Large red wine glasses, two rows of five, lined up atop the wine bar. Monsoon Valleys winemaker and their wine consultant on one side of the counter, Vivien and me on the other. A serious wine tasting happening right in front of us. The task for them was to choose the next Shiraz to take the place of the current vintage. The stock of the current vintage was all but sold out. There were four newer batches of Shiraz under consideration – but which one was ready?

Tasting each in comparison to the current vintage. Identifying the characteristics of each, a little too much tannin on one, a nice chocolaty character on another, the fruit a little too vibrant on one more. And we got to play along whilst the experts went through their process. Just Vivien and me – what a privilege!

Having attended a wine tasting hosted by Monsoon Valley wines – a large vineyard just 45 minutes drive from our home here in Hua Hin. The evening was coming to an end and the invited crowd was now focused on securing their dinner.

Over the course of the last hour, the 30 or so invited guests, including us, had sampled Monsoon Valley’s Signature White – a Chenin blanc. Their Signature Red, mainly based on the locally cultivated but German origin Dornfelder grape variety. And Monsoon Valley’s Sparkling Brut Prestige. The wine tasting was accompanied by canapes from the wine bars kitchen – all perfectly tasty and suitable matched.

Two, soon to be launched wines, were also tasted – a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region and a Shiraz from South Australia’s Langhorne Creek. Both to be released under the companies Mont Clair label.

Appreciative comments on the wines were overheard from our fellow wine tasters. Questions proffered to and answered by the winemaker on the wines and the new imports. The crowd suitable happy with what was on offer and the price points of the various wines. The sniff of potential wine sales a positive outcome for winery staff.

We had been having a conversation with Hans-Peter Hoehnen, the German wine consultant who has worked with the vineyards winemakers for the last 10 years helping them successfully develop international standard wines.

Hans-Peter and French-trained local winemaker Suppached Sasomsin now needed to make their choice for the next Monsoon Valley Shiraz. Instead of suggesting we leave, they invited us to be part of the process. Hans-Peter was aware that I had already written and had published magazine stories on the vineyard – simple ‘must do’ travel pieces for people coming to Hua Hin. This insight into the winemaking process could be an interesting story Hans-Peter suggested! Who were we to say no to such an opportunity?

For wine lovers like Vivien and me, we were now privy to a private insight into the challenges winemakers have, vintage after vintage! After some twenty minutes of wine swirling in their bulbous glasses, aromas evaluated, color and texture in the glass assessed, tasting and spitting done – wine by wine and all against the ‘benchmark’ current vintage. A decision was made. A successor names!

And for us, time to say goodnight and a heartfelt thank you to our hosts. We had a new found appreciation for winemakers and their requisite skills.  What an opportunity we had just had. And what a soul-enriching evening this had been!

You can read about a previous visit to Hua Hin Hills vineyard, now called Monsoon Valley vineyards, here.

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