By Duncan Harris ” WINE, ALL OF ITSELF – Organic Natural Wine. ” When Duncan talks about natural wine he is talking about more than the fact that his Swan Valley vineyard and winery is certified organic. He is an organic natural wine specialist and is quietly surprised how natural wine has become such a hot topic of conversation among many a wine aficionado.
While the definition of natural wine seems as manifold as there are vintner’s making it, Duncan would like to state for the record that his philosophy of Natural Wine is wine that begins in an ideal vineyard, is hand-picked, gently pressed, fermented with natural yeasts, unfined, unfiltered, aged and sealed with cork. The wine should be very stable and not liable to spoil. Ideally, the energy used should be sustainable sourced also. He recommends all the free solar energy that vintner’s have at their disposal during vintage should be harnessed with photovoltaic (PV) panels.
1. The Vineyard – must be not irrigated. This means that the fruit does not uptake artificial moisture as from dammed water or bore water. This means that the water is sourced by the (quite resourceful) vines – making for a high quality fruit harvest. The vines are hand-pruned and dressed, de-leafing is carried out to reduce fungicide spraying and the fruit is hand-picked when the sugar level is optimal for good wine-making.
2. For a natural dessert wine, the fruit should be picked late in the season and very high in sugar. It is de-stemmed and crushed before ferment starts via natural yeasts (another gift from the Gods of wine). Thereafter the must is pressed by any means practicable. Duncan uses a basket press, to extract the partially fermented juice.
3. The wine should be unfined and unfiltered. There is a saying,” Good wine falls bright”. This means very little to no sediment most of which can be avoided by age settling prior to bottling and decanting after opening on the part of the consumer. Any protein haze is a natural part of the process of maturation.
4. The wine should be sealed with cork as it is a natural sustainable product. Cork is a renewable resource and uses 1/2 the electricity to produce, and hence half the CO2. Unfortunately electrical energy is cheap and screw caps are about half the price of corks.
In conclusion, natural wines are better for you and the environment. Enjoy in moderation.
Caltrop (Tribulus terrestrilus) can also be called bindi eye, GG’s, Cats head
Removing Caltrop, an obligate summer grower in the Swan Valley area, so it will only appear after summer rains. In some years it is really bad, in others it will not be seen. There are also several similar native species, but these generally have less spiny fruits.
Eradication is essential, and vigilance against introduction is critical.
Readily controlled by herbicides in most situations, as few other pasture plants are alive at the same time, and selective control is easy in lawns and grass pasture. It generally grows too low to mow, but could be controlled by solarising.
It is definitely a plant against which an eradication campaign is worth mounting. Incidentally, the original caltrop was a weapon of war – an iron device with four tetrahedral prongs that was strewn in the path of enemy horses. Which ever way it fell, one prong was always upright, ready to lame the horse.
Charming – but walk on the plant with bare feet and you will agree that it has been well named!
Caltrop in an Organic Vineyard.
Occasionally, Duncan finds some caltrop in the vineyard. It grows after summer rains and we have had a few showers this year.
In row three in the shiraz plantings, right in the middle of the row, was a larger plant 800mm diameter, with lots of dried seeds besides some 20 other smaller plants.
What is an organic vigneron to do? He can not use herbicide.
A wheel barrow, pair of snips and a dust pan and broom is all required besides some patience. Watch the video to get a better idea of what we do.
Firstly, spot the bright verdant green caltrop plant in the late afternoon sun. Using the snips cut the tap root, then lift the plant carefully and remove it to the wheel barrow. Then with the dust pan and broom sweep up all the loose sand and seeds from the plant area. Most dried seeds are within a hand span of the crown.
The removing caltrop job is nearly done.
Next is the hard part, walk all the rows to check for other plants, then return in two weeks to check for new plants again before the Autumn rains.
You may ask, what do you do with the contents of the wheel barrow? Duncan puts it in the waste bin for the local tip to compost it. Once he tried to burn the plants. The local authorities saw the smoke and believed that a conflagration was occurring.
Building a pizza oven from used solid bricks can be a very rewarding project.
This pizza oven building project was started in May 2010. Here you will find all the steps to build a workable oven that cooks real pizzas and marvellous bread.
The pizza oven is a traditional dome type whereas the tunnel type of pizza oven is easier to build. If you have any questions feel free to make comments. The oven is designed to be moved by forklift, but not towed on a trailer.
