New Emissary

Thai Reds…and Whites

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New Emissary

Thai Reds…and Whites

Thailand’s fledgling wine industry is using tourism to its advantage, with results.

Hearing the phrase ‘Thailand’s reds,’ especially after last month’s crisis in Bangkok, would probably lead most of us to think politics. But I’m happy to leave that to Filipino lawmaker and writer Mong Palatino, who’s today written an interesting feature story that suggests there may be more similarities than usually assumed between Thailand’s Red and Yellow shirts.

It turns out that another of Thailand’s reds—and whites—have according to a recently published news piece, been gaining quite some ground internationally over the past few years. Surprisingly, Thai wines have even been making appearances at events like the prestigious London's International Wine & Spirits Competition and Australia's International Wine Challenge. And last year, a Thai-produced wine, Monsoon Valley's Colombard vintage 2009, won an award at the Hong Kong's International Wine & Spirits Competition. The Monsoon Valley winery is also a ‘popular tourist attraction’ with a tasting bar, restaurants and elephants available for rides, and therefore according to the article, a perfect example of ‘the business model that works best in Thailand.’ That is, one for which you ‘turn your vineyard and winery into a tourist attraction and live off the on-site sales.’

And the trend seems to be helping. Thailand’s vineyards welcomed 56,000 domestic and foreign visitors last year alone, with doubled profits, and they project more in 2010.

Clearly though, the industry will not be able to compete with other booming Asian markets like China, as one Thai wine industry figure, Visooth Lohitnavy, managing director of GranMonte Company, noted and put into a practical perspective: ‘I don't think we can be a major force in the world wine industry…We are a small producing country, but the main thing is we should have good-quality wine for local consumption and for foreigners who like to taste Thai wines.’

Where are these Thai wines being produced? According to InfoHub, an online ‘specialty travel guide’ that offers two-day tours through the region, they are made in ‘the stunning Asoke Valley’ at an elevation of 350 metres above sea level. The website also points out that ‘Thailand's vineyards are cool and dry, perfect for nurturing wine grapes.’

Further making winery visits a desirable tourist activity in Thailand is that most of the country’s vineyards are based in the area that’s also home to Khao Yai National Park, the country’s ‘oldest and best known nature sanctuary’ and a UNESCO world heritage site.

InfoHub’s ‘Khao Yai Wine Trails’ tour includes sightseeing in the famous park, bike riding through the countryside with stops at two local wineries, Gran Monte Winery Khao Yai Winery, and a stay at the Cabbages & Condoms Resort—which is a story on its own.

Image: Palio Khao Yai, Thailand

by snck / Flickr.