That wine and cheese make perfect companions is no secret. What makes the tasting experience at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle a little different, however, are the robust flavours from locally-produced wines and cheeses that bring a tropical twist to the table.
Under a thatched roof, the unlikely wine cellar serves up just as atypical full-bodied wines and artisanal cheeses produced right here in Thailand. “Here, among an impressive collection of international vintages, are a selection of unique Thai wines that are testament to the conviction and passion of the people that made them possible,” smiles Macall Newman, Camp Manager.
Far from the cool dry climes of the Mediterranean, the idea of creating local wines would have seemed far-fetched at best, but not so for Chalerm Yoovidha, a wine-loving entrepreneur who had a vision of his own. In 2002, on invitation of the Huay Sai Royal Research Project, Chalerm was surprised to find that a trial vineyard yielded positive results in the coastal province of Hua Hin just south-west of Bangkok. Encouraged by this he set out to identify a patch of land that would serve as his flagship vineyard – and so Monsoon Valley was born, with vineyards spread over an expanse of land that was once home to an elephant corral.
“Authenticity is everything with wine, and with the Monsoon Valley wines there is a taste of the ocean somewhere in the glass,” explains Restaurant Manager Sutas Klangsuwan. “The soil around Hua Hin is rich in shells and minerals that gives the wines their special crispness.” From Colombard and Chenin Blanc to Sangiovese, Rondo and Shiraz, a Thai rendition of all these classics shines through.
Pairing these artisanal wines with cheeses from the region has been an interesting project for the camp team, and after several trials, Chiang Rai Cheese seemed to be the perfect match. “Their cheeses are produced from pasteurised milk using dairy cattle and goats, nurtured and cared for specially by local farmers residing within the Northern Province of Chiang Rai in Thailand,” explains Sutas. These farmers (from Muang, Chiang Kong, and Phan sub-districts) are trained meticulously and as members of the Chiang Rai Dairy Co-operative are encouraged to maintain the highest ethical and cleanliness standards. “The grass that is fed to the cattle glistens with the morning dew,” beams Sutas, adding that the milk has an extraordinarily rich flavour that is carried forward to the cheeses, with a buttery aroma.
The Tasting Experience
Sutas suggests that the pairing of wine and cheese is best experienced at room temperature. “During the Thai summer, when the mercury is rising, room temperature might not be the best gauge,” he laughs. The experience at the camp is highlighted by the pairing with dried fruits including strawberry, mango, and Phule pineapple from the Royal Project Foundation.
Brie, Korat with Colombard Sparkling Wine - This soft and creamy cheese made from unpasteurised cow's milk is a perfect starter. Colombard’s citric touch with tropical aromas leads to a crisp finish. The hint of sweetness balances the acidity, and enhances the fruity flavours, making a refreshing combination with brie. “This sparkling wine also pairs well with the umami flavours of Thai papaya salad, dim sums, parma ham, prosciutto and seafood such as lobster and prawns,” shares Sutas.
Tomme de Chiang Rai with a dry texture – This semi-soft and pliable cheese made from cow’s milk has a strong dairy flavour that is offset by a deep, smoky punch. It is paired with Colombard White.
Reblochon, Korat with red wine including Donfelder, Rondo and Shiraz – “A sharp taste and aroma defines this cheese made unpasteurised cow's milk,” he says. Dipped into rice wine before fermentation to expedite the ageing to give it its distinctive tanginess, this cheese pairs well with Donfelder, Rondo and Shiraz. “Silky tannins make this medium-bodied red mellow and sensational,” he adds. At dinner, this wine pairs well with prime steaks or leaner fillets, as well as Thai cuisine with fish sauce-infused flavours.
Sainte-Maure de Chiang Rai with Shiraz Rosé or Blended Red – This mild goat cheese with a grey rind is moist and tender. “It pairs well with rosé and is an all-occasion mood enhancer,” smiles Sutas. “Sit by our pool and enjoy it with Thai beef salad or larb gai!”