Over 30 million travelers make their way to Thailand every year, and it’s no surprise as to why. Thailand is teeming with unique cultural traditions, breathtaking landscapes, and flavorful dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yam, and Mango Sticky Rice.
Young backpackers gravitate towards the monthly Full Moon parties, families enjoy the chilled-out island vibes, and adventurers take to the water with SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and white water rafting. But Thailand is so much more than beachfront parties and endless ocean seascapes.
The majority of foreigners don’t even realize that Thailand has an impressive winery scene. It’s time to stop dreaming of California’s Napa Valley or the rolling vineyards of Italy, and instead start focusing on what Thailand has to offer in terms of rieslings, Merlots, and Pinots.
As you’re traveling from Bangkok to Phuket and back up to Chiang Mai, make time in your schedule to explore Thailand’s Wine Country.
A Brief History of Wine in Thailand
Drinking wine has never been a major aspect of Thai culture, and Thais have always been more focused on beer and spirits. But in 1986, Chalerm Yoovidhya (co-founder of Red Bull) started Siam Winery. His task was to boost appreciation for wine among the Thai people, and he hoped that travelers would get in on all the wine-drinking action, too.
In 2001, Chalerm partnered with a vineyard in Khao Yai, one of the best locations in Thailand for winemaking thanks to its fertile soil and somewhat mild climate. He continued his search for more wine-making hotspots in the area, which is how he stumbled upon Hua Hin beach, which is now famously known as Monsoon Valley.
Thai Wine Production and the Challenges Involved
There’s a reason that Thailand isn’t famous for wine, and it’s not just because the Thai people prefer beer and spirits. Unlike the climates of Italy, California, and parts of Australia, Thailand’s climate is not ideal for winemaking. This tropical destination is perfect for beachgoers, but it’s not so perfect for making wine.
Like much of Southeast Asia, much of the country is very hot and very humid. There are two seasons, wet and dry, and the months with lots of rainfall can completely wipe out a vineyard’s crop. This is why Thai winemakers focus their efforts during the dry months, but that doesn’t always keep the tropical heat and strong winds from harming the grapes.
Just like any crop, grapes perform better with the right soil conditions. Grapes don’t do well in soil containing high levels of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, and the majority of Thailand has highly volatile soil. The problem with this is that the grapes mature at different rates, which makes harvesting more difficult.
But even with these challenges, the wine industry in Thailand is resilient. The Thais are constantly with their grapes in a variety of climate conditions, and many are even doing this in research facilities. They’re even working with a German research facility to learn about proper grape selection for the less-than-perfect climate.
Must-Visit Wineries in Thailand
There are three main wine regions in Thailand: Khao Yai to the North of Bangkok, Pattaya in Southern Thailand, and Hua Hin along the Eastern Coast. The most-visited winery is in Hua Hin, and not just because it lies on the outskirts of Bangkok. Hua Hin is home to the most well-known winery in the country, Monsoon Valley.
When it comes to the best of Thai wine, no place compares to Monsoon Valley, which is located near Hua Hin’s Kuiburi National Park. This is not only the most professional winery in Thailand but also the most innovative. Both locals and foreigners come here to sip on the creative concoctions, but the real draw is exploring the floating vineyards.
This is one of the most humid regions of the world since it sits just north of the equator. But according to the Telegraph it works, “By planting the vines between canals to keep them alive in Thailand’s withering sun and intense humidity.” The best time to visit these floating vineyards is during the Harvest Festival, which takes place in March each year.
Village Farm & Winery
Village Farm & Winery is a small family-run operation that combines Thai and French wine-making practices. They focus on organic and eco-friendly cultivation, even offering an annual festival that hosts guests on the family farm. Although VF&W wine isn’t nearly as popular as the wines produced by Monsoon Valley, this is a must-visit spot for winos.
Silverlake is located directly across the Gulf of Thailand from Monsoon Valley. Since it’s located in relatively the same region with the same climate and soil conditions, you can expect the wine to be very similar. This Pattaya-based vineyard uses only the best machinery imported from the wine capital of the world, Italy.
The scenic backdrop of Silverlake is the best part. The vineyard is set alongside a glasslike lake with rolling hillsides in the distance. If you’re looking for an escape from the usual hustle and bustle of Pattaya, taking a tour of the vineyard grounds is an amazing way to do that.