All posts by SwanValley

Reasons to Drink Organic Red Wine

A considerable lot of us welcome the way that we can appreciate that periodic glass of red wine as an extraordinary method to loosen up and de-stress. Organic red wine likewise has a few all-around noted medical advantages.

Organic Red Wines
Harris Organic Wines

Many of us appreciate the fact that we can enjoy that occasional glass of red wine as a great way to unwind and de-stress. Organic Red wine also has several well-documented health benefits.

In the event that you need a boost, a portion of those advantages include:

  •    Lowering terrible cholesterol and raising good cholesterol levels
  •     Reducing the danger of blood coagulating nearly as adequately as anti-inflammatory medicine
  •     Regulating glucose levels
  •     Boosting intellectual prowess and keeping your memory sharp
  •     Protecting cells against free radicals
  •     Fighting contaminations
  •     Reducing malignancy chance
  •     Aiding weight reduction endeavours

While all of those benefits are great, it’s important to remember that table grapes are among the most pesticide-laden produce, making it essential to reach for organic wine when it’s time to fill that glass.

Standard grapes for wine are grown with herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers while organic wines are completely free of these inputs. Organic wines are also free from synthetic additives and do contain minimal sulphites, which some asthmatic people may be sensitive to.

There is an ever-increasing number of natural and organic wines and vineyards springing up over the country and the planet. This gives you more choices at the liquor store just as when you go out to eat. You don’t need to surrender incredible taste either; most occasions, organic tastes better than standard wines because there aren’t any chemical tastes or added substances.

Harris Organic Wines

One of those wineries is Harris Organic Wines, located in Perth Western Australia, in the Swan Valley Wine Region. This small, certified organic winery uses chickens, neighbouring guinea fowl and other animals to naturally fertilize the grapes and reduce weed seeds.

At Harris Organic Wines, everything is part of an integrated system. Every element of the estate plays a part in the result of the wines that are produced; including volunteers, animals, plants, microbes, climate, location and soil.

We are sure you will enjoy drinking organic red wine.

hand sanitiser

Organic Hand Sanitiser

Organic Hand Sanitiser

How did it happen?

This week Harris Organic started production of its own certified organic hand sanitiser for the need of Harris Organic customers.

After many enquiries, Harris was able to obtain a recipe from the WHO and a statement from the TGA regarding the exemption on excise of food-grade alcohol for hand sanitiser to assist in the battle against COVID-19 virus.

For Harris Organic to make ethanol firstly he has to grow the grapes on the certified organic land (the only block in Perth), harvest and make wine in a particular style for distillation before the refinement process. The spirit is distilled three times to reach its ultimate purity before it is made into certified organic Hand Sanitiser.

What You Need To Know:

– Organic Hand Sanitiser makes no claims it kills 99.9% of germs

– It contains 80% organic ethyl alcohol (ethanol) which is the approved amount for the TGA recipe

– It only contains organic ethanol, glycerine, hydrogen peroxide, water & no other additives.

– It’s not as effective as soap and water.

– It’s more effective than lower alcohol hand sanitisers

– It comes in a 750 mL bottle NB it is not wine.

– It can be sprayed or pumped and has a beautiful natural brandy fragrance

– This product is certified organic, vegan and cruelty-free

– It dries super quickly so you can get back to what you were doing

– It’s suitable to use on all skin types, even on children’s skin

BUY Hand Sanitiser HERE

Specific formulations excluded from TGA regulation for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic

On 28 March 2020, specified hand sanitiser formulations were excluded from TGA regulation, as long as they only contain particular ingredients in particular quantities in the final formulation, and comply with certain manufacturing practices, and advertisement and labelling conditions. Provided that the exact formulation and other requirements are followed, this formulation is permitted for use in both healthcare facilities and consumer use.

This exclusion will facilitate the urgent and continued supply of large volumes of hand sanitisers in Australia.

