Asia may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine, but the continent actually has numerous vineyards and wineries. So, we have listed the best vineyards in Asia that must be part of your travelogue if you like crisp Asian wines. By Anurupa Sen
And every year, more and more wineries are coming up in the continent. A 2020 Forbes report stated that China ranked tenth among the top wine-producing countries in the world. Japan, too, holds a bright spot in the Asian wine world, owing to its native koshu grape, which is characterised by its crispy and aromatic flavour.
Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries, too, are serious about winemaking. Regions such as Khao Yai in Thailand, Dalat in Vietnam and Bali in Indonesia have combined the climates along with native soil to cultivate grapes perfect for producing light-bodied and more acidic New Latitude wines.
Here are some of the gorgeous vineyards in Asia to add to your must-visit list
Aythaya Vineyard, Myanmar
In 1999, Bert Morsbach and some of his friends established the country’s first vineyard near Taunggyi that crafted Western-style wines. At an altitude of 1,200 metres in the southern Shan State, the region provided the most suitable place for a vineyard with the ideal terroir, soil texture and a warm climate.
However, what makes the place a hotspot for tourists is not just Aythaya Vineyard‘s signature wines and the craft of winemaking, but also how it is geographically located. Shan State is a part of the southern Himalayas, and the vineyard is a 30-minute drive away from Inle Lake.
Apart from touring the place, treat yourself to some authentic local dishes made with homegrown ingredients at the Sunset WineGarden Restaurant or the Pavilion. The views of the beautiful landscape of Taunggyi may remind you of Italy’s Tuscany at sunset. Also known for European dishes, which when paired with the right wine, make your meals lavish.
End your day by relaxing in the spacious private bungalows that exude rustic backcountry finesse and impeccable hospitality. With floor-to-ceiling windows offering some of the best views of the Blue Mountains, the Monte diVino Lodge offers superior and deluxe rooms for its guests.
‘GranMonte’ loosely translates into ‘big mountain’ — the name is inspired by the magnanimous Khao Yai mountain ranges. Renowned for producing Thai wines and other varieties, the 12-hectare GranMonte once served as a cornfield and cashew plantation. It was Visooth Lohitnavy’s passion for winemaking that drove him to study vines and types of soil suitable for Vitis vinifera. Eventually, he turned the land into an entrepreneurial venture in 1999.
Situated in the Asoke Valley near Khao Yai National Park, GranMonte is 350 metres above sea level and around 160 kilometres from Bangkok. The winery here, established in 2009, is known to produce Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Verdelho, Durif and Grenache. The required ingredients are grown on the estate and innovative winemaking techniques are used to yield the finest taste and aromas. Additionally, their sustainable viticultural methods, ensuring the safety of workers, are integral to their business.
Owing to such measures, the wines at GranMonte have been dubbed ‘the best fruit of Thai soil, bottled.’ And, while touring the estate, its trails give you an expansive view of their vineyards, the Manor House with its tranquil pond and garden, and the VinCotto Restaurant. Here you can indulge in exquisite home-style Western and Thai dishes paired with exceptional wines that are a must-try.
Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery, Myanmar
The expansive 74.8 hectares of land makes up the gorgeous Red Mountain Estate, which is located on the bank of Inle Lake in southern Shan State. It is touted for making the best wines in Myanmar from locally grown grapes, which are then sent to its winery. However, when the property was established in 2003, over 400,000 vines were imported from France, Spain and Israel.
Tourists are drawn to this picturesque location which gives a sweeping view of the vineyards overlooking Inle Lake, the winery and the lively village of Taung Chay. You can witness all this with a calming sunset at the estate’s renowned Red Mountain Restaurant, offering delectable Western and local cuisines that can host both small and large gatherings.
What’s more? Pair their spicy local food with some premium quality Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Petit Grain, Chardonnay, Shiraz (or Syrah), Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Carignan, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon made from premium-quality grapes.
Hatten Wines, Indonesia
Be it the pink-hued Bali Rosé with fresh aromas and citrusy flavours or the light-bodied dry Bali White, exuding the crisp taste of the Muscat fruit, every bottle is crafted with a blend of modern and traditional French techniques at Hatten Wines in Bali.
Established in 1994 by Ida Bagus Rai Budarsa, who envisioned placing Hatten Wines among the top international winemakers, the winery has an award-winning range of wines. These are made with the best quality grapes known globally on the soil of north Bali.
Additionally, Bali needs no introduction as a tourist spot. Its rice terraces, jungles, mountains, beaches and other topographical features are known to lure travellers from the farthest corners of the world. However, for those looking to relax with good wine pairings and spicy local food amid the serenity of mountains and evergreen vineyards, Hatten Wines is the place to be.
Enjoy the view of the rolling hills from the observation deck and take a guided tour of rows of vines with a glass of red, sparkling, white, rosé wine or a fortified dessert wine at the Sanggalangit vineyard.
Indulge in the free tasting at the bar of Sanur’s The Cellardoor Bali or south Jakarta’s The Cellardoor Jakarta. At their Private Dining Room, get a taste of their degustation dinners as well as signature Balinese and European dishes prepared by chef Agus. Pair them with crisp and refreshing wines suggested by the sommelier.
