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Vietnam rises slowly but tastefully in the winemaking business

Vang Dalat, or wine from Dalat, is probably Vietnam's best-known wine. A white and a red are available and they retail for about US$3.20 each in Hanoi. These wines are quite pleasant, though they have a while to go before they are of world standard.

The French started growing grapes for wine during their occupation of Vietnam in the late 19th century. Vietnam threw the French out after years of fighting, and the last French troops left in 1955.

Vietnam's tropical climate was not suited for the type of grapes the French introduced so the wine industry started making wine from fruit.

By the end of last century a renewed focus on growing wine grapes occurred, helped by visiting winemakers from countries like Australia. They introduced international varieties like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.

Dalat is the capital of Lam Dong province in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Unlike the tropical rest of the country, the province has a temperate climate because it is 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level. The region is famous for growing vegetables and fruit.

Mist covers the province's valleys almost all of the year, which explains its name that translates as the “city of eternal spring.”

In 2003 the Lam Dong food company transitioned from being a state-owned enterprise growing fruit and vegetables under the Communist government to making wine. The state retains a 51-percent share.

The company's wines were chosen as the official beverage at the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit conference in Hanoi in 2006, and is often served at state functions.

Two years later the company joined forces with a French company, P&P Import-Export, to establish the Dalat-France wine company. This meant increased investment in machinery to boost the winery's capacity. Production is expected to rise to 5 million liters a year by 2015.

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