This Time Last Year

Today Stockholm has been covered in white. Snow has come early in record breaking amounts. The whole city is in traffic chaos. I feel lucky I made it home from work. And so I started counting again, the days that are left before we leave for Asia. It has become a yearly tradition for us to fly southeast for Christmas. Thirty five days. It isn’t that long. Continue reading “This Time Last Year”

The First Wine Review of the Year: Vang Dalat Excellence Chardonnay

Happy New Year! What better way to start a new year of blogging than a wine review. I haven’t written those in a while. This time you are in for a treat as I have been tasting some Vietnamese wine. Yum yum…perhaps not, but interesting nevertheless. We picked up two bottles at Saigon airport just before departing to Singapore and a few days ago mustered up the courage to open a bottle. As white wine seemed like the safer choice we decided to open the Vang Dalat Excellence Chardonnay.

Like with most other Asian countries, wine is not the first drink that comes to mind when thinking about Vietnam. Nevertheless, Da Lat city, with its cool central highland climate and strong French heritage is an anomaly producing wine. The grapes come from nearby Phan Rang which is Vietnam’s main grape-growing region. The wine is said to be made according European wine making practices, but I did not find very much information about it online.  What is nice is that the wine is made affordable for locals, but this specific bottle of Chardonnay was produced for the export market and set us back 13 US dollars at the duty free.

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Tasting the Vang Dalat Excellence Cardonnay
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The seal of approval for Vietnamese wine

The wine was straw colored and the initial sniff fresh. The nose of the wine was actually quite pleasant in this hot weather with tropical fruits, lemon and honey. The taste of the wine had white fruits and lemon, accompanied by that oxidized taste of cooked fruit that I associate with spoiled wine. It was faint, but nevertheless it was there. I cant really put my finger on it where it comes from. Perhaps late harvest or over heating during the fermentation process. It is however quite common, and as I have understood it even preferred by locals in China and Vietnam. Taste is taste, what can you do.

Vang Dalat, is available in most cities and provinces in Vietnam and its exported to China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia and Switzerland. It is also available to buy in Germany, however the price tag really does not match the quality (~20€). I would not recommend buying it for the quality. However, many decisions these days come down to interesting versus delicious. So if you are into new things – why not!

Although I would like to give some points for a good attempt, I just cannot do that. Otherwise I would not be true to the scoring system. So both quality as well as value for money get one point out of five (even that is a bit generous). We drank one small glass and poured the rest.

xx Soile

Wineweek 58: Half Way Through Asia

We have come to the half-point of our tour. The journey has taken us via Bangkok, to Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City and now Singapore. We will spend the following week in Asia’s capital of specialty coffee, and the best destination for wine, Singapore. For the last leg we move back to edgy Bangkok for a final week and a half. It feels like we have been on the road for a long time, however I have been wined and dined enough to not yet miss Stockholm. I am sure that a week in Bangkok will fix that (the wine scene is still very thin).

So what have we been up to? I already posted some wine tips for Ho Chi Minh City. It was much more of a wine city than I initially thought (makes sense with Vietnam’s history as a French colony).  We enjoyed a lot of street food: Pho (noodle soup), Bánh Mi (Vietnamese baguette), sticky rice and fruits. I will write a separate post about the food tour we did (Ho Chi Minh Street Eats, I can warmly recommend). We visited some of the main sites as well as tried out the wine scene. Ho Chi Minh was very buzzing, but in six days, I was ready to move on.

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Celebrating Christmas eve in Ho Chi Minh City
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Our glasses were filled with Baron-Fuente champagne. I would perhaps not buy this bubbly by the box, but it was definitely half decent.
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We dig out specialty coffee wherever we go. Workshop at Ho Chi Minh City
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Arriving to Singapore
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Lights at Orchard Road
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Cold brew at Common Man
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A labyrinth of escalators at Dhoby Ghaut
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Coctails at 28 Hong Kong Street
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Japanese beer tastes fresh in the hot weather.

Now we are in modern Singapore, where everything works like clockwork. Wine is not cheap, but its available, the specialty coffee scene is mature and the ease of transport makes it possible to do more within one day. Singapore is one of the best cities for good cocktails, so for our first night out, we popped into one of the first and best speakeasies I know, 28 Hong Kong street. It is a widely known secret, but still very hidden. There is only s small copper sign indicating of its whereabouts. The food is dripping of fat and/or deep-fried (not a dieters paradise) and the cocktails are amazing. I wrote a review on it already last spring, you can read about it here. You can expect some more cocktail action to come during the following weeks.

