Some may be surprised to learn that Thailand makes its own wine, but yes, Wine Tourism in Khao Yai is thriving!
by Laurence Civil.
Leaving Bangkok, drive north on Phahonyotin Road, then take the elevated expressway passing Don Muang Airport. Before Ayutthaya, head northeast in the direction of Saraburi, then continue on the Mittraphap Expressway leading to Nakhon Ratchassima up to Pak Chong, about 45km from Saraburi. From Pak Chong, the national park is at the end of Thanarad Road, south of Pak Chong town. The park entrance is about 20km from the expressway exit, and the park headquarters are located about 10km south from the park entrance. One of the best ways to explore the wine, food, and scenery is by bicycle and while it is best to bring your own; mountain bikes can he hired close to the visitor center for around THB 100 an hour.
Some may be surprised to learn that Thailand makes its own wine, and traditionally this takes place between the 30th and 50th parallels in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere. Thailand pioneered a “New Latitude of Wine” between the 14th and 18th parallels in the Northern Hemisphere. The reason why Khao Yai produces the best quality grape wines in Thailand is due to the fact that it is located in the driest part of the country the northeast, with a high elevation that gives cool and dry conditions during the ripening period.
Explore by bicycle and sleep, eat and drink in the vineyards. There is often a shroud of mist at dawn before the sunrises over the dusky hills to the east. The wine region has four major vineyards namely: PB Valley, GranMonte and Alcidini to the west and Village Farm to the east.
Let’s start at PB Valley, where the region’s first vines were planted in 1998 by Dr Piya Bhirombhadki – the visionary entrepreneur and owner of Boonrawd Brewery. His pioneering rootstock was Shiraz and Chenin Blanc from France and Tempranillo from Spain, and he declared his first vintage in 1998.
That has expanded to 80 hectares sitting at 320-360 meters above sea level where the varieties now include Dornfelder, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Visitors can stay on site at their resort.
Their contribution to wine tourism was recently recognized at the Golden Tourism Awards (Kinaree Awards of Excellence) Thailand’s travel industry’s equivalent to the Oscars in the agro tourism sector. All nine of their wines were recently recognized at AWC Vienna, where four received silver medals and the remaining five all won “Seals of Approval.”
The year after their first vintage, GranMonte’s Lohitnavy family planted their first Shiraz and Chenin Blanc vines in the Asoke Valley. What put them on the wine map was their daughter Nikki, who graduated in oenology from University of Adelaide and returned to Thailand to become the country’s first female winemaker. Her white and rose wines are clean and crisp, with tropical fruit characteristics sealed under screw caps. Hubert de Bourard from Chateau Angelus from St Emilion, Bordeaux, mentored her on her red wines, teaching her that a large part of winemaking is the work done in the vineyard. They were the first Thai winery to produce an estate fruit Cabernet Sauvignon. Visitors can eat exquisite home style food at VinCotto restaurant and sleep in their seven-room Tuscan-style guest house.
To complete the western trilogy, head to Aldicini – a hillside winery located at an elevation of 550 meters. It consists of 20 acres of mostly Shiraz, with a few row of Muscat Blau just because they can. The Terra Rosa soil has a lime base with ample minerals and good drainage, ideal to cultivate quality wine grapes. They are the only users of the Lyre Trellis system that assists canopy management with having enough foliage to facilitate photosynthesis without excessive shade, which would impede the ripening.
We then cross over to the eastern side to visit Village Farm in Baan Pai Ngam ,Wang Nam Keaw district, where villagers previously grew corn and potatoes. It began in the same era as when GranMonte. Viravat Cholvanich planted his 80 acres of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon at an altitude of 500m above sea level on the southwestern edge of Korat Plateau, between Tublan and the national park.
Wanting a French-style of Thai wine, Jacques Bacou – the owner/winemaker of Chateau du Roc in Corbiers – was retained as a consultant winemaker and brought to Thailand to design and build Chateau de Brumes Winery (the name means ‘Chateau 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 then pressed and the wine is made using traditional French winemaking techniques by a combined Thai/French team.
A visit to the wine country is a weekend alternative to the beach. After 8 p.m. the nights are cool and a jacket or jumper is recommended.
176 Moo 2 Pak Chong
Open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
GPS: 14.54343N – 101.6028E
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
GPS N 14.34082N 101.16554E
102 Moo 5, Phaya Yen, Pak Chong
GPS: 14.3433N 101.1456E