Sri Lanka’s Best Wine

Once a year I take off for 2 weeks to spend time with my brother, my Dad and my Dad’s friend Joe Distler (the famous bull runner) somewhere off the beaten track, usually to an inexpensive 3rd world country. Over the years we’ve been to lots of places I never thought I’d see: The Kingdom of Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, etc. Since I live on East Coast and my Dad and brother live on the West Coast and we rarely get to see each other, these yearly trips mean a LOT to me.

Sri Lanka MonkeyThis year we met up in Sri Lanka, which is an island off the East Coast of India. They recently ended their civil war and tourism is definitely on the rise. I wish we had gone here 5 years ago as everything would have been half price. That’s one benefit of visiting a country during a war, hotel prices are super cheap! Don’t bring the wife and kids of course, just your sense of adventure.

As a quick tangent on war-torn countries, about 15 years ago I was in the town of Ubud, on the island of Bali in Indonesia. I was backpacking through the country for a couple of weeks and introduced myself to my neighbor at the hostel I was staying out. I was surprised to find out he was a fellow native Calif

ornian and that he had been given a life time visa for painting a now famous mural in the Bali airport. Turns out he was the world renowned artist Larry Laitman.

Larry Laitman had so many interesting stories to tell, of which my favorite was his time in Afghanistan during the 1980s Russian Occupation. At the time, he joined a local tribe and was painting murals in the caves around Kabul. One day a group of Russian soldiers detained him when they discovered he was American. They thought he was a spy until they saw his cave paintings and realized that he was harmless. I still remember him telling me what he told them that ultimately led to his release, “You go fight your useless war, I have caves to go paint.” You definitely get to meet some interesting people when you get off the beaten track. :-) But I digress…back to finding the best wine in all of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Wine ClubI’ve been to a LOT of 3rd world countries over the years and I rarely ever see any good wines, but that was about all change with Sri Lanka. Not only does Sri Lanka have wine stores in every major town, but the also have wines from around the world in them!

Here’s a picture of a typical Sri Lankan wine store. This one was located in Negombo, Sri Lanka. In the photo is my Dad, myself and my brother Sean.

Now, keep in mind that these wines have been shipped here from around the world as Sri Lanka doesn’t actually have any wineries, nor does it produce any wines. I was saddened, but not surprised to learn this though as most 3rd world countries don’t have a wine industry.

The wines you will find in a typical Sri Lankan wine store come from Argentina, Chile, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, California, etc. and I doubt they were kept in the best of conditions during the boat ride over. And they are DEFINITELY not kept in optimal wine storage facilities here in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Wine Bar

As you can see in the pictures above, they are kept on shelves in non-airconditioned stores that maintain an average temperature of 85 degrees with LOTS of light shining in. Yikes! No avid wine drinker would even consider buying these wines in the United States or Europe as the combination of high temperature, lots of movement and light have surely damaged these wines beyond repair. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I decided to make the best of my situation and try and find one or two good bottles of wines.

Sri Lanka Wine

Ultimately, I opted for the GatoNegro 2011 Merlot from Chile and the Felix Solis Consigna 2011 Merlot from Spain. I figured that since they were relatively recent vintages that the probably hadn’t been sitting on the store shelves long. Once I verified that they weren’t covered in dust and had not been leaking, I started my negotiations. You see, in Sri Lanka, everything is up for negotiations. The owner of the wine store wanted $15 US for each bottle, but thanks to having lived in China many years ago, I’m an expert negotiator and ended up only paying $7 for the Chilean wine and $8 for the Spanish wine.

Sri Lanka Buddha

After a long day of Buddha hunting (including finding the Buddha’s tooth), we opened up our bottles of wine and enjoyed Sri Lanka’s best wines. I just never thought in a million years that the best wines in all of Sri Lanka would be Spanish and Chilean! 😉

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