One doesn’t ordinarily think of Thailand as a wine producer. Many of its restaurants don’t even serve it (although Thailand is known for its beer).
So imagine our surprise when we found wine at an impromptu stop at a small Hmong roadside farmers’ stand in Thailand’s hill country north of Chiang Mai. The Hmong are one of the Thai ethnic peoples who live in isolated mountain villages in Northern Thailand and the surrounding area, such as Vietnam and Laos.
At the roadside stand, we discovered a small section dedicated to selling Thailand fruit wines from a Maesai Winery, tucked into the rows of mangoes and other fruit.
A vendor offered us small samples of the wine – strawberry, mulberry and the like. We decided to buy four bottles of the lychee flavor.
Evidently, the climate in the north of Thailand can support wine cultivation. There are several wineries there, although it’s hard to tell just how many. Unlike other, more established wine regions, such as in California or France, there’s little information on the internet about the wines and winemakers. Our guide, Mike, told us that Thailand fruit wine is a relatively new industry in the hill country.
What We Learned
Unfortunately this was not our best purchase! Two of the bottles never made it home. We left one too long in the hotel freezer; it rewarded us by exploding. The other broke during the 22-hour trip back from Thailand. We set the two survivors aside to enjoy in the future.
Ultimately, the Thailand fruit wine we had purchased turned out to be rather disappointing. We chilled and opened one bottle to enjoy on the deck. A fruit wine would theoretically be a good summer sipping wine. This wine had a slight fizz, sort of like a Portuguese Vino Verde. It smelled like perfumed flowers, with scents of honey and coconut as well as the lychee.
But it was almost syrupy – and too cloyingly sweet. It was too sweet to even pretend it was a dessert wine. Bobby made a valiant effort to turn the wine into a mixed drink to improve the taste. He tried adding seltzer, then vodka. Neither made much of a difference.
I’m afraid this wine received no smiley faces from us. While we like dessert wine, this fruit wine was just too sweet for our tastes. We do have one bottle left. We’ll give it another shot, perhaps over shaved ice to make a dessert.
What was intriguing in a little plastic tasting cup just didn’t translate into a full-sized glass.
However, I want to give a special shout out to our tour operator, Vachira from Wanna tours, and our guide, Mike, a former Buddhist monk. They created a wonderful two-day trip for us into the Chiang Mai area north of Bangkok. This was a fascinating part of the country. If you can get to Thailand, I recommend including this region. If you like sweet wine, give the Thailand fruit wine a shot.