Updated: May 25
For the last twenty years, wine consumption has sturdily increased at a rate of 10 to 15 percent yearly; albeit from a very small base, and largely due to the increase of visitors in the Kingdom. Then COVID-19 happened, and in the absence of tourists, a growing young, hedonistic, urban middle class is driving wine consumption.
A typical behavior amongst Thai consumers is to share wine in groups at eating and drinking places. However, since the prohibition of alcohol service in the HORECA segment (in a desperate effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19), retail & deliveries have gained significant market shares. A new behavior of consumption (not unlike in western markets) is to share wine with friends and family at home in accompaniment of a meal. Whether this trend will outlast the COVID crisis is unsure, but what remains certain is that enjoying wine will still be associated with special occasions, celebrations and as a marker of social status and personality.
In comparison with spirits and beers, the wine segment represents a tiny percentage of the drinks business (less that 1 percent in value). In terms of color, red is clearly the preferred shade for the Thais (with over 80 percent of sales), especially bold Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz-based wines. Refreshing white wines (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) matching the local cuisine is most often favored by foreigners. In terms of origins, Australian and French imports lead the way in value, followed by Chile, the US and Italy.
The average Thai consumer often gets lost in the translation of French, German, Italian or Spanish wine labels and turn to easy-to-read varietal wines labeled in English. In contrast, small segment of "serious" enthusiasts with high disposable income get involved in wine education, take trips to wine countries and spend large amount of money to acquire, collect and taste iconic wines from Champagne, Bourgogne, Bordeaux, or the New World.
Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines, often associated with sustainability and soft anarchist values, resonate most with a new generation of wine drinkers searching for unconventional experiences and looking to distinguish themselves from their seniors.
In La Phisiologie du Goût, published in 1825, Jean Anthelme Briat-Savarin revealed the close link between our eating & drinking habits and who we really are. Twisting his words but not his idea, we can conclude by:
"Dis-moi ce que tu bois, je te dirai qui tu es!"
"Tell me what you drink, I'll tell you who you are!"