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Michael Juergens - Kingdom of Bhutan Pt. 1
Episode 3011th October 2021 • The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast • Forrest Kelly
00:00:00 00:05:53

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Welcome, to The Best Five Minute Wine Podcast, I'm your host, Forrest Kelly. From the seed to the glass, wine has a past. Our aim at The Best Five Minute Wine Podcast is to look for adventure at wineries around the globe. After all, grape minds think alike. Let's start the adventure. Our featured winery is. Hello. This is your captain

speaking. Welcome to Juergen's airlines, we hope you enjoy your flight to the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas, Bhutan is sandwiched between two countries India and China on our flight this

evening is Michael Juergens, Michael has helped plant vineyards at nine thousand feet to start the first winery in the Kingdom of Bhutan. So sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. Remember, if we have a bumpy landing, it's not the captain's fault. It's not the co-pilot's fault. It's the asphalt.

Hi, this is Mike Juergens. I'm the author of Drinking and Knowing Things and a number of other Wine Books. I also founded the wine industry in the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas, and I'm a Master of Wine candidate.

Ok, Michael, we'll get into each of those credentials, but first just doing a little bit of research on the Kingdom of Bhutan. They have 5,400 species of plants, compared to 17,000 here in the United States. They were one of the first countries to ban tobacco use. Archery is the number one sport. Health care is free. Where was the inspiration? What did the inspiration come from to start producing wine in Bhutan?

Well, I had traveled all around the world visiting all the other global wine regions as part of trying to pursue my Master of Wine qualification. And when I went to Bhutan to run a marathon, it just looked like the kind of place that should have vineyards. You just had these magnificent terraced slopes with these beautiful crops.

Everything I ate was the best. Whatever I've eaten, the best cucumber, the best carrot, like everything was just spectacularly good. And so that to me led me to believe that they had a vineyard somewhere. So I asked everybody, where are the vineyards? And turned out they didn't have any. And so I kind of said, you guys need to do this like starting now. And they listened.

They listened to you. So you must have been very persuasive and shown them the potential of what could be right. Because Bhutan is, you know, looking at a map is and imagining the Himalayas. This isn't going to be the main thoroughfare for trade.

Bhutan is pretty isolated in the Himalayas and so it remained pretty much on its own until, like the 1970s. You know, they just didn't have any Western influence. You know, the Silk Road never went through there, and so Vitis

vinifera never got planted there. You know, the Roman Army never reached that far on the Silk Road didn't go through it. So I don't think it was a function of there wasn't, you know, a desire to to have it or to avoid it. I

think it just never got there. And even today, you know, the country monitors who can go into the country. They don't want to overburden it with tourism. There just hasn't been a lot of Western influence in there, and it just took some stupid guy like me asking dumb questions like where the vineyards? And they sort of said, Huh,

we hadn't thought about that, you know? So it wasn't that that this had never been broached before. It just was. I think I happen to be the right place at the right time where the country was a little bit more open to trying to make this work.

How about the residents and the culture? Do they drink wine? There's a really big wine culture there, but it's all around rice wine. And so each family makes their special recipe, you know, secretly guarded family recipe for their rice wine, which they make in their kitchens, and it's considered to be very traditional.

You show up in a Bhutanese person's house and they share a bowl of this of their rice wine with you. It's called Ara and the traditional way. It served in little bowls hot and they put an egg in it. And so like, you get like little pieces of egg floating in this little bowl of wine and you drink it. And they also import some bulk wine from places like South Africa and India, and they bottle it and they sell it locally so they have a culture of drinking and enjoying wine. They just have never produced it themselves from vinifera.

Is it as mountainous as one might imagine when you hear the word Himalaya?

It's very mountainous. Some of the peaks are, you know, obviously the ones we hear about the twenty-eight thousand twenty-seven thousand foot peaks. But then there's a whole bunch in the sort of eighteen

thousand fifteen thousand nine thousand six thousand. I mean, it's just it's all hills, which is kind of cool for growing grapes because grapes like hills.

Thank you for listening. I'm Forrest Kelly. This episode of The Best Five Minute Wine Podcast was produced by IHYSM. If you like the show, please tell your friends and pets and subscribe. Until next time pour the wine and ponder your next adventure.

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