First of all determine what type of base you require. This one is made from delta core concrete, light and strong and transportable. I got it home with my 6×4 trailer . This means I can pick the oven up with my forklift and place it anywhere I want. Most people will choose to build theirs in place.
The base is 1500 x 1200 mm and 150mm deep. You will need to add two tension bars across the base to give tension in that direction.
Determine the diameter of the oven. This one is one metre inside diameter.
Here I have marked it out and placed the outside base layer of red solids in place. These are glued to the concrete with a mixture of clay, lime and cement. Remember you are building a brick oven not a mortar oven. To do this keep the gaps between your bricks less than 3mm.
To set the base out I drew the one metre diameter on a 6mm sheet of cement sheet with the entrance of the pizza oven door too. Under the sheet went a 25mm layer of high temperature ceramic insulation. To cut and shape the bricks I used a friction saw, with a masonry disk. Old bricks are easy to cut and if soaked in a bucket of water have a reduced amount of dust.
Here is the first layer in place, ready for the next layer.
Finish the floor.
The first layer and the floor finished.
Here I have used clay floor tiles, in hindsight not a good choice as they crack under heat stress. A later version has ceramic furnace tiles in place of these. NB that under the floor tiles is a layer of 50 mm brick pavers sitting on top of the cement sheet. Next build I will place 50 mm of insulation under the brick pavers.
Making the door and form work.
You will require two pieces of steel, one for the door and the other for the flue entrance. I bent these the hard way with a hammer. In the centre of the photo is the form for building the brick dome. The door is 550mm wide and 260mm high.
The former is a piece of sheet metal angle welded to a steel rod. At the centre is a washer welded to the rod.
Can you see the pin in the centre of the floor, next to the cup? Its a bolt through a piece of plywood and stuck to the floor with masking tape.
Here the second layer is stuck to the first layer. Looks like the last brick need to be cut to finish this layer.
Third layer in place.
Note the small pieces of brick used as wedges.
A mock up early in the build.
Note the inner top bricks are getting towards being vertical, meaning the mud between the bricks has to dry before moving the former.
Finishing the dome
The final part of the brick build. In this step I have place a disk of sheet metal inside through the door up under the dome. It is held up with bricks and wood. On top of the sheet is some sand formed into a dome and the remaining bricks placed onto the sand.
Once all the bricks are in place the sheet is remove and it all stays together.
The inside finished.
The first chimney in place. just needs mortar.
Firing and drying
Chimney No. 2.
The first chimney was OK but smoked on startup. After making the larger chimney #2, which was much better, I found that they all smoke on startup. It is the volume of smoke produced that the chimney can’t cope with even if you have a big fire. The answer is to start small.
Insulating the oven.
Here I have used old fibre glass batts, however rockwool is recommended.
Adding the mortar.
Painful. The lesson with this is to place aluminium foil or some other non combustible on top of the insulation under the wire mesh. Also you need to place foundry chaplets in the insulation too so the mortar will not squash the insulation. Then if the insulation is compressed the chaplets it will hold the mortar away from the bricks. In this case the mortar over hangs the concrete base, which does not help. There is a better way.
Mortar layer all finished.
The finished article.
Then allow some time for the mortar and bricks to dry inside and out and then its pizza time.
At Harris Organic vineyard the undervine weed management has never included any chemical herbicide usage. Every spring the diesel tractor was used to pull the “silly plough” along the rows to strip away the soil and growth under the vines. This aids to the health and fitness of the operator and to the communication skills of man and wife. Now you can guess who drove the tractor and who did the yelling!
There is a lot we can learn from the old ways in the Swan Valley region. At a recent European exhibition there was not a single under-vine herbicide machine, they were all mechanical machines. Further this gives some context to the recent decision from the French and Belgium Governments to ban the sale of glyphosate (the active constituent in Roundup). A large portion of European grape growers are opting for organic/biodynamic vineyards. The progress of the organic movement has allowed the advancement of chemical free options.
Organic vignerons are turning to engineering companies which produce practical, versatile machines that combine a number of operations. These are all changeable to the base unit on the tractor. Then the system uses an under vine blade, mulcher and a rotary hoe which are easily attached to the side mounted unit. This gives the grape vine grower the ability to adapt to each vineyard situation which is crucial in Australian vineyards due to our varied weed species, vine age and differing soil types.
