Samui Wining & Dining
A Wonderwall of Wine

Fabulous wines with food to match at Wine Oasis.

22-(1)If Samui had a ‘Best Wine List’ award, this year there would be a clear winner. Right in the heart of Chaweng, you will find a gem of a restaurant called Wine Oasis. And put simply, it has a superb wine list - one that few (if any) other restaurants here can match. Of course, the name “Wine Oasis” is a big clue as to the emphasis of this eatery. And for the quality and prices of the inspired wine selections, Wine Oasis is exactly that. Equally important, it has all the other ingredients that discerning diners require from tropical island style dining.

In general, the Samui dining scene has developed into a sophisticated foodie’s Elysium. Each year, for the last decade, standards have improved and upgraded. The island has benefited from international talented chefs, who have contributed greatly to Samui’s culinary arena. Consequently, there is a new generation of local chefs who have learnt to cook, both classic and contemporary food, with flair and imagination. But having said that, the one very frustrating weak point, for food and wine lovers, is that thus far, it has been very hard to find, outside of a 5-star resort with 5-star prices, a really good wine list, to accompany the mouth-watering food. (The main reason for this, in case you don’t know, is the exorbitantly high level of taxation on wine imported into Thailand.)

Wine Oasis is one exception that proves the rule. They offer a wonderful selection of wine from, what contemporary wine enthusiasts would call, the definitive wine regions of the world. Big red wines from Bordeaux, superior Italian red wines from Tuscany, typical Aussie blends from Barossa Valley, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand,22-(4) Chardonnays from California and South Australia, as well as classic Champagne, fine dry Prosecco and intriguing New World rosés.

The secret to the excellent wine choices and the moderate prices is the man behind Wine Oasis. Napasoon Chayuntaradiliok, better known as Khun Laem, is the Owner/Director. He is also a wine importer, as well as being a Captain for Thai Airways! Flying Jumbo jets around the world is his job, but spend 10 minutes with him, and it soon becomes abundantly clear that wine is his true passion.

Khun Laem’s import company, BKK Wine 1855, lists bottles personally chosen by him. Extensive travels, due to the nature of his profession, combined with his raw enthusiasm and exhaustive knowledge of fine wine, have exposed Khun Laem to some of the best-kept wine secrets of first-class wine country like Tuscany, Bordeaux and Barossa. And the bonus for us, the customers, is that there is no middleman.

To support the stylishness of the wines, the restaurant, skilfully managed by Khun Laem’s lovely wife, has the cuisine and al fresco ambience required. The open-plan Thai sala and softly lit garden setting, with grape vines growing above your head, is both relaxed and informal, and yet the service and attention to detail is impeccable. And the wines are treated with the respect you would expectNeatly stored in an air-conditioned wine cellar, in which diners are welcome to browse, before choosing a bottle. Careful planning ensures the wines are always served at correct temperatures, and in the appropriate glassware. (And older red wines are decanted.)

The menu has been expertly created to be wine friendly. It includes fresh seafood and sumptuous European and Italian dishes, as well as Thai fusion and Spanish style tapas, tailor-made for wines. The concept is to match the food with the wines, and often to match specific regions. Italian dishes will be recommended to accompany Italian wines, French with French, and even Thai with Thai. Wine Oasis is the kind of restaurant where choosing your wine first, and food selections afterwards,22-(5) makes perfect sense to a wine lover. Yes, the food is equally commendable, and wines will match very well, but you have to remember where you are, and having these irresistible wine choices at affordable prices is an enticingly rare treat. . Especially as some wines are available by the glass. It’s a great opportunity to try a few different varieties, like Prosecco, Aussie sparkling rosé, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, French Muscat and Chardonnay from the US, which are all available at 199 baht a glass, as are U.S. Cabernet Sauvignon and South African Klippenkop Syrah. And Californian Merlot and French Corbieres Rouge are only 150 baht a glass!

Wine Oasis runs monthly specials that are always matched with suitable food dishes. And on my visit, the wine of the month was a Perlato Del Bosco Toscana IGT 2008 from the tiny Tuscan estate of Tua Rita. Voted number 12 in Italy Top Wines of 2011, and receiving 93 points from Wine Enthusiast, and at 1,750 baht a bottle, it’s a snip. When matched with some perfectly cooked lobster ravioli soup, this dynamic red wine delivers on its hype, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of blackberry and cassis, rich blended fruit tones and long lingering finish. This is a wine made for food accompaniment, and is just one example of the hidden treasures to be found at Wine Oasis.

The extensive wine list has over 80 bottles. Just a few of the stand out choices are Tuscan red wines at 1,200 baht, a New Zealand Pinot Noir (1,500), South Australian Schild Estate Riesling (1,090), Loire Valley Ackerman Pouilly Fume and Sancerre (both 1,590). If you are celebrating, Mangin & Fils Champagne is a cool 1,900 baht, and predictably, Wine Oasis has a tempting array of Grand Cru Bordeaux from the highly-sort-after places like Saint Emilion, Pauillac and Pomerol, at very astute prices from 3-6,000 baht.

          

Peter James


 


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