GranMonte Wine in Pattaya

(l-r) Kiattisak Pinnapong, Nikki Lohitnavy and Mimi Lohitnavy

Wine in Love is a wine and coffee bar as well as a wholesale-retail wine outlet which has been in business in Pattaya for about a year. It’s a beautifully appointed bar and shop, with a vast selection of wines and a special temperature-controlled space for some of the fine classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Marketing Manager of Wine in Love is Kiattisak Pinnapong who recently organised an event to celebrate the news that Wine in Love is now the Pattaya and Chonburi distributor of the award-winning wines from the Thai winery of GranMonte.

Assisting Khun Kiattisak with the presentation were Nikki Visootha Lohitnavy (GranMonte Oenologist, Winemaker and General Manager and Mimi Suvisooth Lohitnavy (Marketing Director). The CEO and Managing Director of this family-owned winery Visooth Lohitnavy and Sakuna Lohitnavy, the President.

The GranMonte story began in 1999, when Visooth Lohitnavy acquired a 16-hectare plot of land (about 40 acres) which had previously been a cornfield and cashew plantation. The land, which nestles in the foothills of Khao Yai National Park was eventually cleared and prepared for its new role as a vineyard. Visooth carefully studied vines and soil types, and selected several grape varieties to discover those which would yield fruit of high quality.

Nikki Lohitnavy checking wines in advance

The GranMonte Asoke Valley state-of-the-art winery began operation in January 2009 using imported winemaking equipment from France, Germany, Italy and Australia. With the world’s most advanced grape processing and sorting technology, top quality French and American oak barrels are used for aging the wines and temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks are used for fermentation. The winery now has the capacity to produce 120,000 bottles of wine every year and operates hand-in-hand with GranMonte Estate’s single vineyard.

GranMonte wines has since become the most respected winery in Thailand, having won dozens of awards over the past four years including gold medals and trophies from top international wine competitions such as AWC Vienna, Japan Wine Challenge, Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition and the UK’s prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards.

The first two wines at the Wine in Love presentation were sparklers, both made by the méthode traditionnelle which is a time-consuming and exacting, labour-intensive process perfected in the Champagne region of France. In this process, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottles and during the long waiting period of up to eighteen months, the all-important bubbles develop as does the characteristic yeasty aroma. The welcome wine was the delightful GranMonte Sparking Rosé Méthode Traditionnelle Brut which has an enchanting aroma with delicate hints of raspberry and strawberry. Made entirely from Syrah grapes, it’s a light-bodied refreshing wine with a dash of acidity and just a hint of sweetness making it a perfect start to the afternoon tasting. “Brut” means dry, but not completely dry and this lovely refreshing wine has almost a creamy quality with delicate bubbles. It was followed by the GranMonte Crémant Méthode Traditionnelle Extra Brut, made entirely from Chenin Blanc grapes. The wine has a lovely yeasty aroma of pear, apple and predominately lime. It’s completely dry and has good refreshing acidity, rather soft effervescence and a long fruity finish.

(l-r) Nikki Lohitnavy and Mimi Lohitnavy

The next wine was the GranMonte Verdelho 2020, made from 11-year-old Verdelho vines which were hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel to preserve the freshness. The Verdelho grape is a classic variety associated with the Portuguese island of Madeira, which lies in the North Atlantic about 300 miles west of Morocco. In Thailand, Verdelho grapes are grown only in the GranMonte vineyard. The wine has a striking aroma of gooseberry and on the palate, suggestions of mango and a definite hint of minerals and white pepper. It’s quite full-bodied with an almost creamy quality and a notably long finish.

The final white wine on show was the GranMonte Orient Viognier 2020 and it’s the only Viognier produced in Thailand. During the 1980s almost all the Viognier in the world was grown in the Northern Rhône and only later did it become popular in California and Australia. Like Chardonnay, Viognier has the potential to produce full-bodied soft wines but it has more natural aromatics that include notes of peach and pear. Hand-picked at night to preserve the freshness, the juice was fermented without skin contact and has produced a pale-yellow wine with aromas of apricot and a touch of citrus. It has firm acidity too which brings freshness to the wine and there’s a lingering and satisfying finish.