Here in this video is what we do now in our organic vineyard.
As glyphosate resistance is already a problem across the country, due to normal weeds becoming resistant to herbicides. Then we should all be looking at ways we can manage our weed populations. Also, this can be done effectively, efficiently and in the most sustainable manner by ploughing. In the first instance giving the under vine area a shallow ploughing removes the chemical resistant weeds.
This leads on to the question, “When is glyphosate going to be banned in Australia”?
Duncan Harris , owner of Harris Organic Wines, has written about his organic wines, events and tit bits for your information and education. This is a blog site to the main site of Harris Organic Wines and Organic Vodka websites because this is a word press site and the other is html. Enjoy.
Harris Organic has an online wine shop, so if you are unable to get to the Perth Swan Valley you may order online.
Our cellar door is in the Swan Valley, Western Australia . We are able to ship wine anywhere in the world and have heavily discounted freight to most capital cities in Australia. And on case sales we have discounted postage costs on interstate and overseas deliveries.
Feel free to ask a question by emailing our winemaker Duncan at any time. We even have an organic wine club. Members can receive the latest vintages, old and rare wines and reserved wines for members only.
Organic chickens in the organic vineyard 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 the work for me.
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 is 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 myself.
My chickens ( chooks) are much more alert and a little wiser and survive the occasional fox visit.
During the late summer month’s chooks in the vineyard is not a good thing unless your vines are on high trellis. Chickens love 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.
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.
My current flock of chickens were rescued from a local egg farm.
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.
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 besides 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.
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 own 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.
Volunteer, Helpx, Workaway and Wwoof at Harris Organic Wines is a wonderful experience.
“We are all visitors to this time and space. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn to grow to love…. and then we return home.” An Australian Aboriginal belief.
Volunteers are also visitors……
What is Volunteering?
WWOOF means willing workers on organic farms. WWOOFing occurs when a farmer exchanges food and board for work provided by the willing worker. But Volunteering is much more than that; it is a cultural exchange, about learning new skills and sharing a host experience. We love woofers!
Volunteers are all visitors to this time and space at Harris Organic. They are just passing through. Their purpose is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…. and then they return home with a wealth of experience, new skills, new friends and a new way of life.
What is Helpx?
Helpx means help exchange for non/organic farms. Helpx.com is an online help exchange website where hosts and helpers can register. In some ways it is better system than WWOOFing as there is no paper book, little cost for applicants and helpers and they can have their photograph and details of wants and experience. Hosts can view the profiles before accepting the helper. Hosts are also able to turn on and off their profiles so that they are able to accept workers when help is required. Its a system that works well for helpers and hosts, we love it.
Here are all the 2015 wwoofers, with Eva, Carl and Charlotte staying twice. 🙂
Today was a typical day. What did we do; we walked three rows of vines doing some thinning of the grapes, before the sun was too hot. Mowed some grass to clean up some leaves, made some pizzas for lunch in the shade of one of our large gum trees and after some sleep, cleaned some windows, watered some plants and then watched a movie before dinner.
During the year we have a number of organic wine events to tickle your taste buds.
Organic Wine Events at the Organic Winery
Breakfast Crush Club – 2nd Sunday in February
For those who want to experience a real organic vintage, come and help us pick some grapes and enjoy breakfast on us, plus a tasting of the wine variety you just picked. 7.00am – 10.00am. Get tickets here to ensure your place – a paid event. Harris Organic Wines.
The Post Vintage Weekend – 3rd Saturday in March
Harris Organic Wines is celebrating the 2020 vintage with a special Swan Valley Food and organic wineSundowner at the Vineyard. Come and join us for a glass of our hand-made ‘Methode Traditionale” organic sparkling wine, followed by several vintages of verdelho, accompanied by Mediterranean tapas. You will also be treated to our speciality dessert wine ‘pedro ximenez’. Sundowner event – 6.00 pm Friday eve. Organic Sundowner Tickets
Breakfast Crush Club – 3rd Saturday in March
Start your Swan Valley Vintage weekend adventure with us at the Breakfast Crush Club! Arrive at 7.00am and help out with putting fruit through its first stage of processing, followed by breakfast in the cellar and wine tasting in return! Get tickets Breakfast Crush Club here to ensure your place.