The formulations are based on advice by the World Health Organization and similar decisions by the US Food and Drug Administration. The final formulation of the hand sanitiser must contain only the following ingredients:

  • EITHER ethanol 80% v/v (pharmacopoeial grade or food standard grade) OR isopropyl alcohol 75% v/v (pharmacopoeial grade) in an aqueous solution;
  • sterile distilled water or boiled cold water;
  • glycerol 1.45% v/v (pharmacopoeial grade);
  • hydrogen peroxide 0.125% v/v (pharmacopoeial grade); and
  • does not contain any other active or inactive ingredients, including colours, fragrances or emollients.

There are strict requirements for the labelling of these products. Manufacturers must also test the alcohol concentrations of each batch, manufacture under sanitary conditions and maintain production record-keeping. The legislation enabling production of these sanitisers is the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods – Hand Sanitisers) Determination 2020.

The products will continue to be regulated as consumer goods under Australian Consumer Law. Manufacture of this product is not considered compounding.

BUY Hand Sanitiser HERE

Winery Volunteers

Perth and the Swan Valley’s only organic Vineyard and winery has volunteers during the year to help maintain the vineyard and home.

Workaway and Helpx are welcome at our certified organic vineyard and winery in Perth’s Swan Valley. We have a room for couples and a caravan that has space enough for two persons.

There is a variety of work all year around that is not too strenuous and plenty of time to learn new skills. Since 2006 we have been A-Grade Australian Certified Organic and now with Southern Cross.

To go to the Workaway Australia site, visit here or email Duncan Harris to enquire about staying with us while you are in Perth.
Please state your Workaway number and your age etc.. when writing to us.


Please note.. Be prepared to cook mixed meals for everyone. Drinking organic wine is voluntary!

Couples welcome and non-smoking is essential.

Thanks to all my volunteers in 2019.

A big thank you to every one of you. You make my heart sing with joy for the energy and vibrancy you bring to myself and Harris Organic. May you be home with your family at this time of year and if you are still in Australia I hope you have Christmas with some good friends to enjoy a few hours reminiscing about your travels.

Paula and I are off to New Zealand in January for ten days and will arrive home to start vintage in what may be a very challenging year for the organic vineyard. We won’t be praying, but hope there is some good rainfall before vintage starts on January 23rd 2020.

If you are returning to Perth give us a call so we can catch up before you depart for your home shores.

All the best and Merry Christmas.

Interesting facts of Harris Organic Wines

What are 3 interesting facts that you would like people to know about your winery:

Harris Organic Wine and Spirits

Some of the interesting facts about Harris Organic are:

  • Claims to have the only certified organic liqueurs made from grapes in the world
  • Is the only certified organic block of land in the Perth metropolitan area.
  • Makes the only certified organic brandy in Australia

Which wine is your best seller?

Rose’ and our dry white Verdelho

Winemakers favourite wine you have on your current portfolio.

Our organic Shiraz , because it is a wonderful grape for the Swan Valley climate, the rich duplex soil we have and the elegance and richness the organic shiraz produces.

What do you feel sets you apart from all the other wineries in the region?

We are certified organic because we believe in looking after the planet and being as sustainable as possible.

Do you have a resident “winery dog” and what’s their name??

We have a Resident Cat who’s name is Rosie and our vicious dog is named Lucy. they are both 2011 vintage.

What is your winery’s ‘birthday’?

We were established in 1998 and our cellar door opened the 1st January 2000.

How old are your oldest vines and what variety are they?

Our first vines planted was Shiraz planted in 1999. There is 900 vines of dry grown shiraz.

Where are your wines distributed?

Our organic wines are available through our Cellar door and one bottle shop in Perth, Wembley Downs Liquor Barons and another in Geraldton WA and organic wine online through our organic wine store website.

Which wine is your most awarded? And do you have any recent winery awards you would like to boast about?

We have many medals awarded over 20 years of wine shows. Gold medals have been awarded for our liqueurs and vintage ports. We received a silver medal for the 2009 Liqueur shiraz and 2017 verdelho from the 2018 Swan Valley wine Show.

 Lastly, are there any special deals

Just ask at the cellar door. There is always a special at our cellar door in Perth’s Swan Valley Wine Region or join our wine club for discounted wine.

