From the richly decorated temples and the lush jungle to the water-logged rice fields, the imagery associated with Thailand is a far cry from that of French-style vineyards.
However, a handful of wineries have emerged in the Kingdom of Siam over the last thirty years. Turning a blind eye to the tropical climate and the monsoons, Chalerm Yoovidhya owns half of the country's wineries. It was he who, in the 1980s, first thought of importing vines into Thailand to produce wines for the local market. With support from experienced winegrowers, the businessman learned how to cope with the natural elements. Here, vines grow from November to May, at the peak of the dry season.
Although the red rock soils produce good quality grapes, the humidity is a challenge for the winemaking and ageing process. The grape varieties imported from Europe, such as Syrah, Muscat and Brunello, are therefore used to produce wines for early drinking. Chalerm Yoovidhya and rival companies produce reds, whites and rosés that are particularly well-suited to Thai cuisine. Expressive and spicy, they show characteristic fruit notes; the rosés are fresh and crisp; the whites fat with iodine-like aromas; and the reds refined or rich depending on the producers.
Chalerm Yoovidhya has inspired other wine growers. By 2015, the Kingdom of Siam had 4,000 hectares of vines spread over three different regions - Khao Yai in the north of the state, Pattaya and Hua Hin in the centre. Producing 12 million litres of wine annually, Thailand has successfully earned a place among the new wine producing countries.
Written by Alexandra Reveillon