Vineyards in Bhutan

An American student Mike Juergens’ project to have wine vineyards reached a new horizons with the planting of the first two of five small vineyards in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan

The two vineyards will soon be joined by three more next week and although altogether they will cover just six acres the plan is to gradually expand them as the right sites and varieties reveal themselves.

Nine varieties were chosen for the initial plantings: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng.

The vineyards are located at various places around the country to take advantage of the various climates that Bhutan offers and see what works best were. Juergens explained that they were, “trying vineyard styles from terraces to flat and with all these different things in play we hope we’ll dial in quickly on what is working and then change accordingly.”

As well as his faith in the climate, another factor is the Bhutanese themselves. “If there’s one thing the Bhutanese are good at it’s agriculture,” said Juergens. “Their site prep was as good as I’ve ever seen in the world.”

And in addition to the people is the relatively pristine nature of the land itself. Bhutan is a carbon neutral country, “revered” for its sustainable practices and on-track to being 100% organic.

Vineyards are only half the battle as there are no wineries in Bhutan either. The Bhutanese make their own rice wines, each family having a “secret” recipe that they guard jealously and Juergens says that locally made peach wines have become popular in recent year.

The only thing approaching wine made in the country is by the army who import bulk wine from India and, more recently, South Africa which is then bottled and sold with the proceeds going towards supporting retired veterans.

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