The Life of Wine

 |  July 1, 2010

Hyams grew up in the Adelaide Hills, a well known wine growing area of South Australia. After eight years as a sommelier in some of the finest establishments in the country, he won the Australian Sommelier of the Year in 1990. He has been a wine importer, wholesaler and producer for 20 years and was a wine educator at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School for three years.

We are lucky that he now resides in Chiang Mai and is continuing his lifelong affair with wine. If you want to know anything about wines, please send questions into and Hyams will address them.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in Adelaide, Australia, arguably one of the nation’s most important cultural centres for all things art, food and wine. I see great similarities between Chiang Mai and Adelaide. Both cities have similar metropolitan populations, they lie relatively isolated from their larger capital sisters and they both have a distinctive and significant cultural vibe.

The Chiang Mai food and wine scene is alive and well. Although grape growing is not as de rigueur as that of coffee beans due to climatic and geological challenges, the level of importation and consumption of the good nectar from the vine is testament to the vibrancy of the industry here.

Over the next few months Citylife will guide you to the best places to buy wine; from purchases in cafes, restaurants, shops and wine bars, we will focus on wine of all varieties, from the more expensive bottles to the ‘best buy’ wines across several styles and varieties. We will talk about wine storage, new wine varieties on the block, how to build a credible collection that can be enjoyed for years, how to train your palate for more enjoyable tasting and drinking, and the list goes on…

Why is wine considered so expensive?

Wine is a living product and the best quality wine comes from high quality grapes grown with care on the right viticultural site. Grape growing in itself is an extremely negative cash flow exercise and takes at least 5-7 years before returning any kind of profit to the grower. This is of course if the grower is fortunate enough to avoid any major catastrophes dished out by Mother Nature and that the grower manages to sell grapes at a time when there is no world supply glut and establish strong enough relationships with buyers who need to have faith in the future quality of the grower’s fruit. Winemaking, bottling, packaging, labelling and marketing are all sub-industries by themselves and constitute a significant cost toward the end price.

None of the above costs come close to the exorbitant taxes and duties imposed by most governments around the world, despite the wine industry’s collective efforts to distinguish wine from other alcoholic beverages by using strict label compliance and its position as a cultural beverage to be largely enjoyed with food. Wines sold in countries like Thailand are subject not only to heavy import duties and taxes but also significant, layered internal taxes.

August issue – the Italian renaissance; Pinot Grigio leads the way.