Sula Vineyards, India
In 1996, Rajeev Samant established Sula Vineyards. The name was inspired by his mother’s name ‘Sulabha’ and embodies the luxuriant heritage of winemaking at one of the best vineyards in Asia.
It is located in Nashik and is often referred to as the ‘Napa Valley of India’. Its sprawling and over 1,214-hectare premise includes two luxurious boutique accommodations named The Source at Sula and Beyond by Sula.
At The Source, unwind in its luxurious rooms, suites and tree houses offering a gorgeous 360-degree view of the endless vineyards and a lake at a distance. You can also enjoy a meal amid the vineyard or opt for VIP wine tours and complimentary wine tastings. Finally, end your day by immersing in a premium spa experience with a glass of Sula’s finest.
Meanwhile, at Beyond, visitors can choose between the artistically designed Lake View rooms and Sky Villa for a view of the picture-perfect Gangapur Lake along the Western Ghats, relax at the infinity pool or be enthralled by the avant-garde architecture of the accommodation nestled amid nature.
While at Sula Vineyards, we recommend their Dindori Reserve Shiraz: barrel-aged in American oak — a powerful, intense wine with flavours of berries and vanilla and pairs beautifully with meat dishes like mutton biryani, seekh kebabs and lamb roast.
You can either taste other wines at Domaine Sula, serving as a picnic spot and offering wine tasting sessions, winery tours and gourmet dining options. End your day by dining at Little Italy and experiencing herb-infused Italian cuisine teamed with the finest Sula wines.
Sula also offers wine stomping if you visit during the harvesting months of January to March.
Château Mercian, Japan
While Japan may be best known for its sake and whiskies, the country is home to numerous wineries and koshu, a signature grape indigenous to Japan. Koshu is grown along the mountainous parts of the region and is perfect for making crisp and refreshing wines. This brings us to one of the pioneering names in the Japanese wine industry, which cultivates Koshu for its finest wines as well — Château Mercian.
The origin of Château Mercian can be traced back to Dai-Nihon Yamanashi Budoshu Gaisha, the first private Japanese wine company founded in 1877. Some years later, it unveiled ‘Mercian’, which won many international awards over the years and became a globally recognised wine.
In 1970, Château Mercian was founded with a philosophy that embodies finesse and elegance and cultivates the country’s best varieties of grapes in Yamanashi Prefecture, at the base of Mount Fuji. Château Mercian has established its vineyards and wineries across the four prefectures — Yamanashi, Nagano, Fukushima and Akita.
Be it the blended wines of Jyonohira Vineyard in Katsunuma, the Chardonnay and Merlot of Mariko Vineyard of Nagano Prefecture, the Château Mercian Niitsuru Chardonnay of Fukushima Prefecture or the Château Mercian Omori Riesling 2008 from the Akita Prefecture, you can taste the finest Japanese wines at these locations. Each of these places is surrounded by hills and traversed by rivers keeping the climate cool and inviting for visitors. The soil is well drained for the plantation of vines.
Don’t forget to visit the wine shop and wine museum, which makes use of the oldest wooden brewery structure in Japan.
Monsoon Valley, Thailand
Established by Chalerm Yoovidhya in 2001, the first vineyard was set up in Tab Kwang, Thailand’s conventional grape-growing region. The surrounding jungles and national parks make Tab Kwang’s atmosphere conducive to growing premium quality grapes for the luxurious Shiraz. However, this is just one of the three locations in Thailand where Monsoon Valley Wines grows its grapes. The others are Monsoon Valley Vineyard in Hua Hin and Chiang Mai Vineyard. The largest among them is Hua Hin Hill, measuring 110 hectares.
Each vineyard has adjoining ponds for water collection during monsoons. During the dry months, the vineyards are watered using reserved water. Thus, they are only irrigated with rainwater.
Touring the vineyards and the beautiful countryside is one of the things to do at Monsoon Valley. Its flagship restaurant The Sala Wine Bar & Bistro offers a panoramic view of the valley and a delectable menu of exotic dishes.
Other activities can include visiting Baan Khok Chang Elephant Sanctuary, wine safari, bottle painting and mountain biking.
Changyu Pioneer Wine Company, China
China is one of the world’s largest wine-consuming countries and among the biggest wine-producing nations.
The nation’s oldest and largest wine producer, Changyu, owns about 35,000 hectares of vineyards in China’s best wine-producing regions such as Yinjiang, Liaoning, Penglai peninsula and Ningxia.
Wine lovers can tour Changyu’s eight different chateaux, including the European-style, Bordeaux-inspired Yantai Chateau Changyu-Castel, built in 2002 by Changyu Pioneer and French Castel Company.
Here, the vineyard is planted primarily with Cabernet Gernischt, a red variety similar to Cabernet Franc.
Beqaa Valley, Lebanon
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Did you know Lebanon is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world? For wine lovers, the Beqaa Valley is a must-visit as it is home to the major wines of Lebanon.
Start with a wine tour and tasting at Château Ksara, one of the oldest wineries in Lebanon famous for producing the country’s first dry red wine. Remember to stop at IXSIR to pair its wine with tasty Lebanese food and immerse yourself in a gorgeous view over the mountains from the terrace (it makes a great photo stop, too).
(Hero and featured image credit: Alex Gorbi/Unsplash)
This story first appeared on LifestyleAsia Bangkok