Vietnamese wine culture dates back thousands of years and is an integral part of the country’s heritage. The Vietnamese consume a wide range of wines, including traditional rice wines, grape wines, and even imported wines. This essay aims to explore the different types of wine that Vietnamese people consume and their cultural significance.
Wine is also produced domestically, though to a rather limited extent. Small-scale production of rice-based alcohol is common in Vietnam and takes place both in private households and in a more institutionalized fashion via communal production in specialized villages in rural areas. The informally manufactured product is frequently untaxed and therefore invisible in estimates of national consumption averages.
1. Rice Wine
Rice wine, also known as “ruou gao” in Vietnamese, has been an integral part of Vietnamese culture and economy ever since the 14 century. There have been a host of tales and myths regarding this traditional alcohol in Vietnam. It is made by fermenting cooked glutinous rice with yeast and water. The resulting wine is clear and ranges in alcohol content from 10% to 30%.
Rice wine is typically consumed during special occasions such as weddings, festivals, and funerals. It is also a popular drink among farmers who produce rice and use wine as a way to celebrate a successful harvest.
Rice wine comes in many different varieties, including “ruou nep” (sticky rice wine) and “ruou ngo” (corn wine). Sticky rice wine is made from sticky rice and is a sweet and fragrant drink.
- About raw rice:The different raw materials used will make the selling price different, such as glutinous rice brewed more than plain rice, sticky rice more than glutinous rice with yellow flowers… that makes the difference between the price of 1 liter of rice wine.
- About the temperature: Usually, the higher the concentration, the more expensive the price because the principle when cooking rice wine, the more alcohol we take, the more alcohol means the concentration will decrease. However, in the case of long-standing or long-term soaking wine, creating simple heat passively will make rice wine tastier and tastier, so the price will be higher.
- About the time to soak: Traditional rice wine is considered a drink without an expiration date because basically the longer the wine is left to drink, the smoother and more delicious it will be because the amount of aldehydes is filtered out during the soaking process. Therefore, of course, aged wine will cost more than freshly cooked wine.
The same is 1 liter of pure rice wine but extremely expensive, there are places that sell for only ten – 20,000 VND ( ~US$1) but there are also rice wines such as yellow glutinous rice wine that costs more than 100,000 VND / liter ( ~US$ 5) because the wine is made from gold sticky rice and undergoes terraforming over time. But the price of 1 liter of rice wine when it reaches consumers will not be less than 30,000 VND/ liter (~$US 2.5) if it is ordinary rice wine.
Referring to famous Vietnamese wine specialties, the first name mentioned is Mau Son wine. The wine originates from the Northwest region and is distilled by the Dao people themselves at an altitude of 800-1000m above sea level, this method is handed down from generation to generation to bring a refreshing drink. infatuated with people.
2. Snake Wine
Besides, Rượu thuốc is rice wine infused with medical herbs, plants, and even animals including snakes, lizards, and monkeys. This type of rice wine is believed to cure physical ailments and enhance “ male virility”.
- Forms of wine: Two different forms of wine were observed, wherein the most prevailing form, snakes and the other ingredients ( other animals including scorpions, geckos, and sometimes birds; ginseng roots and herbal seed pods, etc) are placed inside a glass jar or bottle off traditional rice wine and allowed to steep for many months before consumption.
- Brands: None of the dealers visited sold snake wine exclusively, but always with other food products. However, some of the restaurants in Hanoi specialized in snake products.
- The bottle sizes ranged from ~50ml to over 5l, but the most common size class was 350-750ml. Depending on the size and the arrangement, a single bottle contained one to nine snakes. All bottles were made of glass and most had a characteristic yellow lid and a seal, whatever the brand. Only 28% of the bottles had labels with a brand name and were either Luckymen, Van Thanh, Phi Long (PH), Phuoc Loc, Red-labelled snake wine, or Ruou Ran Luc.
- Origin and destination: Snake wine was sold in outdoor markets (including roadside shops), indoor shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and airports (Images 1 & 2). In the Mekong Delta, most small-scale dealers sold homemade snake wine using snakes obtained from village markets.