Interesting facts, organic cellar door at Harris Organic
organic cellar door

Organic chickens in the vineyard

Chickens in an Organic Vineyard

Organic chickens

Organic chickens in organic vineyards are wonderful.  I would like to forget using the diesel tractor ploughing between vines, the latest must-have in my organic vineyard maintenance is chickens. Leading the way in the Swan Valley I have introduced chickens to the vineyard to help with the upkeep.

As an organic vigneron in the hot climate grape-producing region of Perth’s Swan Valley, I allowed my chickens to roam the vineyard. The chickens scratch and aerate the soil, peck, eat seeds and insect larvae. They are doing a lot of work for me.

Chickens in the vineyard

Chickens in the vineyard are an asset to any vineyard whether it is organic or not. Generally, they are quite hardy and independent. A well-tended vineyard and a source of fresh-water and a safe place to roost are all that is needed during summer, winter and spring. Autumn is different!

Chickens are also home lovers, meaning that they return home every evening so they are easy to handle, compared with ducks. We had some ducks many years ago and they would not go home. Every day they had to be rounded up or foxy would visit during the early evening and night and have duck dinner. This must not have been pleasant for the ducks and was not for me.

My chickens ( chooks)  are much more alert and a little wiser and survive the occasional fox visit.

Can chickens eat grapes

During the late summer month’s chooks in the vineyard is not a good thing unless your vines are on a high trellis. Chickens love to eat grapes; to see them jumping is cute. But not economically viable to lose your crop you have worked so hard for.  Here the chickens are locked up behind the house in a large run until all the grape picking is finished. Eating grapes is safe for chickens. There are reports of them devouring whole rows and looking very fat and healthy for their effort.

In the late autumn chickens in the vineyard are wonderful. They clean up all the vineyard of old dried grapes and enjoy the fresh young shoots of new weeds and seeds.

Rescued

My current flock of chickens were rescued from a local egg farm.

rescued chicken
rescued chicken

The pale combed feather-less things were thin and poorly, but laying eggs every day for a few weeks. Due to the lack of night lights and high protein crumbed food they stopped their egg-laying.  With the winter’s shorter days this makes their ovaries shut down and go on holidays until the spring comes. When the weather warms up, the days are longer and they become healthier.

When they first arrived they huddled together and did not know what to do. When allowed out of the hen house they did know how to scratch. Later they turned the wood chip mulch over in one morning. For some unknown reason, they were very tame not scared of my hands and would eat food from them eagerly.

After eight weeks their feathers had all grown back and they started to look like well kept healthy chickens. Now when I open the hen house door in the morning they run out and off exploring as though they have no time to lose.

organic chickens
organic chicken at Harris Organic

We love our chickens, they are so inquisitive and cheeky, especially Wendy.  They take off in the morning to their favourite playground during the day. Sometimes the orchard, looking for grubs under the trees, the olives or the mulberry tree. Other days it’s down the vineyard, turning over the ploughed ground. They search for anything nourishing and living. Grubs and snail eggs get a work out beside the seed bank from the previous winter’s green manure crop.

During a spring long table lunch in the underground cellar my chicken named Wendy came visiting, checking us out, saying hello and seeking any food scraps we may have dropped.

organic chickens in cellar
Wendy, the chicken in the underground cellar at Harris Organic

Vineyard

Some years ago we had an outbreak of vine weevils, however, since the organic chickens arrived we have not seen another outbreak.

We were given a mother and some chickens by a couple who had to move house. The mother educated the babies and at night she would spread her wings so that they could all huddle underneath and keep warm. It was such a delight to watch and so educational to myself. All the chickens I have ever seen were all orphaned at birth and sent to the chicken farm to be raised into egg layers.

My organic chickens are so tame they will eat out of my hand. They will even talk to you in their peculiar way.  Have you seen a chicken smile? I swear that once you have something for them to eat they will come running and smile, cocking their heads looking up at you and saying thank you.

We love our chickens!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy new year.

