03 April 2009

Vang Dalat

I didn't expect my first blog entry (very late in coming) on Vietnam to be about wine. My wife and I returned from a ten day trip to Vietnam with suitcases full of foodstuffs, and one of the surprise finds in a Hanoi supermarket was a small selection of Vietnamese wine. The sight of local wine on a supermarket shelf was a real eye-opener. Yes, the world is flat, and it also has highlands in Dalat! Vang Dalat, the only brand of Vietnamese wine we saw, is produced by Lam Dong Foodstuffs Joint-Stock Company, privatized in 2003, according to their website. The grapes are grown around Dalat, a city that's known as the entry point to the central highlands of Vietnam. Dalat is about 1500m above sea level. The climate of Dalat is temperate, with average temperatures of 64°F, and lows around 40°.

The wine itself was nothing to write home about. The bottle we drank was red, a "Superior" bottling, and they sold a white as well. Only the nose, a delicate bouquet of strawberry, was memorable. Otherwise, the wine was thin and uninteresting, like a German spatburgunder in a vintage marked by heavy rainfalls. But to dismiss the wine itself is missing the point – what's interesting is that the Vietnamese are growing grapes and making wine! Wow, the grape has no barriers, and there's no reason why time, experience and severe pruning won't lead to a legitimate Vietnamese wine industry.

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