The Hua Hin district of Thailand is famed for many things: Its sandy beach resorts, floating markets, elephants that amble down dirtpaths and the tourist hordes that love them. But head East inland and a tranquil scene might surprise you: Rows upon rows of vines bearing luscious grapes meant to be transformed into vino, thriving through the heat and tropical storms. This is Thailand, mind you, not romantic French countrysides.
Welcome to the world of New Latitude wines.
Hua Hin is part of a new wave of wines produced in regions previously thought impossible. Indeed, the wine map has exploded and viticulture is no longer limited to the girdle that stretches from the 30th to the 50th latitude – climates which France and Australia fall under.
Instead, vinters in countries like Indonesia, Brazil, India and even Kenya have gotten into the act. All of these areas fall close to the equator, posing a unique set of conditions and opening up new terroir for adventurous wine aficionados.
“Different grape varieties have been developed to better suit hot climates,” wrote wine educator Meggan Robinson. “The use of hormones as crop regulators permits growers to control more aspects of vineyard management than before.”
Critics however, have been harsh. British wine journalist Jancis Robinson once wrote: “I still find it hard to believe that New Latitude wines will ever be seriously good. But then that’s what was said about New World wines not that long ago.”
Despite such criticism, some of these New Latitude wines have been bagging awards. Monsoon Valley Red produced in Hua Hin earned bronze medals at Decanter World Wine Awards, Asia 2014 as well as at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition 2014.
To be fair, it took the wines of Australia and New Zealand decades to be accepted into the mainstream. All this begs the question: Will New Latitude wines one day be accepted as an equal? The jury is still out but those who are itching for a sip can take start hunting for these 5 wine labels.