Nineteen châteaux from Bordeaux gathered in Southeast Asia to promote a bit more than French wines…
by Anita Zaror.
Barrière Frères, a French wine merchant founded almost a century ago that specializes in the sale of Grands Crus classés wines in 80 countries, recently gathered 19 prestigious estates from Bordeaux and brought them to Southeast Asia under the “Bordeaux Rendez-Vous 2014” events held in Singapore, Vientiane, Jakarta, Bali, and Bangkok. During the sessions, local sommeliers, F&B managers, and wine aficionados had a chance to try the wines of some of the most prestigious châteaux of this French region, and to converse with their owners and representatives. This knowledge exchange is relevant, and absolutely necessary.
According to a study done by Euromonitor International in November 2013, “In 2012, the consumption of wine in Thailand witnessed growth potential due to the continuous expansion of wine drinkers in response to the launch of New World wines at more affordable prices. Wider distribution in both the off-trade and on-trade channels also provided greater access to wine, especially with the wider selection of wine on the shelves of convenience stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets and alcoholic drinks specialist retailers. Moreover, the endeavors of exclusive wine importers also encouraged consumers to try wine served with meals, through the establishment of chained wine bars and restaurants in urban areas.” The Bordeaux Rendez-Vous 2014 is one of many examples of the latter.
And I have indeed been surprised by locals ordering bottles of wine in clubs in Bangkok—something that in the West is normally left to get-togethers at restaurants and pubs—just another sign that proves that drinking wine is becoming increasingly en vogue in the kingdom, regardless of the high prices because of taxes. Despite having developed wine lists that suit both newbie and more experienced palates, some prestigious five-star hotels in town don’t have an in-house sommelier to suggest suitable pairings to dishes created by their chefs, who sometimes even have experience in award-winning restaurants worldwide. However, I am gladly impressed whenever I come across a Thai owner of a wine cellar, or a Thai sommelier talking about wines of the Old and New Worlds and stepping out of the traditional beer to suggest a wine that goes well with a green curry, a pork belly soup, or a spicy pad thai. At Bordeaux Rendez-Vous, in fact, several speakers highlighted the suitability of some of certain varietals – such as Gewürztraminer – and wines with hints of spice – such as Château Coutet Premier Cru Classé – to be paired with Thai people’s favorite flavors and preference for spice.
Wine education is growing slowly but steadily in Thailand thanks to organized programs such as those offered by Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School, or casual ones led by restaurants (e.g., Cellar 11, Scalini at Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok) or wine aficionado groups (e.g., The Bangkok Wine Club on Meetup.com, the British Club Bangkok’s wine tastings). And having Bangkok being chosen to receive some of the most highly regarded wineries from Bordeaux is one more crucial step in leading the upcoming change of a crowd that will be more demanding, and boost wine sales to also benefit the booming Thai wine industry.
Bordeaux Rendez-Vous 2014 was held in the spirit of four values: sharing, passion, opening minds, and discovery. There’s no doubt it fulfilled each of them, in addition to planting one more seed for wine culture to keep on growing in Thailand and Southeast Asia.