Dechen Dolkar

Army Welfare Project (AWP) will now distribute a range of premium wines in Bhutan.

Through a partnership agreement with Wine Portal, a global wine sourcing and distribution leader, AWP will bring a curated and extensive selection of some of the most sought-after wines from the storied chateaus of Europe, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand.

The announcement of the new partnership coincided with Her Majesty Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck’s auspicious birth anniversary on June 4. The partnership comes as Bhutan celebrates 50 years of tourism.

The partnership was signed at a ceremony in Bhutan attended by the founding families of some of the oldest and most revered wine Chateaux in Europe. All of them are now supplying premium vintages to the Bhutanese market.

They include Thibault Jacquet of Domaine Bonneau du Martray,Pierre Lurton at Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem,Luca Roagna of Roagna, and Léa Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon. Also in attendance was Simon Lurton of Les Deux Rives, a wine negotiant and wholesaler based in Bordeaux, France.

The partnership will soon offer wine-tasting and appreciation events, educational sessions, and winemaker workshops led by some of the world’s best sommeliers, experts, and vintners.

This include Mason Ng, who was crowned the Best Sommelier of Asia and Oceania in 2022. These events will offer guests an opportunity to learn about the history, production, and characteristics of different wines, making their stay in Bhutan both enjoyable and enriching.

At the same time, Pierre Lurton, who led the legendary Bordeaux chateau Cheval Blanc for more than 30 years and is chairman of the winery’s board, will collaborate with peers in Bhutan to create an exclusive Bhutan wine. Provisionally called ‘dragon wine’, it will be exclusively available in Bhutan following its launch in the third quarter of 2024.

The new AWP-Wine Portal partnership reflects Bhutan’s commitment to providing world-class hospitality and creating memorable experiences for its visitors. This commitment will be enhanced by opening a new wine academy, which will promote understanding and appreciation of fine wines among connoisseurs and tourism and hospitality professionals in the country. By integrating the finest wines into its hospitality services infrastructure, Bhutan aims to attract even more discerning travellers and wine enthusiasts, further boosting its reputation as a premier travel destination.

In line with Bhutan’s strong sustainability values, around 85 percent of the wines included in the partnership have a sustainability focus, and feature labels that are either organic, biodynamic, female-owned, or vegan. The provenance of the wine is managed and guaranteed, using temperature-controlled storage from start to finish.

AWP’s managing director, Rinchen Yoezer, said the project is proud to partner with WPH to bring a selection of the world’s best wines to the country.

“Travellers to Bhutan expect to enjoy some of the world’s most exclusive and interesting wines during their stay, and our goal is to make the wines on offer as much of a showstopper as the country itself,” he said.

The chairman and founder of Wine Portal, Soo Hoo Khoon Peng, said that the wines they are bringing to Bhutan include some of the most storied labels in Europe, representing generations of grape husbandry and wine fermentation knowledge.

“They emerge from terroirs which, in some cases, have been designated as UNESCO sites for their unique soil composition and climactic conditions, which combine to create wines of unrivalled character and complexity,” he said.

Introducing these wines to Bhutan aligns with the country’s strategy of encouraging high-value, low-volume tourism to ensure that its cultural and environmental legacy remains intact.

It is also another step in Bhutan’s development as a social and economic hub as markets in South Asia and South-East Asia continue to lead global growth indices.