Thailand has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, namely settling political differences with bombs and bullets. Thankfully when I was there in January it hadn’t gotten to that point yet and I was able to enjoy a beautiful country full of friendly people, and, of course, check out wine lists and poke around a few stores.
This is an affliction, politely called professional curiosity, that has burned time on every vacation I’ve taken since I started working here. However, much like new wines from new places and new varietals, it can be very interesting and informative. Assuming, of course, you’re travelling with those similarly afflicted or those patient enough to withstand your curiosity – it helps to bribe them with the promise of refreshment after the “research”.
The wine culture of Thailand can be charitably described as nascent, not surprising really given the nature of their weather and the spice factor in their food and the lack of disposable income for the vast majority of people. The initial stages of a wine culture can be intriguing though and it is based on creating a comfort zone with basic flavors, and then gradually expanding that zone and introducing flavor complexity over time. It seems like a process made of graduated steps, with each one giving a gentle nudge away from the known comforts and hopefully intriguing with a new flavor or texture.
I saw lots of Australian wine at affordable prices, with a shorter range of producers and bottlings as prices increased. The stores had a smattering of Italian and French wines, most from unglamorous regions and producers who have managed not to crack the Spectator Top 100. American wines were relatively few and far between at retail and only slightly more plentiful on the lists at restaurants, and almost none were small producers. I was surprised to hear from Caroline Parent of A.F. Gros during her recent visit to the store that Bangkok is a good market for her wines. Then came the explanation of a well-connected distributor and lots of internationally-known hotels, hopefully some of the business dinners with Burgundy involve Thais who can then add Vosne-Romanee to their vocabulary. Also because my home lab has shown that both white and red Burgundy work well with Thai food.
If you have reached a comfort zone with your wines and would like to take a graduated step, here are some suggestions.
2012 Domaine Trotereau Quincy ($15.99) – Pronounced “can see”, Quincy is over the hill west of Sancerre along the river Cher. Like most Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs there is fresh lively fruit, a solid mineral streak and a snappy crisp finish. Thankfully 2012 was kinder to the vignerons than 2011 and even better Quincy is still not as famous as Sancerre, which saves you money.
2011 Maison Henri Boillot Saint – Aubin ($35.99) – Saint-Aubin is a Burgundy village with a growing reputation and this wine will certainly help push that process. If you need a break from California Chardonnay or want to try a white Burgundy for less than $50 start here.
2012 Kungfu Girl Riesling ($11.99) – If you’re still holding on to the belief that domestic Rieslings are all somewhere between slightly sweet and definitely sweet this Washington state Riesling will provide ample evidence to the contrary. Classic Riesling aromatics, a dry but lingering finish, food versatile and $12? No wonder we bought plenty, will it be enough?
2011 Tangent Grenache Blanc ($13.99) – Could I get a show of hands please, of everyone who has tried a Grenache Blanc? That’s what I thought, which is why I encourage you to try this one. Winemaker notes that claim “rich and full-bodied, has nice minerality, and … is great on its own or with spicy Thai food.” means I have to try it and the result is that I now have an adequate supply at home.
2009 Kenneth Volk Mourvedre ($24.99) – This is the varietal that made Domaine Tempier & Bandol famous, and is a component of many Chateauneuf du Papes. This is the best California rendition of the varietal I’ve come across, medium-bodied and full of brambly, spicy aromatics and flavors. When you taste it, visions of lamb and barbecue will dance in your head while you smack your lips and top up your glass.
2011 Runquist Barbera ($21.99) – This is a varietal known to our Italian wine lovers and Jeff Runquist has turned Amador County fruit into a wine you could slip into an Italian tasting. A touch more weight but the same bright tone to the fruit, spices and some food-friendly acidity makes this a lively red to have with your next pizza or pasta.
2012 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra ($9.99) – Spain continues to produce wines of great value and this Grenache bottling is a perfect example. The producer notes state “notes of red fruits and minerals that leap from the glass.”, which is certainly true but “Plenty of fruit on the palate” might actually be selling this wine short.
2011 Bodegas Caro “Amancaya” ($17.99) – You’ve probably tried an Argentine Malbec and enjoyed its fruit-driven character. Amancaya balances that with Cabernet for structure and the proper tick of tannin on the finish and a little bit of barrel spice.
I hope you enjoy getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your wine horizons with these, I should also mention that Thailand has started to produce wine. They will not be mistaken for Napa at the moment but were definitely a step ahead of the “Great Wall” red I had en route on a previous trip. The fruit wines were like the people, sweet and fun. For my tasting notes on the latest renditions of Mangosteen and Dragonfruit wines, see me at the store.
Matt S., Beltramo’s Operations Manager