Both the GranMonte winery and vineyard are the sole responsibility of Nikki Lohitnavy, GranMonte’s in-house oenologist and winemaker. During the wine tasting, Nikki gave several fascinating talks assisted by Mimi, her sister. Nikki is Thailand’s first and only fully qualified winemaker and she studied at Adelaide University, earning her Bachelor Degree in Oenology with Honours in Viticulture. She has also worked at several fine wineries, including Brown Brothers and Wolf Blass in Australia. She has worked in France at La Fleur de Bouard (Lalande de Pomerol) and Chateau Angelus (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé) and has been visiting winemaker at the Anwilka and Klein Constantia wineries in South Africa. Nikki has also travelled to many parts of the world as a visiting speaker, wine consultant or as a judge at wine competitions.

Nikki first explained the significance of New Latitude wines. Whereas Old World and New World wines come from countries that lie between 30°-50° latitude in both hemispheres, New Latitude wines are made in regions above 50° or below 30° latitude and include wines from countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, India, China and Thailand.

Nikki outlined the geography, geology and climate of the GranMonte vineyards and explained how most grapes need about 150-170 days of optimum conditions before the annual harvest, which in Thailand is between January and March. The serene atmosphere and natural surroundings of Asoke Valley provide the perfect setting for the GranMonte Estate. The name of course translates as “big mountain” and the vineyard lies at about 350 metres (1,000 ft) above sea level. It’s an ideal microclimate for growing high-quality wine grapes in a wet tropical region. GranMonte currently grows Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Verdelho, Durif and Grenache as well as many varieties of table grapes.

The selection of three reds began with the GranMonte Durif 2019, an unusual grape variety originating from the Rhône Valley and nowadays grown in Australia, California, France and Israel. It’s known as Petit Sirah in the USA and produces dark, inky and quite acidic wines. GranMonte is the first and only producer of Durif in Thailand. The grapes were planted in 2005 and the wine has a rich fruity aroma. It has a richly-flavoured – almost meaty – palate with reminders of dark fruit, pepper and licorice. The characteristic Durif acidity is also there and the wine has a long finish with soft tannins.

Wine in Love, Pattaya

The Syrah grape has a long-documented history in the Rhône region of south-eastern France. It’s is a dark-skinned red grape and today grown throughout the world. The style and flavour profile of Syrah is largely influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown. The GranMonte Orient Syrah 2017 is a full-bodied wine produced by extended maceration of six weeks. (This is the process of soaking the crushed grapes, seeds, and stems to extract aroma, colour and tannins.) The wine was then aged in French oak barrels for fourteen months. The result is a complex wine with rich aromas of blackberry, plum and hints of black pepper. It’s dry of course, well-rounded and oaky with a persistent finish.

Then finally, it was the star of the show: a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, a blend popular in Australia since the 1970s where Syrah is known as Shiraz. GranMonte Asoke Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 2019 is one of finest products the winery has to offer, made using their highest quality grapes. The Cabernet accounts for 72% of the blend and after fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, the wine was aged for nineteen months in French and American oak barrels. The result is a robust and complex wine with loads of black fruit on the aroma. The Syrah in the blend fills out the body, creating a rich and silky texture with firm tannins. It’s a fruit-driven complex wine with subtle flavours of plum, rich, earthy fruit, herbs and dry spices. It really is a finely-crafted wine and gives the impression that with further ageing in the bottle it will become even more refined. It was a splendid finale to a fascinating afternoon of top-quality Thai wine.

Wine in Love (084 516 9669) can be found at the Sukhumvit end of Thepprasit Road. If you are going up the hill towards Sukhumvit Road, the shop is on the left-hand side, about 300 meters from the Sukhumvit Road traffic lights. The shop and bar are open every day from 11.00 – 21.00. When you’re there, don’t forget to buy one of the splendid wines from GranMonte.

Wine in Love, Pattaya
GranMonte vineyard Khao Yai

Nikki pruning in the vineyard

GranMonte winery

(l-r) Nikki, Visooth and Sakuna Lohitnavy

Night-time grape harvesting