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September 25, 2017

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Vietnam rises slowly but tastefully in the winemaking business

The white wine, which did not have a vintage year on the bottle, has a floral nose and good citrus acidity. Details about the wine on the bottle were in Vietnamese, but it appears to be made from the Cardinal grape variety.

Cardinal is usually grown to make raisins and was designed as a table grape. It was first produced in California in 1939. It is a cross between the Flame Tokay and Ribier varieties, both intended as table grapes.

This variety is only used to make wine in Vietnam and Thailand.

The white would be suitable with dishes like salads, seafood and white meat such as poultry. It has a pleasant taste though is unlikely to win any medals at this stage.

The red wine, also non-vintage, is intriguing. It is a blend of Cardinal grapes and the juice of mulberries. Cardinal gives the wine body and grape flavors while the mulberries provide an intense dark red color and flavors of red fruits and, well, sweet mulberries. It tastes like a young sangiovese, which suggests it would pair with vegetable-based foods or anything containing tomatoes.

The tannins are soft, meaning the wine is easy to drink and could pair with a range of local foods that contain couscous and noodles. It is obviously meant to drink now.

It is rare to make wines from table grapes because most table grapes have been hybridized to remove seeds for the convenience of the consumer. Most people do not want to chew grape pips because they contain tannin that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Most red wines need tannin for structure, and this comes mostly from the seeds. Cardinal works as a wine grape because it contains seeds. The result is a pleasant drink-now red with a low price.

Both wines are available from the Lam Dong food company, which exports to a range of countries in the Asian region.

Stephen Quinn writes about wine for a variety of publications in the region. From 1975 he was a journalist for two decades with the Bangkok Post; BBC-TV, The Guardian, ITN, the UK Press Association; TVNZ; the Middle East Broadcasting Center in Dubai and a range of regional newspapers in Australia. Dr Quinn became a journalism educator in 1996, but returned to journalism full time in 2011. He is based in Hong Kong and is the author of 17 books.

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