That was it for this wineweek. Coming week, who knows what is going to happen. A new year is approaching with new adventures. We already looked at our calendars last night planning for some tastings and other events for the spring. Have a great week wherever you are!

xx Soile

 

 

Saigon – Wine City

Merry Christmas! On this Christmas day, we are saying goodbye to Saigon and heading towards the fourth leg of our Asia-tour, Singapore. Looking back on these two weeks, who knew that our stay in Vietnam would be so rich with wine. We must have had a few glasses every night. The old French colony is a fine destination (in Asia) if you have a craving for some fermented grape juice during your journey. Here are a few tips where to go in Saigon:

Wine Bar 38, is a three-story wine bar located on one of the main street, Dong Khoi. The name of the bar represents the street address, so it is not very hard to find. As is to be expected, the bar has a good selection of French wines. Additionally I saw some Riesling from Mosel, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (Australia) and white Bordeaux. I was mainly eyeing the whites as it has been so hot. The bar has two dispensing machines, one for red and one for white wines for having tasters. Both fit six bottles. There is a happy hour between 5 and 7 pm. when all wines are 50%. Good deal if you ask me, as the price for a glass drops to a few euros (50-85K Vietnamese Dong).

Where: 38 Dong Khoi, Disitrict 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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The bottles are kept in a proper way
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The terrace
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White wine tastes great in the hot and humid weather

Wine Embassy is also located in district 1, just off the main street, Dong Khoi. The wine embassy has an even better selection of wines by the glass, and they offer small portions from 4cl and up. Wine Embassy also organizes tastings and wine classes. They serve everything from Riedel glassware. This bar is a touch up in wine-professionalism from Bar 38. The wine selection is very similar, heavy on France as well as Australia and other New World wines. Happy hour is also from 5 to 7 pm with a lovely 50%  off, so you will not end up paying an arm and a leg as long as you keep your eyes on the clock.

Where: 13 Ngo Duc Ke, Disitrict 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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The Wine Embassy
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Riedel glassware
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The dispensing machines carry a good selection by the glass
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Entrance to the Wine Embassy

Annam Gourmet Market is the place to go if you want to buy wine. You will not find a bargain, but if you want a bottle of champagne, the selection is ok. Ok for Asia I mean. You have a selection of around 20-30 bubblies including also some finer wines like a Krug Grande Cuvee. The champagnes start from around 700K Vietnamese Dong (around 30€). The shop has also other foods and treats. Keep your eyes open though, many western products are quite unreasonably priced, so you will find a better bargain on a box of sweets somewhere else.

Where: 16-18 Hai Ba Trung, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

This was my first time in Saigon, so I think we just scratched the surface. I am sure there are some even better wine spots in the city. We had such a good selection at the hotel lounge, that we did not really go out and explore that much. Our hotel, the Sofitel Saigon Plaza, also has a decent bar in the lobby, as well as we read up about the roof top bar at the Sheraton being quite ok. So if you don’t have time for much research, the hotels seem to carry an ok selection (and the prices weren’t that bad).

This was it from Ho Chi Minh City. Next time I will be writing to you from Singapore.

xx Soile

 

 

 

 

Wineweek 57: Good Morning Vietnam

This week we have been in Vietnam. First five days on Phu Quoc island and as of yesterday in Saigon. We are here to eat and drink. What else! Phu Quoc was a bit of a holiday for us. We stayed at a nice resort by the sea. In the evenings, we took the shuttle to “town” and had some local food and beer. Now we are in Saigon and the hunt for wine is on!

As Vietnam is a former French colony, there is a history that speaks in favor of there being wine available. And there is. I was surprised by the difference to Bangkok, but after considering the difference in both countries past, it is clear that Saigon is a much more vibrant wine destination than Thailand. Thailand (former Siam) has always been independent, so western influences have come late.

The old colonial buildings in Saigon are beautiful, the traffic is just as bad as I thought it would be, and the food is awesome. We really got lucky with our hotel though. We invested in staying at the Sofitel, and it is really worth every penny. With a complimentary upgrade we are able to visit the executive lounge and they serve cakes and Tattinger in the evenings. This is by far the best hotel experience (after our honeymoon) of my life. And it cost us something around 100€ a night (M must have found some good offer).  I would say it’s a steal.

Back to wine bars. We have already found two that pass the bar as proper wine hangouts. It is quite common that from 5-7pm there is a happy hour with 50% off. So the bill ends up around 3-5€ per glass. Not bad at all! There is of course a high French influence. You can find white Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier on the list as well as come Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir from France. Additionally you have some nice wines from New Zealand and Australia as well as the South American countries. I would say Spain and Portugal are non existent her, if you don’t count the Freixenet (yuk) I saw in the gourmet shop. I can pass that one thank you very much.

That was it for this wine week. I will write more about the Saigon wine-scene next week. Enjoy the photos!

xx Soile

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Chicken leg with BBQ sauce and chili
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Please don’t eat us (I didn’t)
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Sunset on Phu Quoc
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Even simple Vietnamese restaurants are pretty
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Friendly welcome to the Sofitel
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Some chilled whites at Wine Bar 38
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Proper wineware at the Wine Embassy
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Proper wine bar in district 1 
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Spices for Pho
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All gone! Tattinger at the Sofitel