Conrad Koh Samui Sets New Benchmark for Wine Appreciation among Thailand’s 5-star Resorts with Bespoke Wine Programme
Top wine consultant successfully pairs world class wines with Thai cuisine at Koh Samui’s hottest new dining destination
KOH SAMUI, Thailand – March 2, 2012 – Does wine go with Thai cuisine? “Absolutely! Show me a wine and I will find you an element of spice or herb infused within it,” says veteran sommelier Curtis Marsh, the Wine Programme Director at Conrad Koh Samui, setting a new benchmark for wine appreciation among Thailand’s 5-star resorts.
The ‘Wandering Palate’ wine guru (www.thewanderingpalate.com) is renowned for designing wine lists for a legion of celebrity chefs – from legendary Paul Bocuse in France to Asian Food Channel’s Samia Ahad and Australia’s revered Tetsuya Wakuda.
Now he has been charged with putting Conrad Koh Samui, the newest luxury resort on the idyllic Thai holiday isle of Koh Samui, on the wine lovers’ map.
And his first priority is to debunk the myth that wine and spicy cuisine don’t mix. “Most grape varieties intrinsically display a multitude of spice nuances in aroma or flavour,” he notes. “Clearly such nuances and characteristics are synergistic with Thai cuisine.”
For example, the tangy Austrian white grape Gruner veltliner, with a unique white pepper spicy character, “seems almost tailor made for Thai salads”. Similarly, Riesling’s powerful core of lime and lemon and natural sweetness “partners extremely well with tangy lime juice and lemongrass-influenced dishes, as well as spicy curries”.
Iconic reds such as syrah (shiraz) – along with Southern Rhone Valley blends of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault – are equally complementary with an inherent and pronounced peppery spiciness and mélange of exotic spices and profound red berry that are “the perfect foil for spicy meat dishes and red curries”.
Pinot noir, with its berry-fruit sweetness, warm, spicy mouth-feel and soft texture, “seems almost made for Thai cuisine!”
While firm tannins in some red wine can clash with salads and seafood, certain rosé and pinot noir wines “can be very versatile throughout an entire meal”. Also notably, “a little sugar or richness in white wines and Champagnes can be appropriately soothing when it comes to livelier, spicy heat in certain Thai flavours”.
“Yet there still exists some disbelief that wine does not pair well with Thai cuisine or spicy Asian food,” he laments.
The celebrity sommelier is now devising unique strategies to put the record straight – while also putting Conrad Koh Samui on the wine lovers’ map at the hub of the debate.
To demonstrate his conviction, Curtis Marsh has assembled an extensive and diverse list of some of the very best new and old world wine producers focused on varieties and regional styles that “complement the exceptional produce and expertise in Thai cooking”.
“There are no set rules for matching wines with Thai food,” he says. “Although the key element is to choose wines with vibrant acidity that freshen the palate and stimulate the appetite, whether white or red.”
At Conrad Koh Samui’ signature modern Thai-Mediterranean fine dining restaurant Jahn his campaign extends to a revolutionary format to the wine list itself.
Avoiding the orthodox listing of wines by country, layout specifically flows from racy Riesling and crisp whites at the beginning, to increasing texture and richness through the pages, “enabling appropriate pairing with the textures, flavours and weight of the food”. Likewise, rosé and light reds are listed ahead of more full-bodied, firmer wines.
Quality wine is also paramount – mostly from dedicated, artisan producers, with an emphasis on organic and biodynamic viticulture. “We are not purchasing cheap, non-descript wines and applying extortionate mark-ups to make profit,” he insists.
With Thailand’s prohibitively high taxes on wine, guests are also encouraged to savour better wine by the glass, and not necessarily an entire, pricey bottle.
To enable this, technology developed by WINESAVE (www.winesave.com) is integral to the resort’s wine programme strategy. It utilises the inert, colorless, odourless and flavourless gas argon to displace harmful oxygen in opened bottles – forming an impenetrable layer between air, keeping wine in perfect condition.
