Asia may not the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine, but the continent actually has hundreds of vineyards and more are being established every year. China is becoming a major player in the wine industry — the 8th largest wine producer in the world owns more acres of vineyards than France. Japan is another bright spot in the Asian wine world, thanks to its native koshu grape, which is characterised by its crispy and aromatic character. Southeast Asian countries are getting serious about winemaking, too. Regions such as Khao Yai in Thailand, Dalat in Vietnam, and Bali in Indonesia have combined the climates of their native soil to cultivate grapes perfect for producing the light-bodied and more acidic New Latitude wines.
Never tried Asian wine before? Here are six unexpected destinations in Asia to expand your wine horizons:
Aythaya Vineyard in Inle Lake, Myanmar
Nestled in the village of its namesake Aythaya and just a 30-minute drive from Nyang Shwe, the Northern shore of Inle Lake, Aythaya Vineyard is Myanmar’s first vineyard estate. The high altitude (1,200 meters) combined with its excellent terroir with calcareous soil and high rainfall make for some of the best grapes in the region. Their signature wines include the Aythaya Red, a Shiraz, Dornfelder, and Tempranillo blend; Aythaya White, a Sauvignon Blanc dominant white blend from Bordeaux and Loire Valley and Aythaya Rose, made from a fruity red Moscato grape from Italy. To fully experience the winery, we recommend staying overnight at the vineyard’s Monte diVino Lodge, which features spacious bungalows with terraces and complimentary wine-country-inspired breakfast at the Sunset Wine Garden Kitchen with sweeping blue mountain vineyard vistas of Shan State.
Aythaya Vineyard, Htone Bo, Taunggyi 11181, Myanmar, +95 81 208 548
Hatten Wines in Bali, Indonesia
Established in 1994 by a local Balinese family, Hatten Wines made a name for itself with its signature rosé, intended to complement the spicy local food and hot Bali climate. Unlike many of the wineries in its neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, the northeast of Bali is filled with clean mountain springs, sun and rich soil, which means that grapes are constantly harvested and wine can be produced all year. Hatten Wines harvests more than 34 hectares of grapes per year, including the local Probolinggo Biru, the Belgia, and the French table grape Alphonse Lavallée. Here, you can take part in the wine classes, complimentary wine tastings and visit pay a visit to the Wine Lifestyle Boutique, where the vineyard houses its own wine accessories line.
Hatten Wines, Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai No. 393 Sanur, Denpasar, Bali, +62 361 4721377
Sula Vineyards in Nashik, India
Dubbed the Napa Valley of India, Nashik is home to a list of the best vineyards in Asia, including the popular Sula Vineyards. A world-class winery located around four hours northeast of Mumbai, Sula is an all-in-one destination for wine lovers, with activities such as wine tastings, an escorted tour of the vineyard and wine stomping if you visit during the harvesting months of January to March. Don’t miss out on the annual SulaFest music concert that takes place in the outdoor amphitheater every February, where you can camp in the vineyards. We recommend Sula’s Dindori Reserve Shiraz: barrel-aged in American oak, it is a powerful, intense wine with flavours of berries and vanilla and pairs beautifully with meat dishes like mutton biryani, seekh kebabs and lamb roast. Another main feature of Sula Vineyard is the glamorous boutique accommodations, namely Beyond by Sula and The Source at Sula, with the latter being our favourite, resembling a Tuscan mansion and features a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a spa.
Sula Vineyards, Gangapur Savargon Road Nasik (Nashik), India, +91 253 302 7777
Beqaa valley, Lebanon
Did you know that Lebanon is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world? For serious 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, the oldest winery in Lebanon famous for producing the country’s first dry red wine. Make a stop at IXSIR to pair its wine with tasty Lebanese food with a gorgeous view over the mountains from the terrace (it makes a great photo stop, too). Don’t let your wine hopping stop there and follow local recommendations to Domaine des Tourelles, Château Heritage, Châteaux Musar in the area – because, wine not?
Château Mercian in Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
While Japan may be best known for its sake and malt whiskies, the country’s Yamanashi Prefecture located at the base of Mount Fuji is in fact home to nearly a hundred wineries and koshu, a signature grape indigenous to Japan. Koshu is grown along the mountainous parts of the region and makes crisp and refreshing wines, thanks to its strong natural acidity and low levels of sugar. One of the pioneers in the Japanese wine industry is Château Mercian, an award-winning winery that became the first Japanese vineyard to be featured on Wine Spectator. Wine connoisseurs will enjoy the Mercian’s Koshu Kiiroka, a tart and refreshing white wine that made the koshu wine famous, as well as the the full-bodied and complex Kikyogahara Merlot. Aside from guided tours, you can taste more than 20 brands of wine at the tasting counter and enjoy amuse-bouches to pair with the wine. Don’t forget to visit the wine shop and wine museum, which makes use of the oldest wooden brewery structure in Japan.
Château Mercian, 1425-1 Shimoiwasaki, Katsunuma-cho, Koshu-shi, Yamanashi 409-1313, Japan
Chateau Changyu-Castel in Yantai, China
Let this soak in: China has more acres of vineyards than France. China is now the world’s fifth-largest wine-consuming country and the eighth-largest producer of wine. China’s oldest and largest wine producer, Changyu, now owns about 35,000 hectares of vineyard in some of the country’s best wine-producing regions such as Yinjiang, Liaoning, Penglai peninsula and Ningxia. Wine lovers can tour around Changyu’s eight different chateau, 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.
Chateau Changyu-Castel, Beiyujia Village, Yantai Economic and Technical Development Zone
Hero and featured image credit: Sula Vineyards