Southeast Asia wine regions? Is it even possible to make wine in the tropics? Thirty years ago, the answer would have been no for sure.
But winemaking in the far east is alive and it isn't because of black magic or climate change. So here are three wine regions in Southeast Asia you should know about!
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1. Thailand Wine Regions
You might know Thailand has white sand beaches, spicy food, and temples, but did you also know that Thai wine regions are also making huge strides in wine production?
In the late 1980s the first vines were brought into the country to the Hua Hin Hills by Rama IX, the King of Thailand. It was a royal project. As a result, today we have Thailand's wine regions.
With Thailand’s tropical monsoon climate and proximity to the equator, the country only receives 12 hours of sunlight a day. This proves a real challenge for winemakers. However, this has not stopped the tenacity of producers, in fact it has forced them to develop innovative tropical viticulture.
One Thai winery a few miles away from Bangkok even grows its grapes from floating vines! When your'e looking at the beautiful scenery of Thailand, don’t be surprised if you find symmetrical rows of well-tended vines surrounded by palm trees and pineapple plantations.
So you must be wondering, is Thai wine good? Fear not, all wineries from Thailand are fitted with the latest equipment and employ experienced Western oenologists.
In fact, the progress of Thai wineries is so rapid that Thai wines have recently won many international awards and regularly get great reviews from Decanter and Wine Advocate experts.
Since there is a subjective element to wines, the best way to know if you personally like Thai wines is to try them yourself. Don’t hesitate to stop by Thai wineries like Granmonte Winery or Silverlake Vineyard while you’re on holiday to learn more about Thai winemaking.
2. Myanmar Wine Regions | Shan State
The classic image evoked by wine is often that of vines tumbling down the flanks of a verdant hill in the French countryside. But did you know that are also real scenes like this in the north-eastern mountains of Myanmar?
Myanmar has recently opened to tourism and there are few other destinations more coveted today. Tourism there has experienced an incredible boom since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, a famous Burmese politician.
Beyond current events, the country that used to be called Burma remains an extraordinarily beautiful country, which contains some of the world's most important cultural sites. There are only two wineries in Myanmar, Aythaya and Red Mountain, and they are both hidden gems high up in the mountains.
Despite the excellent fertility of the land, Myanmar's tropical climate and relatively short days during the budding period in June and July limit the number of grape varieties they could grow there. It alsomakes it difficult to produce a good wine.
Fungus, which often grows better than grapes, also creates trouble for the winemakers. Another obstacle to making good wines in Myanmar wine regions is the absence of property rights and the difficulties of importing agricultural equipment and exporting wine.
None of these challenges stopped Bert Morsbach, Aythaya’s winemaker, who planted vines on the misty hills of Shan State This location benefits from mild temperatures thanks to its altitude of 1,100 meters.
Because of their small production, Burmese wines aren’t exported so tourists must visit the country to discover these rare products!
3. Indonesia Wine Regions | Bali
Imagine for a minute a country with a tropical climate, where you can harvest grapes up to three times a year, where the vineyard doesn’t rest, where it’s 23°C in winter, and where the vines don’t live more than 12 years.
Welcome to Bali, the only wine-growing region of Indonesia! (Credit: Hatten Wines)
Although its history is young (winemaking in Bali started in 1994 with the creation of the estate Hatten Wines) Bali and other Indonesian wine regions have made great progress in top quality winemaking.
Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, strictly controls the importation of alcoholic beverages.
That's why the idea of producing a Balinese wine came from a handful of Australian entrepreneurs who thought tourists would like to buy locally made wines. They also saw it as a good way to get around the exorbitant import tax on foreign wines.
You’ve probably never heard of the grape varieties grown in Bali such as Probolinggo Biru, Belgia, or Alphonse-Lavallée.
Belgia (white variety) is a crossing between the Muscat of Alexandria and Alphonse Lavallée. Alphonse-Lavallée (black variety) itself is a crossing between the Muscat of Hamburg and the Kharistvala Kolkhuri, an indigenous red grape variety from Georgia.
To learn more about Asian wine and the countries that produce it, check out our latest edition of the Asian Wine Review for free!