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Retired teacher-turned-vintner stirs up Cambodia’s wine scene

A man tests date wine in Taing Kouk district of Kampong Thom province. PHOTO SUPPLIED
A man tests date wine in Taing Kouk district of Kampong Thom province. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Retired teacher-turned-vintner stirs up Cambodia’s wine scene

In a remarkable fusion of nature and ingenuity, a retired English teacher has gained recognition from Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation for turning imported dates into a luscious, well-rounded wine.

Sorn Sinith’s date wine, made from fruit typically seen in Cambodian markets as dried fruit, is an elegant testament to agricultural innovation.

This enchanting concoction, reminiscent of tea in its hue, blends sweet taste notes with a honeyed bouquet. It was proudly showcased at a recent exhibition held at the Morodok Techo National Stadium during the 12th ASEAN Para Games.

Crafted in Sala Khum village, within Triel commune of Kampong Thom province’s Taing Kouk district, it’s the heart of a unique venture by Sinith, a former teacher at Triel High School.

Having retired in 2022, Sinith invested his newfound time into an ambitious project. With 400 date palms flourishing on his two hectares of land, he and his wife embarked on a journey to convert dates into wine. But for now, they utilised raw materials imported from overseas while waiting for their two-year-old date palms to mature and bear fruit.

“When date palms bear fruit, they all do so simultaneously. Not a single tree is barren,” he explains.

Moreover, if a date palm matures for an extended period, it yields an even greater harvest. While their palms are still young, Sinith and his wife procured raw materials for their wine from Thailand for $3 per kilogramme.

Sinith undertook extensive research both online and in Thailand to familiarise himself with the techniques of date wine vinification. There, he witnessed dates being transformed into an array of products, such as date juice and date sugar. However, he noted that date sugar and juice have limited shelf lives.

“Consequently, we sought a method of processing that would ensure longer preservation. To acquire the necessary knowledge, I purchased study materials from a foreign university,” Sinith said.

He processes either old or ripe dates into his wine, opting for naturally-fallen fruit when possible. He combines dates with honey and yeast to create a pure and natural wine, free from any additional chemicals.

Sinith’s wine, trading under the brand name SDF, comes in two tantalising flavours - one a balance of bitter and sweet, the other a fragrant blend of sweet and sour. Retailing in 375mL bottles at 25,000 riel, this natural product is ready to savour one month from production but is often kept for an additional two months to reduce alcohol content.

Starting his venture only a year ago, Sinith has yet to export his wine. However, he is already producing approximately 6,000 bottles monthly, supplying to the local market and generating a profit to support his family. His product is certified by GS1 Cambodia, which provides unique barcode numbers, and by the Institute of Standards of Cambodia, which granted product registration in March of this year.

Pov Vanna, deputy director of Kampong Thom’s department of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation, lauded the quality of Sinith’s wine and invited him to various national festivals.

His wine was showcased at the recent Para Games and at an event organised by the Kampong Thom provincial administration to connect producers and buyers in the “One Village, One Product” programme.

“As this enterprise falls under my department’s administration, it brings me joy to see a product performing well in the market and receiving support. We strive to provide every possible assistance to the producer in order to help them improve and increase their sales,” Vanna said.


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