What a Wwoofing / Helpx / Workaway year and has it gone fast.  Thank you to all you guys for helping me make Harris Organic wines the success it is. You are all welcome to return and stay at any time.

Hello Volunteers, many thanks for helping our in our winery during the year.

More info about volunteering can be found at Harris Organic Winery page.

The organic vines at this time of year

Did you see the picture of the pizza. Check out how to build a pizza oven here.

Growing Pedro Ximenez in the Swan Valley

What is Pedro Ximenez

Pedro Ximenez is the name of a white Spanish grape variety. Some times it is called Pedro Ximenes or PX. It has been grown in Spain for centuries.
The first plants that came to Western Australia were taken by British settlers as cuttings from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa in the early 1830s. The vines are vigorous on the rich alluvial soils of the Swan Valley with its Mediterranean climate. The vines produce large bunches of white grapes. To maximize the grape sugar levels the vines have to be meticulously maintained through the growing season. To make the rich and luscious liqueur wines that are renown worldwide the sugar level has to be extraordinarily high. This is achieved by letting the grapes ripen and shrivel as raisins on the vine in the autumn sunshine.

Growing Pedro Ximenez

Pedro Ximenez grows readily in the Swan Valley in Perth’s Western Australia.  It is a white wine grape best known for the sweet sherries of Spain.  Pedro Ximenez comes to the fore as a fortified wine either as a Sherry style or as a fortified single-variety wine known as Pedro Ximenez (PX).

In the Swan Valley, we make the greatest sweet dessert wines of the world. Once called sherry in Australia, and now called by its varietal name Pedro Ximenez, as the Europeans own the name, Sherry.

Planting

We have 300 Pedro Ximenez (PX) vines planted in our organic vineyard, situated at the top of the Swan Valley, 29 km from Perth, in Western Australia.  Harris Organic Wines is the only certified organic vineyard and winery in Perth with 3 ha of land.

The vines cover an area of 20,000 square metres. The PX was planted in 2002 as part of our efforts to continue making our great fortified dessert wines. The clone of our Pedro Ximénez is unknown and here they are grown on their own roots and do well.

The vines are planted with 2.1 m spacing. The rows are 3.0m apart. The vines are trained to the wire at 900mm high and are rod pruned to 5 or 6 buds per rod. The vines are trained on VSP trellis to 1.8m above the ground.

We spray the vines during spring. The vines are sprayed with wettable sulphur after rain and Bordeaux mixture before any rain events.

We continually maintained the vines with summer pruning. After fruit set, the vines are leaf plucked on the southern side so that fruit thinning can be performed at veraison.

To reach the highest sugar levels the un-irrigated vines are only allowed to have one bunch of fruit per shoot. This leaves 6-8 bunches per vine and approximately two kilogrammes per vine at 25 Be’.

Site characteristics

Pedro Ximenez is grown at an elevation of just 19m above sea level. Situated 30km from the Indian Ocean, the vineyard is flat, as is the surrounding Swan Valley land. The Pedro Ximenez vines are planted east-west direction in soil that comprises a duplex sandy loam over clay. In January, the site experiences a mean maximum temperature of 33.2°C and a mean minimum temperature of 17°C.  Further, the average annual rainfall over the last 10 years has been 650mm dominated by 140mm averages for June and July. The site doesn’t experience frosts while winds are predominantly south-west in the afternoon, with some easterly gales in spring and autumn.

Trellising and canopy management

The row and vine spacing of the Pedro Ximénez is 3m x 2.1, respectively, and is trellised to a five-wire Vertical Shoot Position (VSP).  Sometimes we practise leaf plucking on the south side of the vines, trimming around Christmas time, shoot thinning and shoot-positioning when putting the wires up in November and bunch thinning to carry the fruit through to 25 Baume.

Irrigation and soil management

The Pedro Ximenez vines are unirrigated. Between rows, we grow lupins, vetch and a mixture of wild radish, soursobs and capeweed to increase soil carbon and nitrogen. Strip digging and ploughing the vine rows in spring produces a dry earth mulch. This helps to conserve soil moisture and help manage weed growth.  Wood chip compost is spread out along the vine inter-rows to act as a fertiliser in autumn.

