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In the first week of June, the Food & Beverage Management Team went for an tour in the Prachaup Khiri Khan province of Thailand to explore the Hua Hin Hills winery by Siam Winery group. The main motif was to learn and understand the wine culture in Thailand, how the grapes are grown and produced, and most importantly how they are harvested.
In 1986, A Thai Wine Culture was developed by Chalerm Yoovidhya with a strong vision to offer its consumers a healthy alcoholic drink. Its vineyard is special in its own way; it’s where they cultivate over 300 acres of vines, a wine tourism center to show off their products, and an education center for its consumers. Over the years, Siam Winery has become the leading wine company with over a thousand employees. Its product portfolio consists of locally produced wines and wine beverages and also imported premium beverages brands from around the world.
Siam Winery’s mission is not only about being a profitable organization in the market, it’s also about being socially responsible by supporting Thai agriculture. All three wineries around Thailand are using the natural resources efficiently and protecting the environment. A total of 250 acres of land in Hua Hin is fully planted with more than 25 grape varieties, and the majority of grapes used by Siam Winery Group are from Hua Hin Hills Vineyard.
Being in the vineyard itself, you also have a chance to experience food and wine pairing. “The Sala”, is a wine bar & bistro, retail shop and a meeting facility center in the winery itself. We were invited for lunch to meet the wine maker (Katherine Puff) and the wine ambassador (Surachet Poungkrasea) of Siam Winery. The intention for this meeting was an informal gathering, to promote Siam Winery products and tasting different brands and wines. More than 20 varieties and 30 bottles were offered to us to taste and experience with a variety of tapas.
The secret behind producing such great wines is Thailand’s seasons and environment. Thailand has no strong winter and the vines can be harvested twice a year. However, due to soil erosion certain vines may die. However, the wine makers of Siam Winery knows exactly what a vine need to grow in terms of nutrients and could use a couple of irrigating techniques to simulate winter or prevent pruning. It’s true that Thailand isn’t a popular wine region in the world; however, after getting more attention it is possible to grow good grapes. Soon Thailand will be producing quality wines which will be recognized worldwide.
The harvest time for grapes is usually during the cool morning hours of the day time in the vine yards of Hua Hin. These grapes are then moved to the factory in Samut Sakorn (2hrs by road) in open bins. The Thai elephants are also a great help in the harvest period. To ensure quality in production of wines, the grapes are harvested by hand.
As the grapes arrive at the factory , they are washed and transferred to a stemmer/crusher machine where they are crushed, leaving only the juice. After the crushing, the juice from the grapes is put into the fermentation barrells, where the alcholic fermentation takes place, the process of sugar conversation to alcohol. Siam Winery has large barrels to small oak barrels. Each oak barrel is imported from Italy and priced up to 600,000 THB with a life time of just 3 years. Once they become too old, the oak barrels are sold for other usage.
During the aging and fermentation process, special care is being taken to ensure quality and standard by the wine maker. As they say, “the wine maker should also have a classic lifestyle to produce classic wines.” The final product always depends on the wine maker itself. Each afternoon, music is being played to the wine to enhance the characteristic of the wine. Lights are being turned off, so that the wine has enough sleep. A peaceful environment is created to allow the wine to grow and show off its full characteristics.
“A wine is like a woman …always require special attention” – Niran Singkala Food and Beverage Manager at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket
All in all, this wine trip to Siam Winery was an incredible learning experience for the whole food & beverage management team. For the local Thai’s, it’s not normal for them to have a glass of wine with dinner; but soon the trend is coming. Nowadays, every supermarket has bottles of wines on their shelves. It will still require many years to implement wine knowledge and interest in Thailand. The Food and Beverage team is always looking forward to improving the guests’ wine and dining experience at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket.
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