Local winery goes from strength to strength
Hans-Eduard Leiendecker’s interest in producing wine dates back to his childhood, as his parents owned a small winery in western Germany. “I grew up not with milk, but with wine,” he told Mizzima Weekly with a laugh.
Mr Leiendecker went on to study at one of the world’s oldest wine schools, Geisenheim University, before spending 16 years at one of Germany’s most highly respected wineries and won four awards for excellence.
However when Mr Leiendecker saw an advertisement in a mag- azine to become the director of technical operations at Myanmar’s first winery in 2006, he leapt at the chance to take on a new challenge.
Aythaya was founded in 1998 by a German winemaker called Bert Mosbach, whose persistence at winemaking in Myanmar eventually paid off. He first started doing business in Myanmar in 1989, but turned to vines after his basmati rice farm was confiscated by a govxx ernmentxx minister. Following trials on no less than 10,000 vines that had been imported from France, Myanmar 1st Vineyard Estate made its debut with its Aythaya label in 2004.
Aythaya Winery in Shan State is located 25 kilometres away from the tourist hot spot of Inle Lake and is a 15 minute drive to the bustling state capital of Taunggyi. With an elevation of 1,200 metres, the temperatures are refreshingly cool and the scenery nothing short of spectacular.
The number of visitors arriving at the winery, which also has a restaurant and three state-of-the-art bungalows at Monte Divino Lodge, has been doubling year on year – with as many as 300 people passing through each day during the peak of the tourist season.
According to his Kalaw-born
wife, Naw Ei Ei Brown, who is Aythaya’s Restaurant Administration Manager, in the last financial year the winery received 23,000 visitors, which was up from 11,000 in the 2013-14 financial year.
The restaurant area is expanding and a café is in the process of being built. A second bar will open in September.
Aythaya has several things going for it. It is one of only two wineries in Myanmar and imported wine has been a rarity since a government crack-down two years ago that led to supermarket shelves being emptied and the stocks of distributors confiscated. Although the green light was given to import wine at the beginning of this year, it is clear that most retailers remain hesitant to do so.
However the fact that Aythaya has a near monopoly on wine consumption at present in Myanmar “doesn’t matter,” says Mr Leiendecker.
“Let’s take a look at wine consumption around the world. In Germany, it’s 30 bottles per head a year. In France it is 70 and in Italy it’s 90 bottles. You know how much it is in Myanmar? A tenth of a glass. Even if that figure were to rise to a full glass, it would still be nothing. The opportunity here is huge,” he said
Mr Leiendecker added that due to the higher current tax regime of 50 percent commercial tax plus 30 percent in import duties, the cheapest imported wines would be priced at around $12. In the past, wine bottle prices were as low as $6.
“Imported bottles of wine