Burma is known for many things. Its recent decision has opened its doors to the scrutiny of the Western world. One of which is slowly recognising that behind the seemingly timid country are maverick businessmen that have laboured for a very long time to put the nation in the spotlight for the grade of their wine.
Vineyards would drape the land terraces leaning over the famous mirror of the Inle Lake in Burma. First impression would be that it is an unusual setting for a growing wine industry that are slowly awakening the fine taste buds of visiting tourists of this last frontier of Asia.
Burma’s budding vineyard produces about 120,000 bottles of wine a year. This is being sold at 10,000 kyat or around $11 a bottle. Wine makers from other countries have been fascinated that vines grow in a country such as Burma that is largely considered tropical. European visitors who are prominent wine makers are interested on this phenomenon and are excited to fill their discriminating taste buds with the local tipple.
Despite its fertile soil, the nation’s tropical climate and comparatively short days throughout the months of June to July, peak budding period would mean that merely a couple of grape types can thrive. The vineyard is also challenged by one of nature’s product – fungus. Being the vines biggest enemy vineyard owners are vigilant in arresting fungus infestation. There had also been other challenges at the start of their venture. The local customs and traditions made some of the work in operations a little bit taxing but as years wore on, the wine makers have adapted to these. Now, talks of more vineyards and more investors are up on the table for discussion.
The Shan state’s elevated position give it a cooler temperature and cloudy hills which are ideal and suitable for vineyard growing. The cold climate helps promote a sweeter more aromatic wine.
It’s not surprising that winemakers who have invested in Burma are mostly Europeans. It can be said that it is the Europeans that have perfected the art of making wine. They have imported grapes from Italy, Germany and France and planted it in Burma’s soil. The result – shiraz, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir that shocked wine connoisseurs of its quality, in a good way. The Shan State and the Karenni State boasts of modern equipment for making world class wines such Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Malbec, Muscat , just to name a few.
The wine makers initially targeted the local bustling cities like Yangon and Mandalay. As tourism in Burma soars the demand for wines has suddenly increased. Restaurants, hot spots and hotels that are accommodating foreign travellers find themselves ordering for more wine from Burma’s wine makers.
The business does not stop within the borders of Burma as businessmen are potentially tapping China, India and Thailand to expand their business. This would mean revenue and at the same time the much needed employment for the Burmese people.
It looks like that Burma would even out class some of its Asian neighbours in the art of wine making.