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Ladora Winery, 100 % made in Vietnam


After a long climb up winding roads to the heights of Dalat, high above the clouds, we came upon a rare gem: Ladora Winery, producer of the famous Château Dalat, the only 100% made-in-Vietnam winery.

In a country where alcohol consumption is constantly on the rise, beer and rice alcohol, often homemade, dominate the podium.

However, given the increasing middle-class population, wine is gaining ground on Vietnamese tables, partly because of its status symbolism, but also because of its supposed health benefits, a selling point that has significant impact in Vietnam.

In the big cities, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City where there is also a large expatriate community, wine bars are multiplying and restaurateurs are working meticulously on their wine lists. There are even a growing number of bars specializing in niche products such as natural and biodynamic wines.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the Saigon Sommeliers Association, created in 2017 by a passionate, young team of Vietnamese sommeliers, aims to share their knowledge of wine and develop the sommelier profession. In fact, in 2022 they were recognized by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) as the only official sommelier association in Vietnam, marking an important milestone for wine culture development in Vietnam.

Wine consumption in Southeast Asia is facing a major hurdle: taxes on imported spirits are so high that foreign wine is reserved for relatively well-off consumers. For a bottle of French, Chilean or Australian table wine, you'll have to pay a minimum of 10 euros in store, often multiplying by 3 or 4 the price of the bottle in its country of origin.

The cheaper alternative is so-called “Vietnam wines”, which are in fact either South American wines (Chile or Argentina) bottled in Vietnam, or wines made with grapes from Vietnam, but blended with pressed fruit, such as blackberries or strawberries.These much more affordable wines (between 3 and 5 euros) are frequently sweet, uncomplicated and aimed primarily at satisfying consumers with little knowledge of classic wines.

This is what makes Ladora Winery unique in Vietnam!

Belonging to the LadoFoods group (Lamdong Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company), the company, once a state-owned enterprise, took over in 1990 a facility opened by the French during the Indochina era, Domaine Lafora. The winery is specialized in alcohol production and was abandoned in 1976 when Vietnam was liberated. In 1998, the company decided to focus on wine production and plant vineyards, and in 2012 privatized itself, acquiring greater autonomy to work with wine.

Based in Dalat in central Vietnam, a mountainous region with a climate ideal for both agricultural cultivation and wine-making (the average temperature fluctuates between 16 and 20 degrees throughout the year), the region is however too humid for high-quality vine planting. This is why Lado Winery's 25 hectares of vineyards are located 3 hours' drive from Dalat, in the coastal region of Ninh Tuan. This region is much warmer and drier, with a more clayey and sandy terroir. Here, close to the China Sea, are all of Vietnam's grape plantations. But while most growers focus on pergola-planted table grapes, Ladora Winery has concentrated its efforts on achieving quality grape varieties, mainly Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. There's also cardinal, which although considered a table grape in the rest of the world, is very popular for winemaking in Vietnam and Thailand.

Ladora Winery offers a wide range of beverages, from sweet wines to sangrias and sparkling wines, but stands out for its premium range of wines. They are made using European methods and state-of-the-art equipment, both for viticulture and for vinification and bottling. Château Dalat, the first classic wine brand made in Vietnam.

Although 60% of their wines are destined for the domestic market, with 40% distributed abroad, mainly in Asia, their efforts to focus on quality wine have been rewarded.

The 2015 vintage of their Château Dalat Signature Shiraz won the gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2016, and Château Dalat was selected to be the official wine of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summits in 2007 and 2017.

In the magnificent cellar of Château Dalat, between the oak barrels used to make the wines in the château's range, we meet the master winemaker, the charming Le Duc Binh.

Le Duc Binh, maître vigneron.

He has been working for LadoFoods for 40 years, and has two years' experience in the Angers region of France. He is particularly fond of French wines and is delighted to produce quality wines in Vietnam.

While the entire Château Dalat range is outstanding, the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc shines with excellence, mineral, fruity and delicate. It's sure to surprise many a wine lover in a blind tasting. When presenting his wine line, he certainly acknowledges the richness and complexity of his top-of-the-range wines, those in the Signature and Special series, but confesses to having a particular affection for one of their entry-level wines, the Vang Dalat Premium, which is made from 100% Cardinal: "This one is really particular to Vietnam, it will certainly surprise foreign wine lovers, but it's representative of our terroir and culture". And wouldn't you agree that this is where the magic of international wine culture lies? That every country, every culture can offer a wine that embodies its colors and character, even if it's not to everyone's taste?

Vietnam's wine adventure is still in its infancy, but there's plenty of potential, and we'll need to keep our eyes on this region of the world, which keeps surprising us.

Text and photos : Aurélien Foucault