October 12, 2023

Celebrating Bali’s Wine Culture: A Guide to Balinese Wineries and Vineyards

Celebrating Bali’s Wine Culture: A Guide to Balinese Wineries and Vineyards

When one thinks of Bali, images of coconuts and tropical fruits often come to mind, but perhaps not grapes. However, the island’s fertile soils have fostered a surprisingly successful wine industry, introducing a new dimension to the global wine scene.

Bali is now home to several local wineries whose offerings have not only been warmly embraced by enthusiasts but have also garnered international acclaim, marking historic moments in winemaking. Hatten Wines, founded in 1994 by Ida Bagus Rai Budarsa, stands as Bali’s pioneering winery, crafting wines from locally grown grapes.

Following in his father’s footsteps, who catered to tourists with arak and brem, Gus Rai aimed to offer visitors a taste of Bali through wine, a beverage reflecting the island’s tropical terroir. Additionally, with wine imports being costly, locally-produced wine provided a more budget-friendly option for the hospitality industry, sparking the journey.

In the north of Bali, the combination of rich alluvial volcanic soils, ocean breezes, and a hot, humid climate creates an ideal environment for the cultivation of local grape varieties such as Alphonse Lavallée, Muscat St. Vallier, Colombard, Muscat Bleu, Malvasia Nero, and Probolinggo Biru. The Hatten Rosé, made from the indigenous Alphonse Lavallée grape, marked the beginning of this industry.

Today, Hatten Wines boasts a portfolio of 11 wine varieties, ranging from sparkling to fortified wines, all produced from the ten locally-grown grape varieties. Notably, Hatten Wines achieved a remarkable feat by successfully cultivating noble international grape varieties in the vineyards of North Bali. This achievement is the result of extensive viticultural research and development led by winemaker James Kalleske.

In November 2018, Hatten Wines celebrated their first Bali-grown Syrah (Shiraz) grape harvest, a process that had taken four years of dedicated research and effort. The endeavor began in 2014 when Gus Rai transported fifty Syrah cuttings from South Australia’s Barossa Valley to Bali. These cuttings came from the SA1654 Shiraz clone, known for producing wines with intense crimson color, notes of chocolate, spice, and black pepper, and a fine-grained tannin structure. The successful cultivation of these cuttings required meticulous research, trial and error, and the installation of weather stations in the vineyards to monitor climate conditions and soil analysis. Vineyard management practices were also adapted, including the use of a VSP (vertical shoot positioning) trellis system and a unique pruning and harvesting schedule.

Another notable achievement was the successful growth of Chenin Blanc grapes using similar techniques, with the first harvest in October 2021.

These international grape varieties, grown locally in Bali, bring a unique touch to the island’s wine industry, embodying the warm climate and distinctive equatorial qualities. They have been incorporated into various Hatten Wines products, with Chenin Blanc featured in ‘Sweet Alexandria’ and ‘Aga White,’ and Syrah in ‘Aga Red’ and ‘Sweet Syrah.’ In 2023, the winery released pure Chenin Blanc and Syrah bottles, allowing customers to savor the distinct flavors of these Bali-grown international grapes.

However, Hatten Wines has also perfected their techniques in vinifying local grape varieties. Their ‘Tunjung Brut Sparkling,’ made using the French ‘Method Traditionell,’ offers a crisp and zesty profile with a creamy texture, ideal for celebrations. The award-winning ‘Pino de Bali’ is a sweet and luscious fortified wine aged in French oak for over five years, featuring mature honey and nut characteristics.

To truly appreciate these wines, a visit to ‘The Cellardoor’ in Sanur is highly recommended, where their knowledgeable staff can guide you through their range. Additionally, you can explore the Hatten Wine vineyards in North Bali to gain a deeper understanding of their winemaking process.”