Wine and ‘value for money’ seldom go hand in hand in Thailand – it’s mostly down to the approximate 394% tax that is applied to each bottle, case and pallet, and this absurd level of taxation is unlikely to abate either, so don’t hold your breath.
However, there is hope! There are bargains – on a scale of relativity – out there! Despite Draconian levels of taxation, the shelves of Tesco, Villa Market and Big C, et al become ever more populated with wines from all over the world and there’s been a flurry of venues opening too with the word “Wine” in their generic, unimaginative title. This demonstrates one thing: demand.
While wine outlets may be on the plateau, the commandeering of supermarket shelf-space continues to rise, and for a lot of people who are there to buy the odd bottle for dinner, a romantic night in or even as a house-warming gift, those shelves can be daunting at best. Here are a few tips that can help you get the best berries for your baht while instilling you with confidence as you hand over or open that bottle.
Labels, labels, labels
Aside from the fancy packaging, it’s the written content that hold’s the secrets.
First rule of Wine Club: stay away from those familiar brands! They are less-than generic, ridiculously bland and thrive off people who simply don’t know better. The reason that they can spend celestial sums on marketing their product worldwide is not down to their quality beverage, but the sheer mark-up that they put on their soulless plonk producing principles. You’ll be better off buying a case of Spy!
Blessed with some superb artisan and boutique winemakers, Aussie wines command shelf-space in supermarkets all over the world for a legitimate reason, they’re robust, travel well and do exactly what they say on the bottle. The high end Aussie wines can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world. Top tip: look out for any wines from Margaret River, Riesling and Chardonnay from Clare Valley and winemakers from McLaren Vale, South Australia.
One can’t beat a bit of Old School. French wine is justifiably still the leader of the pack but that does not mean you have to pay top dollar. Strict laws on labelling means that what you read on the label must be true. Look for wines that are Mis en bouteille au château / domaine / à la propriété – you know that they’ve been made at the place where the berries were picked and therefore, not a mass-producing machine. Top tip: any Bordeaux wines from 2008 and 2009.
Just like France, and Spain, Italian winemakers are legally bound to state the exact origin and quality of the wines that they produce and it comes in four distinct categories. Vino da Tavola: table wine; IGT: wine that is made from a blend of grapes from a particular area or region; DOC: the main tier of Italian wine classification, there are only about 330 winemakers in Italy that hold this title, therefore, they’re of an impressive quality; DOCG: top of the tree wines – legitimate DOCG wines also have a numbered government seal around the neck of the bottle. Top tip: DOCG, but check the labels clearly – you’ll be happy with any of these wines from anywhere in Italy.
A couple more tips…
Any wine that contains words along the lines of “may contain traces of egg” have been made with love and sincerity: part of the vinification process is called Fining, where egg white is filtered through the almost-ready-to-be-bottled wine to remove excess sediment (a lot of winemakers then recycle that egg white by making delicious macaroons and other desserts).
Stay away from the Gran Reserve type titles – their prices are obscene and are certainly not for buying from supermarkets. Waste of money.
If you’re going to buy bottles based on the low cost, opt for a box of wine for they offer the best value for money – they are also a world better than the demi jars of wine that are on offer and because of their packaging, they stay fresher for longer.
South american and South African wines: they compete on the low-end price points alone on the supermarket shelves that we see. They are rather hit-and-miss – you get what you pay for.
Thai wine: being produced on home soil and therefore, not hit with those darn taxes, why are they priced in line with some of the lower end wines from other countries? They are not good enough and not on a par when comparing them baht for baht.
Finally, be empowered! Just like beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder, a wine is down to your palate and tastes. There’s a lot of truth in the maxim that a poor bottle of wine tastes terrific when shared in good company and the same can be said when that phrases is reversed. J6ZFEK8V3NP4