What led you to a wine-making career in Thailand?
I started as a cellar hand, vineyard operator. Back then one needed to either have finished an apprenticeship as vintner/wine technician/cellar hand, or do a one-year internship in a winery to be accepted by the university of oenology and viticulture in Geisenheim, Germany. I started studying in 1999.
I wanted to do something creative, that does not bind me to an office for eight hours [a day] and that is not purely crunching numbers or staring at a computer. I always loved nature and good food, and I had tasted wines early with my father during dinner and I liked the smell and taste of it. So I started a long internship after school just to see if I liked it and I fell in love with the work.
It is extreme wine making and viticulture. Very little did we learn and know during university about tropical viticulture. They first vineyards were only planted in 1982 in Thailand. We have shorter daylight periods, we have daily temperatures above 30C, sometimes above 40C. We don’t have four seasons, just hot, hotter, hottest and we have a dry and rainy season.
What challenges do you face growing wine in a monsoon climate?
Dry season starts at the end of October and ends at the beginning of April. Rainy season is pretty much the rest of the year. We won’t get grapes during rainy season but this cycle is important to prepare the plant for the dry season. At the end of October when dry season starts we do a long pruning of four to five buds to get fruit canes that bear fruits. From day of pruning to harvest it takes in tropics roughly 120 days so we usually harvest in February/March. During rainy season we collect rain water in our artificial ponds to use this water for irrigation during dry season.
During the rainy season, we only do the vegetative cycle, no crop. If we were to do two harvests a year we would stress the plants a lot so the two cycle/one crop concept works well for us. We want quality not quantity.
We have tested hundreds of varietals in the past years. The varietals that perform best in tropical [climates] are still Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Dornfelder and Muscat.
What is your favourite type of wine and what Thai dishes would you pair it with?
I go by phases. Generally for hot climates I prefer whites and roses or light reds. I am a fan of our Colombard which is the perfect match for spicy seafood salads and fish dishes. Our White Shiraz is lovely with phad Thai and red curries. We do two barrique cuvées, white and red, which we match with Western food and non-spicy food since too tannic wines and too alcoholic wines usually don’t match well with spicy food.