23 Jan FROM GRAPES TO GLASS
This visit is special, not only I traveled 5000 miles to the other side of the world, but I then drove another 200 km from Bangkok to Hua-Hin.
Monsoon Valley Vineyard is located in a magical setting. It is built on a former elephant corral where wild Asian elephants were domesticated. The owner started developing the site after successfully experimenting at the nearby Royal Research Station at Huay Sai in 2003. Like many new latitude winemakers, Monsoon Valley has been continuously pushing the boundaries from vintage to vintage. It won so many international awards including Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition, Decanter World Wine Awards, Mundus Vini International Wine Award and many, many more.
A day at Monsoon vineyard:
I visited the vineyard in late December 2019. Though it was above 32 degrees and it was a dry season (Thais call this period ‘wintertime’), an English person would have thought it was roasting.
As soon as I stepped in, Khun Koi (the manager of The Sala Wine Bar and Bistro) made me feel very welcome. The Sala Wine Bar and Bistro set in a beautiful panoramic view of green luscious vineyard with a great backdrop of Hua-Hin Hill.
While we were waiting for the vineyard tour transport, I wandered under the Marlow vines where I met Khun Bunchoat (one of the workers). He was pruning the grapevines, these Marlow vines are one of the on-site products, along with two vegetable gardens, which provide the fresh home-grown ingredients to the bistro.
Khun Boonchoat is living locally and has been working at Monsoon Valley for over 10 years. He explained that the vineyard collects the rainwater during Monsoon Season and distributes throughout the year. The way he carefully selected (or deselected) the fruits was like meditation; repetitively hand-selected, cutting the fruits row by row, made me appreciate the effort that goes into this viniculture even more.
The private vineyard tour:
I shared the cart with Khun Nus from Sopa-Thai, one of the main UK distributors. Khun Nus explained that Monsoon Valley has won so many awards around the globe and it is very popular amongst Thai restaurants in the UK. “ It goes very well with complexity which is the main character of Thai food”
Here we go, I got on the cart and waited for the driver. Surprisingly, the slim built Khun Goi jumped on the driver’s seat…. “ The driver is on emergency maintenance duty …but don’t worry I am legally able to operate this vehicle… she smiled… We are all helping each other here”
First stop at Colombard, Monsoon Valley Vineyard was the first vines imported from Rhone Valley. It is usually the time of the blooming season and pollination. Due to the warmer climate this year, the vines were mostly starting to develop the beautiful berries. By the end of February-March, these beautiful fruits will be ready to harvest.
Next stop at Dornfelder, originated from Germany, Monsoon Valley Vineyard is very proud to represent this grape. They started to grow Dornfelder in 2004 and took them 10 years to wait, develop and achieve the best quality fruits, then afterward decided to harvest in 2014. It produced its Signature products, which won the Silver Medal in Germany recently.
Next stop: Sangiovese, Toscana, and Emelia-Romagna claimed to be its origin. Khun Goi frankly explained to me “Sangiovese hasn’t been so fruitful for the past two years. However, the team is continuously adapting the way they cultivated and helped the tree achieve its potential” That means, trying the new approach: observe and be patient. This place is like a winery laboratory in Thailand.
Last stop (for now): Shiraz, I must admit, I am excited about this varietal. Not only, I found Monsoon Valley Shiraz goes perfectly well with the heavy season (the complex characters of Thai curry/ food), but also to see the old Shiraz grapevine tree which was planted by the owner himself, Khun Chalerm Yoovidhya, is totally worth my while to come all this way. Other varietals such as; Rondo, Chenin Blanc, Muscat are also thriving here.
Before, we headed back for the wine tasting session. Khun Koi took us to “Ton- Grang” It is part of Sacred Fig Tree family. Standing alone in the middle grapevine rows, I looked up towards the top and there she was! The old oak wooden barrel provides the nest for many Hornbill families in the past and many years to come. It is one of many preservation projects that Monsoon Valley participated towards. The ponds, where they collect the rainwater during monsoon season itself, is the home of many fishes and lobsters. Rabbits, monkeys, snakes, elephants and many wild animals live also call this land home. Khun Koi also explained that the vineyard is no longer continuing the elephant riding tour.
Wine has had a long history of being served as an accompaniment to food. The perfect combination can truly enhance the dining experience. The interaction between food and wine can excite diners. Let’s see how the tapas set will pair with premium Monsoon Valley wines.
- We started from Premium range White Colambard pairing with delicate Chilled Crab meat and Apple Timbale. This refreshing and lively Colambard goes incredibly well with this naturally sweet and sour apple and creamy fresh crab cake. This is my favorite pair out of the three.
- It is followed by Monsoon Valley Premium White Shiraz. This fresh palette and up-lifting fruit concentration rose are paired with Lobster and a frozen red curry dish. Absolutely stunning and surprisingly the fruitiness does not overpower this mildly spiced dish at all.
- My wine tasting experience ended well with the classic premium medium body with a glorious maroon…. Shiraz. The medium acidity cut through smoked duck breast with crispy wonton. This pair is such fun to savor.
New Horizon of New Latitude WineWhat is new latitude wine?
For many years, we considered that grape wine can only be grown in between 30°-50°, latitude. Above 50° will be too cold –not enough sunlight and at risk of frostbite. Below 30°, will be too hot and there will be problems with water.
Mostly, new latitude wine is approached as a blend between the Old and the New World. Some are experimenting with hybrid grapes that suit their agricultural environments. Being outside the traditional norm means pushing the boundaries, innovative approach or even accept the failure. Nature is here for us… to observe and learn. From grapes to glass in tropical viticulture has proven challenging, but perseverance leads to phenomenal results. This glorious liquid certainly has more than just one story to tell.
Special Thanks to Monsoon Valley Vineyard UK and Thailand for such a special day.
You can check some of my recipes which go with Thai Wine on i.e. Lamb Massaman with Thai Red Wine, Southern Thai Sour Curry with delicious Rose even Thai Shortbread with Chenin Blanc Thai dessert wine.
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Author: Marni Xuto