During my studies in Bordeaux, I remember having heard at a tasting that wine is produced in Bali. « Impossible! », I said at the time, the location is too wet. However…
The “Island of the Gods” as it is nicknamed, is not only a fantastic world known tourist destination. It can also reveal very nice wine surprises. So we were off for a week of unprecedented exploration with some holiday tunes… to our delight!
Imagine : a tropical country
where one can harvest up to 3 times a year, where the vineyard has no dormancy period, where it is never less than 23 ° C in winter and where the vines do not live more than 12 years, because of incessant labor… Welcome to Bali, the only wine region of Indonesia!
And although its history is young, since it began in 1994 with Hatten Wines ; the wine “made in Bali” really exist!
But then the question arrises, why would one make wine in such conditions? "Firstly, because importing wine is complex in Indonesia. And above all because tourists want to taste local wines when they are in Balii", James Kalleske (1), the oenologist of Hatten Wines explained.
And one has to admit that the quality of Balinese wines is undeniable. "Quality is no longer a question in 2015 ; the wines are technically well made. It is rather a matter of acceptance of the taste of our wines because the grape varieties are different, as Belgia", added Maryse LaRocque (2), in charge of Hatten’s development.
Started only five years ago, Sababay Winery is both a childhood dream and a citizens’ initiative for Evy Gozali. "We chose to work with local farmers by purchasing their grapes, in order to allow them to have a better living", Evy said.
How? By buying their production at 5,000 rupees per kilogram (against 500 rupees in the past) and by setting up aids so that the children can attend school.
In the interests of organic development, farmers are also required to have at least one cow per vineyard for the production of compost.
A nice philosophy when bearing the fragility of the Balinese ecosystem in mind. Because even though Bali evokes primarily images of landscapes worthy of the most beautiful postcards – white sanded beaches, volcanic reliefs covered by forests or hillside rice fields – let’s not forget that many Balinese are still living in precarious conditions.
Anecdotally, some farmers with whom Sababay Winery works are Muslims (3) who cultivate the vines without knowing the final product, since they do not drink wine! It is therefore difficult for them to understand that the grapes should not be grown to optimize quantity, as with table grapes. "The trick: make them taste the grape juice samples", Evy said. And it works !
Nyepi, a beautiful and moving celebration which we will not forget any time soon. Also called “Hindu Day of Silence”, Nyepi is the Balinese New Year.
Once a year, people have to chase the evil spirits away. And fortunately, we had the opportunity to be part of the celebrations. Huge statues were adorned with monstrous deities (ogoh-ogoh), one more decadent and terrifying than the other, paraded in the streets of Bali at night to the sound of traditional drums.
This was followed by a long procession on the beach, where the ogoh-ogoh were decapitated and burned in huge bonfires.
Then came Nyepi. A recollection day where everyone was invited to stay at home. Quietly, in silence and in darkness ; for 24 hours from daybreak. The demons should not be tempted by the return of humans…
As for us, we took the opportunity to take a break for one day, enjoying the ouside pool at Brown Feather Hotel.
The next day, a driver picked us up before sunrise. We went to visit one of Hatten’s vineyards. Bali was still asleep. It was dark night and the atmosphere slightly mystical. Not a soul in the streets, with the exception of a few tribes of macaques crabbers (4).
The moment was surreal in comparison to the incessant traffic density that prevails here the other 364 days of the year.
It was 7am when we got there. The sun was just rising. Yet it was already 28 ° C and 100% humidity in the air! The vineyards were beautiful and so green. Here vines don’t lose their leaves… After harvest, a small green cut is done and the vines grow again immediately (5)! Enough to make your head spin.
We ended the trip with a superb tour of the Bali Safari & Marine Park, it was time to make friends with an orangutan and to admire the spectacular “Bali Agung show”, a life-size show explaining the history of the island…breathtaking.
Thank you to Sababay Winery and Hatten Wines for their warm welcome, as well as Brown Feather Hotel and Plataran Ubud for the great accommodation that was offered to us. Thank you especially to Evy Gozali from Sababay Winery and to Maryse LaRocque from Hatten Wines, for their assistance in organizing our stay. Finally, thank you to Ibu Yoke for letting us visit the Bali Safari & Marine Park from the sidelines.
(1) James Kalleske, oenologist of Hatten Wines, is the nephew of our friend David Kalleske (domain Rockford Wines, Barossa). The world of wine is decidedly microscopic!
(2) Maryse LaRocque is also the secretary of the Asian Wine Producers Association ; association in partnership with Denis Gastin.
(3) There would be 5% Muslims in Bali
(4) The macaque crabier is a catarhinien monkey native to Southeast Asia and very prevalent on the island of Bali…
(5) A lot of foliage is kept for better photosynthesis, resulting in more tannins and better concentration.