Everyone has a thing. Something that they’re good at; something they’d enjoy doing every day for the rest of their life.
My thing is wine—and I don’t mean just drinking it. I’ve studied wine and managed a winery in the wine country of British Columbia’s Okanagan region. Whether I’m reading about it or tasting it, I’ve made wine a part of my everyday life. But don’t get me wrong: I’m not an alcoholic! I appreciate and respect wine as art.
Then we came to Thailand. To be honest, I didn’t know Thailand even produced wine, but it turns out that, since 1995, winemakers have established small but thriving wineries that are producing award-winning wines there, and wine making is becoming more popular with each year.
If wine were a painting, the “artists” at the Alcidini winery in the Khao Yai region of Central Thailand, about a four- to five-hour drive northeast from Bangkok, are among the Picassos and Dalis of the increasingly popular Thai wine industry. It was incredible to see the sophistication and quality of their wines up close on our tour.
Grapes aren’t native to Thailand. By importing vines from Canada, France and Germany, they’ve managed to produce varietals of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, muscat brown, Canadian muscat and, surprisingly, a rosé that pairs well with… you guessed it—spicy Thai food!
The 20-acre Alcidini winery was started by Supot and his wife more than 20 years ago. An engineer by profession, Supot commuted between his weekday job in Bangkok and weekends working the land, tirelessly preparing the land into a retirement project. Since those early days, their son, Tony, has joined the family business and helps with all aspects of running the winery, including wine making, marketing and tours—including ours. The family’s hospitality was top-notch, along with Tony’s impeccable English skills.
When we arrived, we were greeted with thick, sweet, all-natural grape juice served in frosty glasses. We then followed Tony into the vineyard, where dozens of rows of vines protruded from the hillside. Syrah from France and muscat brown from Germany were among the vines we visited; some young, some old, but all healthy and thriving.
Tony explained that in this humid climate, it’s difficult to grow grapes because there isn’t a season in which they can go dormant to rest and recharge. There is no winter in Thailand—which means that, technically, they could harvest twice in one year, but in order to maintain the health and longevity of the vines, they only harvest once annually.
After our informative tour and a five-star lunch at a neighbouring resort, it was time to taste the magic! We hurried over to the beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards to enjoy a tasting (and not a small tasting, either). We were presented with a flight of eight wines: in front of our excited palates stood two rosés, a 2011 shiraz from a very rainy season, a 2012 shiraz from a drought season, a few reserve syrahs of limited editions, a shiraz dominant blend boasting a French style of wine-making and a thick, sweet port-style wine.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the part where I began salivating. Every molecule of my body was vibrating with excitement—but I will refrain from boring you with my mumbo jumbo and technical wine banter. However, I will tell you about my favourites.
I enjoyed the first rosé a lot. An award winner in 2015, it was a dry, clean rosé with a quick finish. On the nose it was quite floral, and delivered a lychee, nut flavour on the palate, not at all sweet or syrupy. A winner for sure. We didn’t have any spicy food to pair it with, but I’m sure it’s a delight beside a red curry or spicy papaya salad.
My other favourite was the “easy-drinking” 2011 shiraz from their flood year which surprised me, because I’m usually a fan of an intense, bold red wine. The abundance of liquid from the rain made the grapes extremely juicy and plump, contributing to a softer, less concentrated taste that doesn’t pucker your tongue up into a shrivelled sponge, as some dry red wines do. The explosion of dark black cherries and plums is accompanied by a hint of pure, dark chocolate and robust coffee. All of my favourite things put into a bottle.
The ambiance of the surrounding gardens and rolling vineyards at Alcidini is a feast for the senses. This winery not only specializes in wine production, but also grows huge avocados and Team Outpost’s new favourite tropical treat, mulberries! At the end of the day, we were presented with souvenirs and gifts from our wonderful hosts. After saying goodbye, I safely tucked my 2011 “rainy season red” into my bag, buckled my seatbelt and drifted off to sleep. It was a successful day discovering this classy, family owned boutique winery and tasting a small part of an industry that is on the brink of a revolution.