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Wine women distill Da Nang destination

Update: March, 31/2013 - 12:31

Growing brand: A bottle and box of hibiscus wine is showcased in Da Nang City. The hibiscus flower, which has been cultivated in the valley of the Hai Van Pass, is the major ingredient for the wine and various other products. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh

by Cong Thanh

Sisters Doan Thi Thanh Thuy and Doan Thi Huong Thao have a bold vision that they hope will blossom into reality.

Using hibiscus plants grown on their two hectare farm near Hai Van Pass, they produced the first batch of wine ever made in Da Nang. Now, they plan not only to create a wine production centre in this valley 20km north of the Central city – but also to make it a tourist destination.

The hibiscus flower was first planted in the provinces of Phu Yen and Ha Tay (now Ha Noi) in the early 1990s to create artificial colours.

But the sisters, born in Quang Tri Province, had other ideas. They co-operated with scientist Dang Cong Ngu to produce wine from the flower's blossoms and other products from the stem.

"Da Lat, in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, is well known as the home of grapevines in Viet Nam; Ha Noi has earned fame for Thang Long fruit wine. Da Nang has yet to make a name for itself in viniculture. That's why we chose to invest in winemaking here," said 33-year-old Thao.

She explained that the flowering plant has historically been used to make skin care products, tea for controlling blood pressure, jam and juice in addition to wine, and can grow on poor soil.

Nguyen Manh Tuan, who owns a restaurant in Hoi An, singled out the hibiscus wine for its unique aroma.

"It tastes a bit sweet, like a garden of roses. There's also a high percentage of alcohol from natural fermentation. I was impressed with the ruby colour and affordable price," said Tuan.

The sisters explained that the wine was made for the Central region, where people prefer drinks with ice all year round.

While Thao manages production, supervising 20 employees and biologists, Thuy has taken control of the creative process.

"The field of hibiscus flowers will be a relaxing place for adventurers when they go downhill from the Hai Van Gate," she said.

"We plan to build a factory beside the flower field to demonstrate our production process to tourists, who can taste wine there between July and August."

Pleasing on the palate: Hibiscus flowers are used to process wine that fascinates gastronomers with its ruby colour, sweet flavour and subtle infusions.

Thuy also hopes to offer visitors the opportunity to bathe in wine – an idea inspired by mud bathing at Nha Trang's resorts as well as hot springs in Hoa Binh Province. Wooden tubs will be filled with wine, offering a "romantic memory" to tourists.

The central city people's committee has set aside a 10ha area at the foot of the Hai Van Pass for hibiscus farming in coming years – cementing the area's status as a regional winemaking centre.

The first batch of Cham Cham company wine, produced late last year, costs VND98,000 for a 750ml bottle and VND273,000 for a three-litre box.

The sisters also plan to produce brocade from hibiscus plants later this year. — VNS

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