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CHINA IN SPOTLIGHT
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AseanAffairs Magazine November - December 2010
CONTENT • ASEAN TRADE
ASEAN AVIATION • ASEAN TRAVELLER
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The emerging role of China in the 21st century is a focal point for conjecture and a certain degree of apprehension in the world outside of China. Is China an ally, a competitor, an adversary or perhaps all three?

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By
David Swartzentruber

 

 

 

                                  

                                       Asean’s bold new wine industry
In spite of climate and cultural challenges, grape growing and winemaking are getting roots down in
Asean countries,contributing to the economies of the countries they are in and providing new tourist attractions. 

Wine is one of the world’s oldest agricultural products, dating back about 10,000 years. Although wine can be produced from any fruit and a number of other plants, the wine grape, known as vitis vinifera, has developed as the prototypical wine. One reason for this is that wine grapes have more juice than all other fruits. Another is that the wine grape is a complex plant and often mimics the flavors of other fruits because of its complex chemical composition.

Wine grape plants were originally moved from their native locations in the Mideast, such as Afghanistan and Iran, to Greece, Italy and western Europe, but at the end of the 20th century a return trip to Asia was made as wine lovers decided to try their luck in the “new latitude,” as one wine writer described it.

Grape harvesting in Asean occurs during the months of February and March.

Today, Thailand has eight wineries, Myanmar (Burma) two, Indonesia one, and Vietnam two.

The cultural barriers that Asean wineries have to overcome are twofold. In Asia, generally, the concept of an alcoholic drink is distilled spirits that can be consumed anytime with or without food. Wine drinking is often viewed as a western import, and the concept that wine is part of a meal and that it may actually enhance the meal is still foreign to most Asians. In some Asian countries, religious views prohibit the consumption of beverages containing alcohol.

Despite these barriers, the consumption of wine is growing, and international wine marketing companies regard Asia as the fastest growing wine region. Here then is a brief description of the wineries in each of the four Asean countries that are their homes.

THAILAND
The history of the modern wine industry in Thailand dates back to the early 1980s when researchers at the King of Thailand’s Royal Project in northern Thailand began field testing the viability of plants unknown to Thailand as part of their High Altitude Research Project.

Disease-free grape varieties were brought in from the University of California at Davis and after about seven years in the field the researchers announced that the Syrah grape for red wine and Chenin Blanc for white wine had fared the best under actual growing conditions in Thailand. These two grapes remain the mainstays of the Thai wine industry; however, individual wineries continue experimentation, and wines from new grape cultivars such as Colombard, Pok Dum (a local grape), Viognier and Tempranillo are now being bottled.

The total annual production of all Thai wineries is usually around 84,000 cases of wine _ 12 bottles per case. The “heart” of Thailand’s wine industry now is situated in the same region as Thailand’s oldest national park, Khao Yai National Park. The region boasts elevations between 400 and 1000 metres that allow for some defence from Thailand’s heat and humidity. The wineries are two to three hours drive from Bangkok and are the Alcidini, Granmonte, Khao Yai and Village Farm Wineries.

The Alcidini Winery was started in 2001 by Supot Krikpitudh on a hillside 550 meters above sea level. At first table grapes were grown but after 4 years wine grapes replaced the table grapes, and that is why production is still small at the winery. Two wines are made: a Syrah and a rose wine are currently produced, with production expected to increase in the future. Visits are by appointment only. The web site is www.alcidini.com

The Granmonte Winery is located in the Asoke Valley at an elevation of 350 meters and it celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The winery is a project of Visooth Lohitnavy and his family that includes wife Sakuna and daughter Nikki, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in enology and viticulture from the University of Adelaide. The winery offers a complete package, with a guest house and the VinCotto restaurant offering “generous portions at reasonable prices.” Granmonte’s wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages have been released. The winery has been winning a slew of medals not only in Thailand but in wine judgings in Japan, Vienna and the United Kingdom, for all of its wines. Of particular interest are Asoke, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend; Fiori and Orient, unfiltered Syrah wines; and any of the Chenin Blanc and Rose Wines. The Sole wine, a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, is fine. The web site is www. granmonte.com.

Asoke is the name given by Gronmonte to the first Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend in Thailand.

The Khao Yai Winery was started in 1989 by Dr. Piya Bhirombhakdi, former president of Boonrawd Brewery Co., Ltd. (brewers of Singha Beer) on 320 hectares surrounded by the Dong Payayen mountain range. It was the first winery in the Khao Yai region. After extensive field testing, four grape varieties were selected: Shiraz (Syrah), Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc and Colombard. Prayut Piangbunta, who once had dreams of becoming a brewmaster, was sent to Germany to become a winemaker and is currently the director of PB Valley (B.B. Holding Co., Ltd., Pakchong Branch), manager and chief winemaker at the 3,000 square meter winery. Khao Yai offers wine in three ranges in ascending order: Sawasdee, PB Reserve Range and Pirom Khao Yai Reserve. The winery has won international awards for its Tempranillo, Shiraz and Chenin Blanc wines. The Great Hornbill Grill Restaurant has a large menu of international and Thai dishes and a resort is available for accommodation. The web site is http://www.khaoyaiwinery.com.

The Village Farm winery is located on the “other side” of the Korat Plateau region on Highway 304 in the Wang Nam Keow subdistrict and is now 10 years old. The Village Farm estate encompasses 80 acres at an altitude of more than 500 meters. The winery has a number of rooms for overnight stays, a restaurant and a spa. The Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc wines are produced in two ranges _ Chateau des Brumes and Village Cellar.
The web site is http://www. villagefarm.co.th/.

Siam Winery was founded in 1982 by Chalerm Yoovidhya as a producer of Spy wine cooler. By 2003 the focus had moved to table wines with the introduction of the Monsoon Valley brand. Some of the grapes for the wines are grown in “floating vineyards” in the Chao Phraya delta where Malaga and Pok Dum grapes are raised and in the winery’s vineyard and at Pak Chong and Hua Hin. The varieties include..........


 

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