Saigon Grand Cru, a Possibility?

The undrinkable world of Vietnamese wine

Just a few weeks ago, the owners of the iconic Chateau Lafite (DBR), one of the top 5 Grand Cru of Bordeaux, announced its first Chinese wine, Long Dai, which will be released this year and distributed by Pernord Ricard. With so many countries that already have a great tradition, as well as ideal soil and climate conditions, of making great wines, why did they choose China?

My guess is because DBR is trying to get two things together, a quality name for wine (the Chinese are all about reputation rather than taste when buying wine), and wine made in China that fulfils their nationalistic ego, so they will be given the best of both worlds. A Chinese wine with a top Bordeaux name will be sold out for sure! 

Last year I had a chat with international critic Jancis Robinson, and she said: “I have been coming to China for the last 20 years, and although wine made in China has considerably improved, there is still a long way to go.”

I totally agree.

Now, what about making wine in Vietnam?

A few companies have tried and all have failed. Dalat wine, which is neither wine nor comes from Dalat, has gained a reputation, not necessarily a good one. The two or three companies that make Dalat wine keep their strategy to make something fast and quick, with no regards to quality or taste, and cheat by adding any fruit they can find to increase volume.

There is at least one company in Dalat importing wine, doing their “magic” with chemicals to change color, taste and smell, then bottling it under any label the customers want. It does not taste bad, they avoid high wine taxes, but again the word “cheat” comes to my mind.

But what about growing proper grapes here and making real wine?

That would be great, but of the many companies that tried, including two international big wine players, none have succeeded. The reason is that wine making needs knowledge but also certain characteristics of the soil, climate and weather, as well as certain temperatures, usually continental and Mediterranean seasons, but so far all of that is not present in Vietnam. Perhaps with climate change, soon we will be able to enjoy real delicious Vietnamese wine, similar to what you can find in Thailand. And if you were wondering about the Saigon wine that has appeared in some minimarkets, well it is not from Saigon and I’ll let you decide whether it is wine or not.

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