It comes as a surprise to many people to discover that Thailand produces wine. And not just any wines, but award-winning New Latitude wines which can be purchased in the UK. To help spread the word about Thailand’s wine culture and how different varieties complement Thai food, Tourism Thailand were thrilled to welcome The Wine Show to Thailand. The Wine Show team visited at the end of 2019 with the Thailand show (Season 3, Episode 3) set to be screened on Amazon Prime on November 12, 2020 (free to view for Amazon Prime members).
Wine expert Joe Fattorini together with chef and author, Kay Plunkett-Hogge, travelled on a mission to pair wine with Thai food. Visiting Bangkok, they stayed at The Siam and ate at 100 Mahasesth and in Bangkok’s Chinatown area (known as Yaowarat). From the Thai capital the pair headed south to Hua Hin where they stayed at Anantara Hua Hin Resort and visited Monsoon Valley Vineyard. On their return to the UK, they hosted a pop-up dinner where Joe put his research to the test to pair wines with Kay’s authentic Thai dishes. But did the diners prefer beer or wine with their Thai food? Watch the full episode to find out.
The Wine Show in Thailand trailer
Wine expert Joe Fattorini
With a long and distinguished career in publishing, broadcasting and the wine trade, Yorkshireman Joe Fattorini’s wine expertise has earned him the moniker, “Obi Wine Kenobi”. On the back of his visit for The Wine Show, we asked the Jedi wine master for his thoughts on Thailand. Over to you, Joe
“Since visiting Thailand, a large part of my life has been wondering when I can go back. I thought I knew a lot about vineyards. Until I saw one with its own elephant. It was a testament to the versatility of grapes to find a Thai vineyard. And delicious Thai wine too. But also a testament to the open and adventurous spirit of Thailand, to think “well, why not?” And succeed. On my trip we visited temples and landscapes of breath-taking beauty. And ate some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever known. But at every turn I made friends. With the people who showed us the country and its rich history. Or the evening the team found me sharing a drink and a meal with a retired policeman on a street corner – all laughing without a word in a common language. I’ve visited a lot of places, but I’m not sure you’ve seen the world until you’ve seen Thailand.”
Well said, Joe! Although we may be biased, we couldn’t agree more. We sat down with Joe to ask him more about The Wine Show and his advice for pairing wines with Thai food.
The Wine Show has been a huge success since it launched in 2016. Why do you think it has been so well received?
The success is all down to the genius of the team behind the show. Melanie – our series producer – knew that the show needed to tell universal stories. To use wine as a sort of lens. I’m always delighted how many non-drinkers love the show. What matters is that it’s fascinating and you learn about our world and our place in it, and see the extraordinary role wine played, and still plays, in shaping world events. And we go to lovely places like Thailand and drink delicious wines. That helps too. There’s a lovely bit of escapism.
In Season 3, you and the team explore Thailand which is known for many things; fantastic food, beautiful beaches, magnificent temples, warm hospitality. But wine is never top of the list. Please tell us more about the distinguishing characteristics of this New Latitude wine.
You put your finger on it when you said it’s “new”. These are the frontiers of winemaking. It was curiously like visiting vineyards where I come from, in Yorkshire. And the bizarrest thing was discovering that in Thailand and Yorkshire, vineyards use some of the same grapes. The temperatures couldn’t be more different. But talking to the winemakers it turned out the key thing was being able to cope with the rain in both places. I was blown away at how the winemakers had managed to find that perfect balance between ripe fruit and freshness and zest. Ripeness isn’t a problem in Thailand. But it’s a winemaking challenge to keep the wines fresh when you’re somewhere so warm. It is also the first vineyard I’ve ever come across that’s fertilised by elephant dung. And it’s all the better for it.
It can be quite a challenge to pair wine with Thai cuisine, this is something you and Kay (Plunkett Hogge) explore in detail in the show, but please give us a little insight into why this is the case.
It’s the sheer complexity of Thai food. I think at one point I said the dishes were ‘orchestral’. Even the simplest dishes had these layers of intermingling flavours. Even a sort of spicy ‘echo’ reverberating round your palate. It’s such a contrast to a soloist dish like a grilled Dover sole. Or the sort of simplicity of a chamber music quintet in a garlic and herb-rubbed roast lamb with roast potatoes. In European food the wine is the most complex thing on the table. In Thailand it’s the other way around.
What is your favourite Thai dish and wine pairing and why?
I very much took to pu dong, pickled crab. Although I can tell you television producers have a very particular expression when they’ve flown you and a crew to the other side of the world and the presenter starts eating raw pickled crab the night before a full day of filming. I recommend a slightly off-dry German Riesling with pickled raw crab. But for the less adventurous I still make pad krapao moo saap (fried basil and pork) at home and have it with a lighter red like Beaujolais.
Where is your favourite place in Thailand and why?
Bangkok for sure. I loved travelling out to rural Thailand and the beaches are dreamy. But the bustle and energy of Bangkok was something else. I could have been lost in the markets for hours and everything I ate was fabulous. Including something that I didn’t enquire too closely after. It was bubbling in a sort of ‘soup’ (again I didn’t enquire) that a man shared with me on a little stove he’d set up by the side of the road. We had it with a lot of shots of brandy. I went missing for a bit and the crew found me and this retired policeman in fits of laughter getting a bit squiffy and eating innards.
What are your top tips for a first-time visitor to Thailand?
Get someone to show you how to say “sawatdee krap” and how to do an appropriate wai. It’s the most hospitable country on earth, and it’s very special getting into the spirit of sharing that goodwill. Thai history is fascinating and rich. I wish I’d read more about it before I’d arrived. I asked endless questions as we travelled around. Importantly, loose-fitting trousers are your friend. On several levels.
You have been referred to as the “Attenborough of Oddbins” which is quite an accolade. How do you maintain and nurture your vast level of knowledge, expertise and passion for the world of wine?
I’m one of those people who gets asked to careers sessions at schools and tells students to “do what you love, then you never need to go to work”. I have one with Manchester University next week. I think you have to have an inner compulsion to keep learning. And it helps if you like writing it down as you tend to remember things better. But in the end I just love meeting new people. They’re endlessly fascinating. I don’t know that much. I just listen to other people telling me interesting things.
What is your life motto (if you have one)?
“Nunc est bibendum“. It’s from the poet Horace. It means “now is the time for drinking”.
We’ll drink to that! Cheers to Joe and Kay for showing another side to Thailand on The Wine Show. You can watch Joe and Kay’s adventures in Bangkok and Hua Hin on Amazon Prime. And if you’re an Amazon Prime member, it’s free to view.
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