Viet entrepreneur toasts coconuts -- with his wine

Ba Thanh, a farmer and entrepreneur in Vietnam's major coconut-growing area, hasn't taken a traditional route to success.

Whereas other coconut growers concentrate on the meat, milk and fiber of the plant, he decided he wanted to turn it into wine. His first successful experiment came late last year. Now, less than a year later, his wine plant in Ben Tre province is turning out 15,000 bottles a month.

Most of the wine is consumed in-country, but he does have customers in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Of course, coconut wine is not new. It's just that the Ben Tre success is new to the Vietnamese economy.

In the Philippines, for example, lambanog is a popular drink. It is most commonly described as coconut wine or coconut vodka. It's distilled from the sap of the unopened coconut.

Vietnamese wines still are in the developmental stage. Grapes have mainly been grown in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces, with 6,000 acres currently under cultivation.

The climate and soil in Ninh Thuan are particularly suitable for the growth and development of vines. In this province, grapevines can be pruned at any time of the year, whuch results in 2.5 to 3 harvests per year. Cardinal is the most popular grape, a unique variety popularly grown in Vietnam with a high yield potential with vines propagated mainly by cuttings.

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