An excellent afternoon
Red Mountain Estate, one of Burma’s two wineries, lies just a few kilometres west of Nyaung Shwe and makes for a great side trip if you’ve a half day to hand.
Founded in 2002, the winery employs French and Australian know-how and French, Spanish and Israeli vines to knock out some fine and varied vintages. Enjoy an inexpensive tasting and savour the superb location.
Red Mountain’s advantage is that it lies less than a 30-minute cycle from Nyaung Shwe. Located on the lower slopes of the mountain rim, the winery provides spectacular vistas back towards Nyang Shwe and down the valley as far as Inle Lake itself. With a swish outdoor terrace, cheese plate nibbles, a crisp Sauvignon and views across vineyards, it’s all very incongruous but delightfully so.
When we first visited years back, we were given a tour of the property, but with more visitors these days they generally plonk you down (no pun intended) and stick a menu in front of you -- although you can still ask for a tour. The wine’s sold either by the bottle or glass, while a tasting of four samples goes for 3,000 kyat. Whites, reds and even a rose feature on the menu of around 10 different wines.
While some visitors won't be able to get past a perceived Burma/wine contradiction, none are downright bad and the best are of a good standard. Having visited several times now, we can say that the notoriously awkward Pinot Noir, which logically does well in this damp climate, is a consistent favourite. We’ve actually fooled French restaurateurs with bottles of the excellent late-harvest white we’ve taken home, too.
A selection of Western and local dishes is also served, including a small cheese plate at 4,500 kyat, to help with the wine tasting. There’s the fine terrace plus an indoor seating area too.
If you’ve not tasted too many glasses, you can push on further down the lake by bicycle to reach the attractive lakeside village of Maing Thauk. Half the village is on stilts over the water and half on dry land, plus a photogenic forest pagoda lies at the foot of the hills just inland from the village. The round trip would be around 20 kilometres on a sealed but bumpy road. To your right, there are views across marshlands to the lake and to the left the forested foothills of the range leading east to Kakku.
Maing Thauk has tea shops with snacks and noodles. If you’re feeling tired, you could try talking a boatman into taking you back to town. Sticking yourselves and your bikes in a boat for Nyaung Shwe shouldn’t cost you more than 15,000 kyat.
FYI: The country’s other, and oldest, winery is the also very good Aythaya Vineyard near Taunggyi, reachable by taxi in around 30 minutes from Nyaung Shwe.
Address: Taung Chey village
T: (094) 2835 8722, (093) 635 2449;
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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