Sun, Feb 03, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Burmese wine takes the stage as bamboo curtain lifted

As the country continues on its path of reform, calmer domestic conditions and a tourist influx are allowing vineyards to flourish in spite of the grape-unfriendly climate

By Kelly Macnamara  /  AFP, INLE LAKE, Myanmar

Foreigners have enthusiastically flooded in, filling hotels.

Red Mountain, owned by a Myanmar businessman, sells its wine predominantly at the country’s tourist hot spots, such as Yangon, Mandalay and the ancient temple complex of Bagan.

However, rival Aythaya’s vineyard and restaurant is close to Taunggyi, the bustling capital of Shan State, where the majority of custom is from locals, including wealthy businessmen.

The long-term nature of the business — the number of bottles produced depends on crops planted several years before — means that even if tourism soars, it will take years before it flows through into production.

And is the wine good?

Gastin tested the Red Mountain range at a tropical wine symposium last year and said he was “pretty impressed.”

“I was quite shocked about the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, I thought they were really very, very good,” he said.

At Red Mountain, Swiss vineyard owner Serge Heymoz — who was visiting the estate while on holiday — also gave the wine his seal of approval.

“It is very interesting indeed, but let’s be clear — interesting in a good way,” he said.

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