- Price: The price depended on both the size of the bottle and the species included. A bottle of less than 100ml with a single was 30,000 VND (~US$ 2), while a 375ml bottle with either of these two species ranged from 60,000 VND to 135,000 VND (~US$ 3-8). A 300-500ml bottle with a range from 400,000- 1,000,000VND (~US$ 22-56) and a bottle over 1l with a larger cobra with few other types of animals would go up to 3,000,000VND (~US$ 170). In general branded wine was observed to be more expensive than equivalent unbranded bottles.
3. Corn Wine
Corn wine, on the other hand, is made from fermented corn, leaves, and rice, and has a stronger taste than a sticky rice wine. Both types of rice wine are commonly consumed in the northern regions of Vietnam.
Winemaking requires that corn be carefully chosen. All seeds must be uniform in size and shape. Then, the “leaves yeast” is extracted from the kernels. This yeast is made from 20 types of medicinal plants (herbal medicine), including can cuong and khuc-khac, chilli, tangto, nhan trans, khau, khau, dua poong, garlic, licorice, cinnamon, etc. Dua poong is especially important because it creates the distinctive aroma of Na Hang.
Northwest corn wine aged for less than 6 months is priced from 60,000 to 65,000 VND/liter (~US$2). Northwest corn wine aged for 6 months costs from 80,000 to 90,000 VND/liter (~US$ 4-4.5)
4. Grape Wine
Another popular type of Vietnamese wine is grape wine, also known as “ruou nho” in Vietnamese. This wine is made from grapes grown in the central highlands of Vietnam. It has a sweet and fruity taste and is typically consumed during meals. Grape wine is also used as an ingredient in many Vietnamese dishes, such as beef stew and fried fish. Grape wine is often associated with the central region of Vietnam, where it is produced and consumed in large quantities.
Currently, on the market, the price of Ninh Thuan grape wine ranges from 80,000 VND to 5,000,000 VND (~US$ 4 – US$213) per bottle. Aging time, concentration, raw materials, aging tools, etc. are factors that affect the selling price of each different type of wine.
5. Foreign Wines
In recent years, imported wines have become increasingly popular in Vietnam. French wines are particularly popular, and many restaurants and wine shops in Vietnam stock a wide range of French wines. Other popular imported wines include wines from Italy, Spain, and Australia. Imported wines are often seen as a status symbol and are typically consumed by the middle and upper classes.
Wine consumption in Vietnam is not just about the drink itself but also about the cultural and social significance attached to it. Wine is often consumed during special occasions, such as weddings and funerals, and is seen as a way to honor guests and show respect to elders. In Vietnamese culture, drinking wine is also seen as a way to build and strengthen relationships. It is common for friends and family members to share a bottle of wine during a meal or celebration.
Wine is also used in traditional Vietnamese medicine. It is believed that certain types of wine have medicinal properties and can be used to treat various ailments. For example, sticky rice wine is said to be good for digestion, while grape wine is believed to help with circulation.
In addition to its cultural and social significance, wine production is also an important industry in Vietnam. The country’s wine industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, and many small wineries have opened up across the country. The government has also been actively promoting wine production and has implemented policies to support the industry.
Despite its cultural significance and growing popularity, wine consumption in Vietnam is not without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is counterfeit wines. Counterfeit wines are a significant problem in Vietnam, and many consumers are wary of purchasing expensive wines due to concerns about their authenticity.
In conclusion, wine is an integral part of Vietnamese culture and heritage. The country’s wine consumption is diverse, ranging from traditional rice wines to imported wines. Wine consumption in Vietnam is not just about the drink itself but also about the cultural and social significance attached to it. Wine is used to honor guests, strengthen relationships, and is even believed to have medicinal properties. As the wine industry in Vietnam continues to grow, it is an interesting opportunity for foreign wine brands to penetrate Vietnam’s wine market.
Discover an alternative approach to marketing wine in Vietnam: