Fine Wines from Thailand? Monsoon Valley Wines
Traditionally wine is made between 30° and 50° either side of the equator, that is in the relatively temperate zones. Thailand lies either side of 13° north. With funding from Chalerm Yoovidhya (of the Red Bull empire), Monsoon Valley Wines are a brand developed by and launched in 2003 by the Siam Winery, one of Asia’s biggest wine producers situated near Samut Sakorn, 60 km southwest of Bangkok.
The majority of the grapes for Monsoon Valley come from the so-called floating vineyards of Chao Praya, where the Thai Malaga Blanc and Pokdum varieties are grown, while shiraz, colombard and chenin blanc are sourced from the mountain vineyards of Tab Gwang. Siam Winery also has an experimental vineyard at Hua Hin Hills at Hua Hin, where shiraz, grenache noir and mourvèdre are proving remarkably successful in the subtropical climate.
The Floating Vineyards
The “floating vineyards” are unique to Thailand: the vines are planted on islands separated by canals in the Chao Praya Delta, between the Tacheen and Meklong Rivers. The “floating vineyards” extend to some 9,000 to 10,000 hectares at a height of just 5-10 metres above sea level. As if there weren’t enough water from the canals, annual rainfall is between 1 and 1.5 metres (yes metres – up to 1500mm!). Whereas in other vine-growing areas of the world, tractors are a common sight, here you only see boats!
The subtropical climate means that two harvests a year can be achieved: after the grapes have been harvested, the leaves are removed by hand from the vines, which are then pruned. Between four and six weeks later, the leaves reappear and the next season starts. The winter harvest, between December and March, gives the best crop, while the summer harvest (June-September) takes place during the rainy season and produces a more dilute crop.
The floating vineyards are planted mainly with Malaga blanc (c. 90% of plantings) and pokdum (8%). Malaga blanc apparently originates in southern France (where it is called panse de Provence) and was apparently first planted in Thailand in 1685! It has a thick skin, which help it resist heavy rain, and produces wines with low acidity. Pokdum (which means ‘black queen’ in Thai) is a cross of Golden Queen and Muscat Bailey, and is used for red wines and rosés. (The remaining 2% of the floating vineyards are planted with Muscat of Hamburg/Black Muscat.)
The Mountain Vineyards
The vineyards in the Pak Chong Hills lie 250-300 metres above sea level and cover some 400 hectares. Thanks to their cooler climate, these vineyards look to be the Thai region best suited to international varieties such as shiraz, chenin blanc and colombard.
Siam Winery’s Hua Hin Hills Vineyard lies at 250 metres above sea level in Hua Hin Province and has an experimental plot planted with Grenache, mourvèdre, carignan, pinot noir,colombard, albarinho and torrontes.
2007 Monsoon Valley Siam Winery) White
This is a blend of Malaga blanc and some colombard. It has a curious, slightly muddy nose. Rather simple on the palate. It’s drinkable but of no real interest. Quite funky, very full and a bit murky on the finish. A bit odd really. Perhaps, well chilled, it will work well with the Thai food it’s apparently designed to partner. 81/100
2006 Monsoon Valley Siam Winery) Rosé
This is a blend of Malaga blanc, colombard and shiraz. A much more pleasant nose than the white blend, with soft red fruits. There’s a touch of sweetness on the palate, which is gently fruity. This would be decent with spicy food. 83/100
2007 Colombard, Monsoon Valley Siam Winery)
A nice leafy nose, almost tending to a sort of sauvignon blanc-like grassiness. Good fresh, clean palate. Absolutely fine, but not really terribly interesting. Would serve its purposewith Thai food. 83/100
2007 White Shiraz, Monsoon Valley Siam Winery)
This has very soft red fruit on the nose. A bit dull on the palate, and it’s hard to fight against a link in themind to white zinfandel. There’s a touch of sweetness with the hint of red fruit. Undoubtedly this would be better with food, but on its own it’s just a simple, off dry, slightly pink wine. 82/100
2007 Muscat, Monsoon Valley Siam Winery)
This is a fortified Muscat. It has a real floral, grapey nose, feeling quite elegant. Decent palate, though it’s a touch on the cloying side. 83/100
2006 Monsoon Valley Siam Winery), Red
This is a blend of mainly pokdum with some shiraz. The nose has some perfumed red berry and cherry fruits. On the palate, the flavours are rather unusual, but pleasant. It’s very low in tannin, but has quite a spicy kick on the finish. 85-86/100
2006 Shiraz Special Reserve, Monsoon Valley Siam Winery)
The shiraz (syrah) grapes come from Siam Winery’s Hua Hin Hills Estate. The wine is matured for six months in new French oak.< On the nose, there’s a bit of vanilla oak, together with some slightly funky red oak. Similarly on the palate, you can feel the oak, but it doesn’t dominate the funky red fruit. Some slightly spicy tannins are noticeable onthe finish. 84/100
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Last updated: 27 April 2009