I was recently invited to take part in the first GranMonte Practical Wine Program to learn about the principles of tropical viticultures and winemaking in one of the newest and most exciting wine region of the world. GranMonte lies within the majestically beautiful Asoke Valley, Khao Yai. Sprawling tropical landscape and expansive mountain ranges make this vineyard a truly breathtaking location. GranMonte’s location is not just picturesque but also serves as ideal microclimate conditions for growing grapes including Syrah, Cherin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Semillon, Durif and Verdeiho.
Over the course of two days a handful of Thailand’s sommeliers and restauranteurs, along with myself, were taught the principles of choosing vineyard location, deciding on grape varieties that best suit the land, pest and disease management, understanding the differences between making red, white and sparkling wines as well as hands on experiences with various chemistry sets, seemingly endless amounts of wines and strolls through the vineyards with our very own vineyard cowboy.
Founder and CEO, Khun Visooth Lohitnavy, oversaw the programme and integrated himself within the group to provide useful information on GranMonte’s wines, the vineyard and the company. While daughter, Khun Nikki Lohitnavy, provided the backbone of the information on winemaking and gave useful hands on demonstrations to help understanding the fining (or finishing) of wines, blending of different grape varieties and of course wine tasting. Incidentally Nikki is the first and only female winemaker of Thailand with experience working around the globe from France to Australia.
Being a small, family owned operation with each family member performing an integral part of the GranMonte company is apparent from the moment you meet any of the Lohitnavy family or taste the wine. Wines are produced in relatively small batches under sustainable conditions and every effort is pooled towards quality. Khun Nikki concentrates on the rich flavour of her grapes and tries to uses limited fining agents so that the natural tastes shine through. I have to admit I was sceptical after first encountering Thai wines some five years ago in Bangkok but I was bowled over by the intensely natural flavours on show in the range of GranMonte wines – everything we tried was simply brilliant!
At the end of the second day, after a lengthy spell of wine ‘tasting’ I should add, we sat a written exam to see how much of the information had actually sunk into our grey matter and that evening with dinner, and of course wine, the Lohitnavy family presented each participant with a certificate to show their attendance and completion of the programme. Thankfully I passed, despite the programme being taught in Thai (mostly) and my little knowledge of wine before these two days.
I now feel somewhat better armed with knowledge to take on the isles of wine in the supermarket in order to come away with a bottle that I not only want to drink but can actually say a few words about its production and tasting profile. Thanks to the Lohitnavy family for their hospitality and GranMonte for the fantastic wines.
For information on visiting GranMonte Vineyard and Winery consult the GranMonte website.