With demand and supply growing, Asian wines are set to experience a boom in the UK market, according to sales manager for Thailand’s Siam Winery, Neil McIlwee.
Siam Winery’s Monsoon Valley Cuvée de Siam. This is the producer’s top wine, but it’s not exported to the UK
During a tasting in the UK of the company’s Monsoon Valley brand, McIlwee told the drinks business, “I know there is going to an explosion in Asian wines very soon with the amount coming over from India, China and Japan.”
Continuing he stressed the growing interest from the supermarket sector, and admitted, “Marks & Spencer has asked to see our wines,” before reminding db, “And Waitrose has already taken on a wine from China.”
Holding back Asian sales in the UK at the moment is a lack of awareness that countries such as Japan, Thailand and China produce wine, he said.
In terms of Thailand’s wine industry specifically, he explained, “There’s a perception we can’t produce wine because of the climate – that it’s too humid – but we are based in the south west of the country where it’s mountainous and cool in the evenings, and we have to use drip irrigation.”
Speaking about the current wine offer in retailers in the UK he lamented, “People claim they have wines from around the world but when you ask them if they have anything from Asia they say ‘no’.”
As for a general descriptor for Asian wines, he said they should not be regarded as either New or Old World, but “New Latitude” wines.
Siam’s winemaker Kathrin Puff
McIlwee has been selling the Monsoon Valley brand of Thai wines in the UK for eight years and the British market is the largest for the winery, although it exports to 20 countries, including the US and Germany.
It’s not surprising to learn that the primary market for Monsoon Valley in the UK is the Thai restaurant sector, and a surge in the number of outlets has driven an increase in Siam’s sales.
However, he is attempting to broaden distribution of Monsoon Valley into other styles of eateries, and mentioned a European restaurant called Cotto in Cambridge, which has recently taken on the wines.
Currently Monsoon Valley sell a range of eight wines in the UK, including a Colombard and Shiraz varietal wines, as well as a lower alcohol white from Chenin Blanc.
McIlwee said that the latter wine, at 9.5% abv, has just 23 calories per glass.
He also mentioned the existence of a vintage, traditional method sparkling wine made by the winery but not exported to the UK yet.
It retails for the equivalent of around £50 in Thailand and uses Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Viognier.
The producer also makes a Sangiovese and Tempranillo, and is presently trialling a Sauvignon Blanc, which will be Thailand’s first wine from this grape should it prove successful, according to McIlwee.
As previously reported by db, Siam Winery has a German winemaker called Kathrin Puff (pictured, right) who took up a post at the Thai operation over four years ago.