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Natural wine is gaining popularity in the Thai capital thanks to creative restaurants, a delivery service and input from one of Asia’s top chefs. Here’s where to surf the wave at its best.
What exactly is natural wine? That’s the question that pops up most readily into the heads of the uninitiated upon hearing about the stuff. After all, what could be more natural than nurturing then harvesting a crop of grapes to produce outstanding vintages? Quite a lot, actually. There is no official or regulated definition, but when people refer to natural wine they are generally talking about wines that use grapes that are hand-picked from sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards, fermented with no added yeast and that contain no additives or added sulphites. The resulting wine is yeastier, cloudier and generally funkier than a typical wine. Not an obvious fit for a Thai audience who tend towards sweeter flavour profiles, one might think. But the trend is catching on noticeably in Bangkok, with world class bottles from around the world available at several venues.
About Eatery doesn’t appear to be much of a trend setter at first glance. Located off Sukhumvit Road, in the defiantly uncool Asok area, the airy venue is as casual as they come, with its open kitchen serving up healthy Italian and Mediterranean dishes. It seems like a fantastic lunch spot (it is), but its real singularity comes with its fantastic selection of natural wines, sourced personally by manager Giulio Saverino, an evangelist for sustainably produced, bio-dynamic wines. What’s even better is that Saverino has made it remarkably easy for novices to share in his passion. Amid rustic woods and brickwork, chalkboards display wine pairing tips. The wine list covers more than 50 labels by the bottle and includes sparkling, red, white, rosé and the peculiar orange wine, made using the same method as red wine. Menu icons indicate each wine’s viniculture, aging process and whether its suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
Everything that chef Gaggan Anand does piques the fascination of gastronomes in Bangkok and from further afield. Little surprise given that his eponymous restaurant has been rated the best in Asia for the past three years consecutively. Therefore, news that his next venture in the Thai capital – a casual wine bar called WET – will specialise in natural wines is a significant stamp of approval for organic, biodynamic bottles. We are (naturally) extremely excited about the forthcoming opening, which is due to happen imminently. What we already know is that there will be approximately forty seats, the menu will focus on pan-Asian share plates and the wine selection – overseen by Vladimir Kojic, Gaggan’s long term sommelier – will focus on small-production French and Austrian bottles.
Sommeliers at top restaurants around Bangkok have been spreading the natural wine gospel through their wine pairings. Benoit Bigot from Michelin-starred German venue Suhring and Andreas Pergher of Bunker are among those pushing natural wines onto the fine dining agenda. Converts to natural wine in the city don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own homes. Go Naturalista, an online delivery portal, selects wines based on their impact to the environment and prioritises produce that use low-intervention farming. As well as offering bottles for delivery, it partners with restaurants for events that curate some of the best natural wines available.