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 10: Bangkok Edition Vol. 2

Greetings from sunny Koh Samui! Its nice and hot here, feels much warmer than in Bangkok (temprature is actually pretty much the same). I guess it is the humidity in the air that really makes the difference, and it makes me crave for some cold, dry and sparkling even more. It was to be expected, but the selection of wine here on the island is even worse than in the Capital, obviously. However, in such a sauna, beer tastes almost as good. So we have stocked up with some local and local-ish (read: Asian) beer to keep the thirst at bay. I actually prefer to have my beer from cans. Like Coka Cola, it just tastes better from aluminum, or what do you think? But back to Bangkok for a while, the island edition is coming up next week.

We were so overly excited to find a decent wine bar in Bangkok, that we published a review immediately. You can find Ms review on the @494 at the Grand Hyatt here. We were equally offput by a Romanian sparkling wine we bought at the store, that we posted a Wine warning. A Wine warning will be issued when a wine has the look of something drinkable, but majorly disappoints when tasted. Some wines you already know will not be good, like many bag inbox, so you just have yourself to blame if you put it in your mouth. But the devious wines that manage to trick their way into my glass, they are the ones that will get a Wine warning.

What else did we do in Bangkok this week? We went to some very interesting restaurants. We had not planned for much fine dining, but it was much easier to reserve a table in the Bangkok top spots than one could have thought. We picked three interesting restaurants from the Asias To 50 -list (2015): Nahm (#1), Gaggan (#3) and Issaya Siamese Club (#31). The restaurant ranking lists are a bit tricky, and we found ourselves disaggreeing heavily (with the list, not eachother) on which one should come first. We will write some separate reviews on all of them, but I think it is worth mentioning here how we placed our votes.

Ambience:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Food:
1. Issaya Siamese Club/ Gaggan (50/50 vote)
3. Nahm

Service:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Issaya Siamese Club was a beautiful, unique and very customer oriented restaurant that was very strong in quality produce and talented cooking. The only minus could be that it was hard to find, but perhaps we can only blame ourselves trying to be very Scandinavian and walk there (google maps really let us down). Gaggan is a restaurant doing Indian fusion (or progressive Indian as they call it), a style of food that has failed me many times. With a chef who used to work at the famous El Bulli’s food lab they do a bit of hokus pocus but still with focus on flavors and that it should taste good. There is an Indian twist, but not too forceful to take the focus off the culinary experience. This is very hard to achieve, so thats why M and I disaggreed on the first spot for food in our ranking. Nahm was good, but nothing that stood out from a good hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. Service in general lacks behind Europe and the US, but perhaps it is also how we want to be served compared to what the local culture considers valuable.

As I mentioned before, the lack of wine would perhaps be compensated by some refreshing cocktails. In general, I must say I was a bit disappointed at many bars we looked at. Even the Speakeasy on the rooftop of our hotel, The Muse, that was supposed to be one of the best in town was very average. I guess they ranked it based on the view. Cocktail list consist mainly of Mojitos, Martinis and the occasional Sex on the beach. This is what I can get at the local pub, equally boring and poorly made. I guess I was hoping for some nice fruity Daiqiris and a lot of stuff with lemongrass and ginger. But the three restaurants mentioned above did not disappoint in this area either. Gaggan had several pages of drinks under the title Mixology (yes a lot of smoke and dry ice) and Issaya walked the extra mile in both fresh ingredients and look of the cocktails. So we cast aside the wine lists and had some coctails together with our food. I am not a huge fan of the concept, but especially with some spicy Thai cuisine, a fresh cocktail works better than many wines.

Thats it for Wineweek 10. Next week will bring some more beach to the picture with posts from Samui. You can also expect more on street food, reviews from London (to keep up the focus on wine) and Ms coffee reviews. Btw. Did you know that coffee has around 1500 different tastes as opposed to wine having only 200. That my friends is why coffee deserves its own reviews. It is such an interesting subject that we have taken it as permanent part of our blog.