Journeys

Hatten Wines

Bali is truly an island of unexpected surprises and this took another interesting twist last week when I visited Hatten Wines winery in Sanur and met up with the Owner Gus Rai Budarsa who is a graduate of Malang University and his winemaker of ten years Vincent Desplat who studied at the Montpellier winemaking school and worked in Australia for 12 years prior to his Bali assignment. What unfolded over the next few hours was truly a memorable story where strong will wins out over adversity. Ironically, the Western sounding "Hatten" name actually derives from the Japanese word meaning progress.

Hatten Wines is unique in that it is the only winery in Bali which makes wines from locally grown grapes which are grown in climatically suitable conditions in the north of the island. Other competitor wineries import grapes and produce wine locally. Grapes for wine production have been grown in Bali for over 100 years and the planting of vines has traditionally been attributed to pilgrims returning from Mecca who first planted their vines in nearby East Java and which quickly spread to nearby West Bali; probably carried by local fishermen in the still of the evening.

Hatten wines first started production in 1994 when Gus Rai decided to grow the family business from the production of rice wine and rice gin to include the production of some unique Balinese wine. The winery started with the most basic of equipment, while today it boasts some of the most sophisticated and modern wine making equipment available in the wine production world.

The highlands of North Bali have the most suitable climate for vineyards and it was here that the Alponse-Lavallee table grapes were first introduced.  These "Alfonso" grapes were initially introduced as Bali's first Rose table wine and were unique in that the traditional steps of aging or cellaring were omitted.

There are a wide variety of grapes used under the Hatten wine umbrella from Alphonse-Lavallee to the Belgia white grape which is a member of the Muscat family. These grapes are grown exclusively at Hatten Wines 15 hectare vineyard in the north of Bali. The red Alfonso grape on the other hand are grown by local growers in an area exceeding 500 hectares also in the north of Bali. Local (Probolinggo Biru) grapes are also grown, using the local appellation from the Indonesian Research center. 

Making wine in the tropics is very different to the more traditional wine regions of the world. Grapes are harvested year long from evergreen vines that are trained into an overhead trellis called "Pergola" system and where posts consist of small trees. This system reduces the risks of disease and sunburn to the grapes and thus contributes to a higher grape quality. Wines can therefore be produced in several vintages per year instead of the traditional  production of other wine areas that normally yield one harvest per year. After being harvested, the grapes are transported to the winery in Sanur where the grapes are gently pressed to extract their juice. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled custom built steel tanks with the help of selected Champagne yeasts. Fermenting temperatures are kept low to preserve the delicate aroma and taste of the grapes. Once the wine is ready, it is bottled and labeled at the winery.  Hatten Wines is also a very environmentally friendly local stakeholder with 95% of the wine bottles used being recycled as well as an environmentally friendly water treatment plant which helps naturally irrigate a local garden area without the use of soil. One of the other challenges of wines made in the tropics is the maintenance of a consistent taste and color of the wine. When there is a difference of these two factors some people see it as a winemaking flaw when in actual fact you are dealing with dry and wet season grapes, both of which have got different skin thickness and which will actually enhance the individuality of each wine produced.

Speaking to Gus Rai about the difficulties which he has had to overcome over the years; one of the most common is a sense of "snobbery" which people hold for local wines even when they have never even tasted the wine. However when blind tastings have been  carried out, the wines always tend to score favorably. A testament to the hard work and vision of Gus and his loyal Balinese team.

So, now to the actual tasting itself; how does Hatten Wines compare to its oenological competition in Australia and New Zealand?  From a red wine perspective, it is a work in progress and the vision over the next coming years is to improve the grape varietal and production methods to a more consistent international standard. It is the whites and sparkling wines where Hatten Wines stength lies. Jepun is a Rose sparkling wine which has a youthful presence of tropical fruits while the sparkling white Tungung has a graceful hint of flowers and citrus. Served heavily chilled both are glorious and refreshing to the palate. On a personal basis; the Jepun is an ideal early evening sunset watching sparkling wine. 

Why bother drinking Balinese wines? They offer excellent value for money when compared with the heavily taxed imported wines from around the world. They are readily available in most restaurants and hotels on the island and you know you are supporting a local company producing local high quality wines and contributing much needed money to the local people of Bali.

Production figures for 2004 hint at over 25,000 cases per year. The majority of which is consumed locally.  The size of the production and storage capacity also continues to expand annually and Gus Rai feels that the capacity for 2005 will exceed 30,000 cases.

Wine is exported to Holland, UK and the Maldives and in Singapore with other new exporting countries likely to come on line over the next couple of years as production increases. You can sample the wines for yourself in Singapore at the restaurant: Lilt Bali, 9 Lock Road, #01-01 Singapore 109837. Tel: 65 64736763 which is open from 4.00 PM daily.

The future looks bright for Hatten Wines. They continue to expand the their production figures on an annual basis. Immediate goals are to continue to modify the quality of white and rose wines with a stronger emphasis on improving the quality and appeal of the reds.

The simple reality in the words of Gus is that...Bali is the island of the Gods and Hatten Wines is simply the wine of Bali. What a simply lovely vision in this over complicated world. I will drink to that!

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Gathering from Ecdysis 2008

Squirrels gather food
For the long
Dormant season

Why do we not
Do the same with
Learning?

If we did
We would be
One full season
Of being.

 

May
2008 Bali


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