Pest and disease management

Pedro Ximenez is more susceptible to downy mildew than the other varieties grown here. Furthermore, to reduce its susceptibility, we prune the vines late in the season so that budburst is up to two weeks later than the other varieties. Budburst this year occurred on 10 October.

Pruning

We spur-pruned the Pedro Ximénez to two-bud spurs as recommended by the Handbook of Horticulture and Viticulture of Western Australia. This book was first published by Adrien Despiessis in 1895.  Due to my 1921 second edition of the handbook by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture started to fall apart,  I undertook the task of reprinting this wonderful book on behalf of others as well as myself in 2007. We have the intent of producing a small amount of PX fruit at 25Be for a PX sherry liqueur. After 5 years of spur pruning, I have changed the pruning method to cane pruning. This reduces the amount of time required for hand thinning of the shoots during Spring.

Future methods of management

Changing from a four-wire to a five-wire trellis helped reduce hedging time, and increase the verticality of the shoots and changing from spurs to canes, to reduce shoot thinning handwork.

Harvesting

At version, all excess fruit is removed leaving only one bunch per shoot, i.e., about 12 bunches per vine. A typical analysis of our Pedro Ximénez at harvest: Sugar (Baumé) 25, Acidity (TA) very low with a pH of about 4.0.
We harvest less than a tonne of Pedro Ximénez per year at this sugar level.
Average phenological timing:

Budburst early October
Flowering November
Fruit set December
Veraison late January
Harvest usually about 1st April sometimes can stretch out to May

Winemaking

Pedro Ximénez fermentation is carried out on its skins for a few degrees Baume’ before pressing. The fermented juice is returned to the tank, prior to fortification. Once fortified with certified organic neutral brandy spirit the wine is racked and allowed to settle for a few weeks before racking to barriques. Ours is an organic fortified version, fortified with certified organic brandy from the only organic distillery in Australia. We mature our PX for many years in our underground cellar. The Pedro Ximénez is packaged in 375ml bottles.

The biggest challenge in producing Pedro Ximenez

None really, it’s a matter of learning more about the variety and the terroir as the vines become more mature.  Although PX does require a lot of handwork, particularly fruit thinning to improve flavour and ripeness, it is well worth the effort.

Advice to other growers

For best results, the more handwork the better.  Love your vineyard and the vines will perform for you.

Crown thinning Pedro Ximenez
Crown thinning Pedro Ximenez

Autumn Pedro Ximenez
Autumn Pedro Ximenez.

Trousseau comes to the Swan Valley.

This is a story about the grape variety Trousseau. In 1998 in the Swan Valley Western Australia, my organic vineyard was not established.  I wanted to purchase grapes from good Swan Valley growers.

I was introduced to Bill Vinicombe.  His family owned the old Socol property on the eastern side of the railway line in Herne Hill.

Trousseau in the Swan Valley
Trousseau in the Swan Valley

Bill had three vineyards, one on the red bank along the Swan River, another in Herne Hill beside the highway and the rest east of the railway line. On Great Northern Highway the block contained muscat a petits grains rouge, pedro ximenez and a few alternate varieties. Bill called one “black riesling”.

So fond of the variety he grafted a row of cabernet sauvignon over to this unknown variety on his home block beside the Swan River.

Several knowledgeable persons had looked at this variety regarding identification. At one stage petit verdot and petit merceau we discussed, however the grape matured to high baume and much earlier than cabernet sauvignon. These were discounted.

Further identification in 2007 with the leaves and fruit  matched against the pictures and description in the book ,” Wine Grape Varieties” by Kerridge and Antecliff I identified this as Bastardo.

Winemaking

Bill gave me half a tonne of grapes to process into wine in 2005.  French style wine was made. That is; minimal intervention, natural yeasts, fermented warm on solids. Matured in a barrique for six months prior to bottling. Sold in 2006 at the cellar door under the label LEDASWAN 2005 Petite Verdot.

