GranMonte is a beautiful vineyard in the Asoke Valley and lies close to Khao Yai
National Park, just south of Korat. GranMonte (pronounced “Gran-montay”) is the
Italianized version of Khao Yai, which is the home to several Thai wineries.
It’s also the home to several hundred wild elephants and many other exotic
animals, including the barking deer, the gaur (a kind of wild cow) and the
Malayan sun bear. Incidentally, if you don’t speak Thai, khao yai means “big
mountain”. Actually, it means “big mountain” whether you speak Thai or not.
GranMonte wines have won many awards at international wine competitions; twenty
in 2009 and thirty in 2010. The wine-maker is Nikki Lohitnavy, daughter of
Visooth and Sakuna Lohitnavy, owners of GranMonte Vineyard and Winery. She
studied at the University of Adelaide and is the first overseas-trained
oenologist in Thailand with degrees in oenology (viticulture and wine-making).
She is also the first qualified female winemaker in the country and has been
awarded the prestigious “Wolf Blass Foster’s Wine Prize for Excellence in
GranMonte “Heritage” Syrah-Viognier 2010 (red), Thailand
(Central, Bt. 880)
Like the big mountain, this is a big wine; fulsome but smooth on the palate with
the characteristic soft tannins of the Syrah. You might be surprised at the
notion of the red Syrah (see-RAH) blended with the less familiar white Viognier
(vee-oh-NYAY). However, this is not as strange as it first might appear. In the
Côte Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône Valley, these grapes grow side by side
and winemakers ferment the grapes together to make wine in the traditional
Nikki Lohitnavy: successful wine-maker.
The wine is a very dark crimson red with a rich oily appearance. Aged in French
oak barrels, the aromas are quite complex, but berries and plums dominate, along
with a light citrus touch and hints of leather. It’s dry, medium-bodied with a
satisfying, longish dry peppery finish. To my mind this is a food wine, and it
would go well with equally robust and hearty meat dishes.
If you like big wines and the thought of hearty Cotes de Rhônes set your taste
buds a-tingling, you’ll probably enjoy this rather unusual style. I think it
will become even better if you can manage to store it for a couple of years.
Incidentally, it recently won a Silver Medal at this year’s AWC International
Wine Challenge in Vienna, in competition with thousands of other wines from all
over the world.
GranMonte “Spring” Unwooded Chenin Blanc 2010 (white),
Thailand (Central, Bt. 640)
Here’s a lovely pale gold wine which also won a Silver Medal at this year’s AWC
International Wine Challenge. It also won a Bronze Medal in this year’s highly
respected Decanter World Wine Competition.
There’s a really classy aroma; rich and full with lychee, grass and citrus on
the nose. I thought I picked up a tiny trace of apples and mint too. Anyway,
it’s worth spending some time just enjoying the aroma before you are tempted to
taste. It’s a lively young wine with a beautiful silky-smooth mouth-feel and a
distinctive spritziness that tickles the tongue. Light-bodied and dry, there’s
plenty of fruit up-front and just a tantalizing hint of sweetness. There’s a
dash of attractive acidity too, which is typical of Chenin Blanc (SHEN-ihn
BLAHNG), whose traditional home is the Loire Valley in France. You’ll probably
notice a good long finish too, with herby and mineral overtones.
In case you are wondering about the word “unwooded”, it simply means that the
wine has never seen the inside of a barrel. There was a time when all wine was
fermented in wood, usually oak, because this added another dimension to the
flavour. These days though, there’s a growing trend to produce lighter and
fresher wines by fermenting them in stainless steel, allowing the natural aromas
and flavours of the grape to come through.
This would make a brilliant apéritif; especially if you do as winemaker Nikki
Lohitnavy suggests and serve it ice-cold. You could of course, pair it with
seafood or perhaps fish in a delicate sauce, but if you really want to drink it
on its own, I won’t complain. Honestly.