Memorable Wines at the Havana Bar, Holiday Inn Pattaya

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Pattaya wine-lovers recently enjoyed a pleasant evening at the Havana Bar which is part of the relatively new Holiday Inn in North Pattaya. The high-ceilinged and theatrically-lit Havana Bar is a lively place indeed, decked out with Cuban memorabilia like photos of cigar-making and old American cars.

There’s even a photo of Ernest Hemmingway, who in 1940 bought a house outside Havana where he lived for twenty years. There’s also a picture of Sir Winston Churchill, which I assumed was an allusion to Churchill’s passion for Cuban cigars. However, it turned out that Winston Churchill visited Cuba after the Second World War when he stayed in the famous Hotel Nacional in Havana. The hotel still has a “Churchill Bar” named in his honour. Surprisingly, Churchill first visited Cuba in 1895 when he was in his early twenties, acting as a military observer during the Spanish-Cuban war. Not many people know that.

Bantawat Kerkpittaya, manager of Wine Dee Dee  Pattaya, presents the introductory wines.Bantawat Kerkpittaya, manager of Wine Dee Dee  Pattaya, presents the introductory wines.

The three white wines and the four reds were from Australia, Italy and Chile, imported by Wine Dee Dee and served by attentive and charming bar staff. The wines were matched with an array of international cheeses and delightful canapés created by the Holiday Inn chefs. The evening kicked off with a Stonefish Sparkling Brut Cuvée, a fresh sparkler from Australia’s Hunter Valley. You may be familiar with the range of Stonefish wines, a company established fourteen years ago by Peter Papanikitas and which includes Shell Bay wines under its umbrella.

Juthamard Boonchinwudtikun (3rd right), Public Relations Executive of the Holiday Inn Pattaya, poses for a photo with the guests.Juthamard Boonchinwudtikun (3rd right), Public Relations Executive of the Holiday Inn Pattaya, poses for a photo with the guests.

The second wine was the Hugo Casanova Linaje Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Chile’s Maule Valley. This company consistently produces high quality wines. And incidentally, the Spanish word linaje simply means “varietal”. Their medium-bodied Sauvignon had an aroma of grassy fresh fruit, white peaches, pineapples and hints of minerals and herbs. The final white wine was the Shell Bay Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2012 with aromas of lemon, melon, pineapple and with a soft and creamy mouth-feel.

The first red was the easy-drinking Hugo Casanova Linaje Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 which had lovely aromas of strawberry, blackberry and plum. It was a medium-bodied dry wine with plenty of fruit, a touch of smokiness and a good tannic framework. This was followed by the Shell Bay, Shiraz-Cabernet 2011 and despite being nearly 14% alcohol content, the wine was soft and supple with rich fruit and toasty hints of oak, well-balanced and with a decent dash of tannin.

At wine tastings, the best wines are usually served last, so as not to upstage the cheaper offerings. This was certainly the case at the Havana Bar and the two final reds were, to my taste at least, the finest and most elegant wines of the evening. The first was a splendid ruby-red Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2011 from Italy’s Adriatic coast. This wine was made by the old-established Sensi Company and has a delicate aroma of violets and spices, light in texture and beautifully balanced with a hint of firm tannins.

Finally, the Stonefish Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, which at four years old is outstanding. It’s a classic Ozzie Cabernet with a rich, fragrant bouquet of blackberry, plum and a pleasing earthiness. The taste is splendidly rounded, rich and full, with typical flavours of blackcurrant and berries. Despite the high alcohol content of 14% this was an exceptional and perfectly balanced wine.

Holiday Inn’s Public Relations Executive, Juthamard Boonchinwudtikun told me that this is the second wine tasting of the year. The next one will be in October and as usual, the price will be very reasonable. The evening will probably have a Halloween theme, so get your broomstick ready.