A young French winemaker Kevin Mazier came to experience the 2012 Swan Valley vintage with Harris Organic Wines. He brought with him two bottles, one was a bottle of Cotes du Jura, Domaine des Ronces, 2010 Trousseau.

I was intrigued to note that this was a wine I had seen before. In 2005 I tasted the variety bastardo. Luckily there were two bottles of the 2005 left in my cellar to taste against the younger 2010 bottle.

Kevin confirmed that even with age difference, these two wines were made of the same variety.

References

There are numerous references to the variety bastardo and trousseau being similar varieties. Robinson, Jancis (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine, third edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198609902 mentions  ampelographer Comte A Odart.

Wikipedia sates:

Bastardo (Trousseau Noir, Trousseau) is an old variety of red wine grape. It is grown in small amounts in many parts of Western Europe; most famously it is used in Portuguese port wine. It makes deep cherry red wines with high alcohol and flavours of red berry fruits.

Why would it be Trousseau?

A French man Joseph Millard lived in the Swan Valley many years ago.  From Guildford he would ride his horse to the vineyard each day and ride home again. His vineyard had many varieties. He brought these directly from France when customs clearance was not an issue.   To be continued….

Bastardo – Swan Valley

Bastardo comes to the Valley of the Black Swan

What is Bastardo and Trousseau and why is it in the Swan Valley?

As you may recall, I was investigating the origins of a wine grape varietal called Bastardo found in the Swan Valley. I discovered a cache of a grape referred to locally as Black Riesling. Having identified the variety as Bastardo, I decided to make some Rose’ with it. It sold out quite quickly. I gave the mystery little thought thereafter, being preoccupied with establishing my organic vineyard and winery.

The variety Bastardo is not only Spanish for bastard, it is also an Italian Town in the Perugia province. Bastardo is a baseball player (Antonio Bastardo) for the Philadelphia Phillies, an Ibiza artist, and a music single by Charlotte Hatherley.

Bastardo Swan Valley
Bastardo Swan Valley

Jura, France

Then, in 2012 a young French winemaker named Kevin Mazier came to stay with us. He came to complete an Australian winemaking internship.
Kevin wanted to include Bio or Organic winemaking in this experience. Kevin’s family are viticulturalists and winemakers in the Jura, in the north east of France. Kevin brought with him two bottles of wine. One of these bottles was a Cote du Jura, Domaine des Ronces, 2010 Trousseau, a lovely red wine similar to a light dry Shiraz!

The region of Jura, by the way borders France and Switzerland.  Jura gave its name to the Jurassic period of prehistory. Upon tasting,  I was transported to the making of the red wine Bastardo vintage I had made.  When tasted I had a very strong feeling I knew this varietal.

Fortunately, there were two bottles of the red 2005 “Petit Verdot” wine still left in my cellar. Upon tasting, young Kevin agreed that despite the age difference, it was doubtless that the French Trousseau and the Swan Valley Bastardo were indeed the same variety. Further, this was confirmed upon research when I discovered that indeed, Trousseau Noir (Trousseau or Bastardo) is an old variety grown in small amounts in many parts of Western Europe. This includes the winemaking region of Jura.

In Australia a small amount of Bastardo is grown under the name Gros Cabernet; so the must thickens. This variety is also famously used to make Portuguese port red wine. So, how did the French Bastardo come to be in Bill Vinicombe’s little vineyard in the antipodean valley of the Black Swans?

Where from here

Mr. John Kosovich OBE a friend and neighbour and another Valley vigneron who was born and grew up in the Swan Valley commented. He said that in the early to mid 20th century there was a French Canadian man who owned a vineyard in the Swan Valley. Joseph Millars was his name and he apparently resided at Margaret Street, Midland Junction.

His vineyard was about 40 rows and possibly just 5 acres, containing nonetheless over 20 unknown grape varieties. I myself have 5 acres under vine and grow 8 varieties in my organic vineyard, so it is not especially unusual.  Mr Joseph Millar’s story is not known.  It may never be known from where this gentleman procured the cuttings for the Trousseau or Bastardo. If this vine could speak, what stories it could tell!