Episode 31

Michael Juergens - Kingdom of Bhutan Pt. 2

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 we continue our conversation with

Michael Juergens and his wine adventure in the Himalayan hills of Bhutan. When all is said and done, what kind of wine are you looking to produce? We want to make wines that are going to be poured at the world's

finest restaurant and cost $150 bucks and up. So $150 and above. I was reading where you said that you're not going to make plonk? I had to look up the term plonk. Would you consider that a derogatory term?

No. I don't think plonk is necessarily derogatory. It's more that it's know kind of inexpensive wine. I think it's pretty much a British and Australian term. But you know, if you were going to drink, you know, have a nice glass of plonk, you know, I just want an easy drink in, you know, $4 glass of red as opposed to something that's super complex. It requires a lot of attention. So in your quest to become a Master of Wine, there are only four hundred and nineteen worldwide in 30 different countries. Has anybody else done what you've done and gone to a country and started a wine industry from scratch? No, not to my knowledge. No matter of fact, I don't think that there are very many countries left on the planet where you could conceivably start a wine industry from scratch. Most places already have been around having for hundreds or thousands of years. One of the things that really appealed to me about this project, you know, the Himalayas is not convenient to Los Angeles, which is where

I live, but the opportunity to really be given this palate, this beautiful landscape, this wonderful terroir with nothing and say here, decide what this should look like. You know, should we do ice wine? Should we do big reds? Should we do sparkling? Should we do hybrids? You know, what do you think is going to be the perfect wines

for Bhutan that will express a sense of place, and that's a really cool opportunity to get to do. I don't. Not too many people have gotten to do that. Oh, absolutely. What a great opportunity. So in the time frame, when

you first went over there to run the marathon and you talked with them and you started this serious discussion, what are we looking at down the road from basically seed to vine? It took about two years from the very first serious discussions that we had. I had kind of broached the topic a couple of years before that, and it took a couple of years for the country to get to the point where they're like, Yeah, this seems legit. Let's get serious about trying to do this. And then once they had made that decision, it took about two years before we got the first six vineyards planted. And to your point, no, I absolutely was out there in the fields with not necessarily carabiners, but like digging holes and, you know, carrying plants up and down the hills. And, yeah, very excited. As you mentioned earlier, as you might expect, the Himalayas, very mountainous. I imagine there's a lot of prework that you had to do, you know, building terraces on the sides of mountains and things and prepping everything. But where are you in the stage as far as the vine progress? Six of our vineyards are in the fourth leaf and two of our vineyards are in the second leaf. So we actually had grapes last year, but the pandemic was going on and the borders were closed. We had grapes again this year, but there's still a lot of pandemic issues, particularly with India. You know, India has had quite the outbreak the last few months. And so Bhutan, because it shares a border with India, has been really strategic about what they let in and out of the country right now. So we'll have our first wine production next year. Though I imagine that a country with the ambition of becoming the first country in the world with 100% organic farming. Secondarily, that's going to help your wine-growing experience. Yeah, the good news is, is that Bhutan has a worldwide reputation for sustainable agriculture. They are really, really good farmers. In fact, many people come from other countries to Bhutan just to study how they get this kind of harmonious balance with the land. So the people there are really good at growing stuff. They just haven't grown vinifera before. And so, you know, it's up to us to kind of help them understand the nuances of wine grapes. We have a pretty big team over there. I think we employed about one hundred or so people this year working in the various vineyards doing stuff. And so that's been great that we have access to those local resources who are good and knowledgeable about agriculture. Sometimes it bites both ways, though, because they're in their minds. The goal is to make the most and biggest fruit possible. And that's not necessarily what makes the best wine. So we've had to kind of educate them on some of the nuances, but it's all going well. 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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About the Podcast

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The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast
The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast is a weekly podcast by Forrest Kelly exploring wineries around the world. We take 5 minutes and give you wine conversation starters and travel destinations.

About your host

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Forrest Kelly

Your Host: Forrest Kelly is an experienced Radio/TV broadcaster who has interviewed some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, from Shania Twain to Kevin Costner. A lover of wine who is fascinated by the science behind it.