Wine, Thai Style


It can’t have escaped your notice that Thai wines are available at most supermarkets around here. Although there are only a handful of wineries in Thailand (seven, to be exact), some of them are winning prestigious awards at international wine competitions. During the last week or so, I’ve been sampling some of latest vintages from the excellent Khao Yai winery. I’ll tell you about them in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here are two of their wines for starters.

PB Valley Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc 2010 (white), Thailand (Foodland Bt. 539)

The Chenin Blanc (Shen-ihn BLAHN) grape hails from France’s Loire Valley. This wine is made from grapes grown here in Thailand, near the high country of the Khao Yai National Park.

Prayut Piangbunta (left), Director of Khao Yai Winery & Chief Winemaker with Joolpeera Saitrakul, Assistant Winemaker, putting their noses to work. Prayut Piangbunta (left), Director of Khao Yai Winery & Chief Winemaker with Joolpeera Saitrakul, Assistant Winemaker, putting their noses to work.

It’s a very pale gold with a fascinating floral bouquet of green apples, peaches and hints of citrus. It takes a while for the aroma to fully develop, so do give it time. The wine has a pleasingly soft and smooth mouth-feel with a good dash of acidity. It still tastes very young, so there’s a lively, zesty character about it. Swill it around in your mouth and you’ll discover a well-balanced and attractive wine with soft fruit on the palate as well as a dash of green apples, pineapple, peaches and dried herbs. I think there’s a hint of vanilla there too. To my mind, it has a kind of Thai “feel” about it.

The wine is fairly light bodied with a pleasing citrus finish and a touch of attractive acidity. This would make a brilliant apéritif before dinner because the zingy acidity would perk up the taste buds. For the same reason you could serve this with fish (smoked salmon comes to mind), but it would partner fish or chicken in a mild creamy sauce. It would work well with many Thai dishes too, but serve it really well-chilled.

This is a really attractive wine and it will be interesting to see how it develops in a year or so, because it is still very youthful. Not that I am against youthful wines you understand, for I am quite youthful myself. You can ask any of my friends.

PB Valley Khao Yai Reserve Shiraz 2009 (red), Thailand (Foodland Bt. 539)

I’ve been looking forward to tasting this wine because during the last few weeks I have tasted several Australian Shiraz wines. And pretty hefty things they were too; the kind of wines that taste as though they could bring down a horse.

As expected, this Shiraz (SHEE-razz) is a dark purple-red colour and in the glass it looks a powerful, meaty kind of wine. But appearances can be deceptive. In reality, it is a very pleasing, fairly full-bodied easy-drinker which is assertive enough to be interesting. There’s an aroma of red and black berries, dry herbs, licorice and a kind of earthy aroma of raisins with hints of oak. If you really put your nose to work, you might pick up the smell of black pepper, one of the typical aromas of Shiraz. But all these smells take time to develop, so be patient. It would probably help to tip the whole bottle into a decanter to give it maximum air contact.

There’s plenty of fruit on the palate and the wine has a really smooth mouth-feel, an attractive balance and very soft tannin. Actually, the tannin is barely noticeable, but there’s a pleasing hint of oak on the long dry finish.

Compared to some of the heavy Australian Shiraz wines I tasted recently, this is much more delicate and refined. Very Thai, I thought. Although the alcohol content is quite high at 13.5%, this wine has a light touch, so much so that I’d be perfectly happy to drink this wine on its own, in the company of a good book and a large shaggy dog. Needless to say, the shaggy dog wouldn’t get much of the wine. As far as I can remember, most of my dogs prefer a really good Beaune.