Piya ready to export his wine


Piya Bhirombhakdi has been known for decades as the executive chairman of Singha beer-maker Boon Rawd Brewery, but this year his name is becoming increasingly recognised by wine enthusiasts as the owner of a Thai winery.

Having invested more than Bt100 million in the venture over the past seven years, Piya is now ready to introduce two new products from his winery in Khao Yai, in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

“I’m very proud of the new wines. They prove that Khao Yai is a perfect location for great wines,” said Piya at the grand opening last weekend, during which he refused to answer questions about Singha beer, apparently to show his seriousness in his personal venture, PB Valley Khao Yai Winery.

This year, starting with a booth at Foodex Japan 2005 and another at the Winepex exposition, the winery’s Pirom Khao Yai Reserve Tempranillo 2004 and Chenin Blanc 2004, with price tags of Bt800 and Bt700 respectively, will be marketed overseas. The overseas marketing will initially focus on Japan, Europe, Singapore and the United States.

Apparently planned to grow in step with the government’s Kitchen of the World programme, the wines – recommended for spicy dishes – will be marketed mainly through boutique wine shops and overseas Thai restaurants recommended by Thai food suppliers.

As such, the wines will be sold through a different marketing channel from Singha beer.

Thirty per cent of the 12,000 bottles of Tempranillo and 6,000 bottles of Chenin Blanc will be exported, while the rest will be sold domestically through hotels, pubs and restaurants as the winery targets 30-something wine drinkers.

Marketing Thai wines overseas is not easy though, the winery’s general manager Sorapat Tongprasroeth acknowledged. “First, we need to make the world know that we can make wines in Thailand,” he said.

But through exporting, Piya has shown his enthusiasm in turning the venture into a real business, not a hobby.

As founder of the newly formed Thai Wine Makers Association, he aims to play a more important role in the Thai wine industry.

Piya said an association to represent the industry as a whole was needed as more than 10 wineries have opened in the Kingdom.

Together with three other wine-makers – Siam Winery, Chateau de Loei and Grand Monte – Piya’s PB Valley also plans to request that the government reduce excise taxes collected on grape-based wines, from 60 per cent per litre to 25 per cent.

“Grape-based wines’ excise tax is 60 per cent, while that of wines made from other materials is only 25 per cent. This is not good for local wine-makers, who will shortly witness huge competition from imported wines, of which prices will be cut sharply following the free-trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand,” he added.

In order to avoid competition in the traditional wine market, Piya said that PB Valley was in the final stages of developing a new sparkling wine-based drink to be launched by the end of the year.

Unlike the other four wines launched by the winery, this new product will target younger drinkers.

“We don’t want to promote drinking among youngsters but if they do want to drink, why not drink something that can do good things for your health?” said Piya, who has been a regular wine drinker for years.

Published on March 01, 2005


Achara Deboonme, Sasithorn Ongdee

The Nation