During our stay in Thailand we spent a few days at the beach in a small one street village called Bang Kwai between Cha-Am and Hua Hin approximately 200km south of Bangkok. We were quite happy spending time at the beach relaxing, having wonderful meals and the odd beer at Harry’s bar just opposite our hotel. We started chatting with Alan and his wife, the lovely hosts of the bar/restaurant and they recommended, besides other things, to visit Hua Hin Hills Vineyard.
Well – if you know us – whenever there is wine involved we are not shy to go the extra mile. The following morning we rented a scooter, left behind the beach for the day and drove along the coast towards Hua Hin with its picturesque railway station. We left the city and followed the signs towards the vineyard.
We reached the Hua Hin Floating Market, which was, for our taste, too touristy so we drove on.
We passed the Huay Mongkohl Temple and enjoyed the ride, which took us further up the green hills, away from civilization – that was at least our impression. In reasonable distances there were still signs directing us to the vineyard so we weren’t worried that we got lost – what made us slightly nervous were the very dark clouds and to some extend our bums. We had been on our way for well over an hour and the streets were getting narrower, steeper and less developed, which ensured a bumpy ride. With the clear vision of a glass of wine we continued and weren’t disappointed once we reached.
At an elevation of 210 meters above sea level a Thai-inspired pavilion designed by former Norman Foster architect Sylvia Soh welcomes the visitors and serves as the platform for the Sala, the wine bar and bistro, which overlooks the 560 acres wine estate (of which 200 acres are developed). The Hua Hin Hills Vineyard is built on a former elephant corral where wild elephants used to be domesticated. Nowadays you still find a few of them who take visitors on a ride around the large estate.
The terrain, comprising mostly of loamy-sand and slate, is conducive to the cultivation of grapes whilst the proximity to the equator is – according to the traditional wine “book” who considers the 30th to the 50th latitude as the wine growing country belt – not. However, countries like Thailand and India now try and challenge this assumption and experiment with cultivating grapes and developing a unique character of their wine, which is often referred to as “New Latitude Wines”.
Located closer to the equator, the severe climate and much lower light intensity allow only a few grape varietals to be grown in Thailand; Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Sangiovese and Tempranillo are the varietals grown at the Hua Hin Hills vineyard and used to make the award-winning Monsoon Valley Wines.
We sat down on the terrace of the wine bar for a wine tasting followed by some snacks. The white varietals are extremely aromatic with a fruit profile and a crisp, refreshing finish, which reminded us of new world wines. The red wines show their typical character with hints of spices, some smokiness, jam and dark fruits. Their body is on the elegant side and balanced with a racy acidity more reminding of old world wines.
We truly enjoyed the view, the peaceful atmosphere, the wine tasting as well as the snacks served and were therefore very reluctant to leave that beautiful place. But as we realized that we actually drove 54 kilometers one way, we decided it was smart to head back to the beach where we were greeted with a stunning sunset including a rainbow. Obviously, we didn’t leave without buying a few bottles to take with us.