The strange case of wine from Bhutan

My first thought was that reports vineyards are being planted in Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan had to be an April Fool's joke. 

But the source was highly respected magazine Drinks Business and story was not dated April 1. 

It appears that over the past two weeks five small vineyards have been planted in Bhutan, covering a total of six acres. 


The project is the brainchild of American MW student Mike Juergens who first went to Bhutan to run a marathon and noticed that the conditions could be “ideal for wine”, with there being lots of south-facing slopes and iron-rich soils. 

He asked if there were any vines planted in the country and was told there were not.

Juergens laid out why he thought the country would suit viticulture and, once home, after some further research he wrote a white paper for the Government. 

For Juergens this represented a “glorious opportunity”. Living in California he explained there was always the possibility of planting his own vineyard. This, however, was something quite different; a country entirely devoid of viticultural heritage (or baggage) – which holds, Juergens believes, “ridiculous potential.” 

‘To be able to build not just a vineyard but a whole region,” he said. “It was way too good an adventure [to pass up].”

The initial plantings are merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, shiraz, pinot noir, malbec, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and petit manseng. 

The vineyards are located at various places around the country to take advantage of the various climates that Bhutan offers and see what works best where. 

As a mountain country, Bhutan offers a range of elevations - the highest vineyard that will be planted is at 2,700 metres above sea level. 

Bhutan is a carbon neutral country, known for its sustainable practices and on-track to being 100% organic. 

So, an interesting experiment in country that has a track record for making peach wines, and western-style spirits in two large distilleries. 

Strangely, though, there already two red wines that are promoted as "Product of Bhutan" - which are bottled at those distilleries using bulk wine brought in from neighbouring India. 

It seems as if Bhutan has a bit of work to do on its label integrity. 

In the meantime, we have to wait five years fro the first release - if there is one - of what Juergens plans to call Thunder Dragon. 

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