the Lyre trellis system that assists with canopy management by ensuring there is enough foliage to facilitate photosynthesis without excessive shade, which would impede ripening.
The wine country is a weekend alternative to the beach. After 8 p.m. the nights are cool, and a jacket or sweater is recommended.