As a result, the resort can offer a much more extensive range of wines by the glass than usual, “perhaps more than any other hotel on Koh Samui or even Thailand”, he suggests. “I doubt if many hotels or resorts are going to the lengths we are to ensure wines by the glass are served in optimum condition.”
Two highly-qualified resort sommeliers, Khun Cha and Khun Sabu, are meanwhile overseeing day-to-day functioning of the wine initiative and are “at the head the game” among contemporaries in Thailand. Khun Cha, in particular, was named “Sommelier of the Year” on the influential ‘Wandering Palate’ website.
Curtis Marsh ultimately pays tribute to resort owner, Lyon Lau, for the initiative, inspired by his personal dedication to fine dining and love of wine collecting. “It was his desire to instill a ‘wine culture’ at the resort, synergistic with exceptional cuisine raising the bar not only on Koh Samui, but all Thailand,” he notes.
Complementing this effort, one of five fine dining outlets is established in a cellar at the property, “The Cellar”, housing an exceptional range of vintages.
Also exceptional is the cuisine, led by celebrated chefs Konrad Inghelram and Joe Diaz, who previously worked together at one of London’s top restaurants, Quaglinos. Between them are decades of experience at some of the world’s most acclaimed Michelin-star restaurants.
Belgian chef Inghelram has worked at no less than four Michelin starred kitchens, and collaborated with legendary Albert Roux at the Sofitel St. James in London.
Chef Diaz was voted Best Young Chef of the Year 2006 in Spain, and trained under a veritable “who’s who” of the culinary world under superstars such as Ferran Adria at El Bulli in Spain, Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee in Paris, Thomas Keller at French Laundry in California, Nobu Matsuhisa at Nobu in Florida, and Sergi Arola at La Broche in Madrid.
As Conrad Koh Samui’s General Manager Justin Phillips puts it: “Our combination of an inspiring wine programme and culinary excellence puts us at the forefront of gastronomy, not only on Koh Samui, but across Thailand.”
Conrad Koh Samui:
49/9 Moo 4, Hillcrest Road,Tambon Taling-Ngam,
Koh Samui 84140 Suratthani Thailand
Telephone: (66) 77-915-888
Fax: (66) 77-915-889
For further information on the resort, visit www.conradkohsamui.com
About Conrad Koh Samui
Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa is a luxury villa property that sets new standards on the ever popular Thai island of Koh Samui. Comprising 80 villas, the resort is located on a secluded hill on the South West tip of the island. The 25-acre luxurious resort offers panoramic views of the Gulf of Thailand’s stunning sunsets, outlying islands and the surrounding landscape of lush coconut plantations.
About Conrad Hotels & Resorts
CONRAD® HOTELS & RESORTS is Hilton Worldwide’s global luxury brand and the choice for today’s modern, sophisticated traveler. By focusing on the individual, Conrad offers guests genuine and personalized experience and a world of style, service and connection. Each Conrad is a dynamic reflection of its city and culture, as well as a showcase for striking design and distinct surroundings. Across five continents, in the world’s gateway cities and most sought-after resort destinations, Conrad invites each guest to enjoy The Luxury Of Being Yourself®. For information on Conrad, please visit www.conradhotels.com.
About Hilton Worldwide
Hilton Worldwide is the leading global hospitality company, spanning the lodging sector from luxurious full-service hotels and resorts to extended-stay suites and mid-priced hotels. For 93 years, Hilton Worldwide has been offering business and leisure travelers the finest in accommodations, service, amenities and value. The company is dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences across its global brands. Its brands are comprised of more than 3,750 hotels and timeshare properties, with 615,000 rooms in 85 countries and include Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages the world-class guest reward program Hilton HHonors®. For more information about the company, visit www.HiltonWorldwide.com or connect with Hilton Worldwide at www.HiltonWorldwideGlobalMediaCenter.com.