How long have you been operating Harris Organic Winery?
We invited Duncan Harris to give some questions and answers about his venture into winemaking. He purchased the property in 1998. He has always grown organic grapes and made organic wine, however, only became certified in 2006. Prior to him purchasing the property the land had 13 years of rest as the vines were removed in 1985. The Baskerville property was sold by the original owners who held it from the 1920’s in approximately 1985.
Obviously you grow organic grapes, do you grow anything else or are you a mono crop?
I grow lupins, sour sobs, turnip, radish, vetch and grasses of varying kinds between the 30 rows of vines. I use these plants to create green manure. That is there’s a lot of goodness in the plants, I chop it up and turn it into the soil which provides nutrients to the soil. In the summer time I grow watermelons, and pumpkins. I also have olives and oranges growing in the orchard.
Do you do companion planting?
Yes and No. I plant lupins which produce nitrogen for the soil. There are nodules on their roots which are released to the soil microbes and plant roots to use. I grow it and harvest the seed for the following year. The plants take in carbon dioxide and produces cellulose, a carbon based material, which in turn returns carbon to the soil.
Do you sell anything other than wine?
Yes, certified organic vodka and an un-oaked brandy I call eau de vie and three and 10 year old wood aged vintage brandy.
Have you ever had a year wine where you didn’t have any grapes to harvest? No, the Swan Valley is a most congenial place to grow grapes.
How long does it take to create wine from beginning to end?
From the planting of the grapes it takes 7 years for the best vintage wines. You can get a crop of grapes in 18 months but it’s not very good for high quality wine. From the picking of the grapes to the bottling of the wine can take anything from nine months to ten years.
I grow 24 madeleine vines that produce delicious table grapes that go to organic retailers between Christmas and New Year. If you keep the grapes in your fridge they can last up to a month.
What do you do to manage pests?
I employ a variety of techniques. Chickens, known as chooks in Australia, help to manage the weevils and other soil based bugs, usually the larva of such and we love the spiders in our vineyard – they eat some of the bugs and some of the bugs eat them! They also catch lots of different flies.
What are some sprays a conventional grower could use on their crops? Any known side effects? There are many sprays available to conventional farmers. Ask Monsanto about herbicide resistance and residue levels in domestic animals and humans!
Would you personally ever drink conventional wine?
There are lots of conventional wines I have tried. This gives a good basis to understand what good wines are available in particular styles. All part of a good education!
What kind of nasties can you find in there? Heavy Metals?
See our page on additives: Wine Additives and the mean residual level in the grapes can be found here: Some of the greatest users of chemicals is the table grape industry. Poisons used in vineyards.
What do you use to preserve the wine? There are natural preservatives in wine, they being alcohol, tannin and sulphur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is added to keep the wine fresh, clean and clear appearance in the bottle and give it longevity. The organic standards allow up to 150 ppm SO2 even more in dessert wines.
Question: Do you have any preservative free wine?
What does this entail?
I have some small quantities of “pet nat wines”. Pet nat stands for petillant naturel. An ancient way of making a fresh preservative free sparkling wine.
Question: Have you seen much growth in the organic wine market?
The organic industry continues to grow, promoted by the amount of exports to other countries, including the USA and EU.
Question: If you turn back time would you do anything differently?
What is “Dosage” and what is it doing in my Sparkling?
It’s December and its time for a dosage of the holiday festive season. A time for family get together at the beach, and a time for reflection. Time to enjoy the fruits of a vignerons hard work, sparkling wines. Traditional sparkling wines are not that easy to produce.
At the family get together, tension can be high so sparkling wine is the answer to calm the nerves. One thing we can all do to arm ourselves by learning a little bit about the wine we’ll be drinking.
If you’re lucky, that’ll involve some sparkling wine or what the French are allowed to call Champagne.
One of the best words you can chuck out there is “dosage” (you can use a French accent if you like.) Of course, then you need know what it is.
Essentially, dosage is some form of sweetness (sugar, or wine and sugar and brandy) added to a sparkling to balance it the palate structure.
Grapes in the Champagne region have to struggle to ripen so they end up with less sugar to offer the wine. Many European sparklings and Champagnes are aggressively acidic and low in alcohol. The dosage is a simple corrective measure, to either balance the acid or to actually impart some level of sweetness. And depending on the amount of dosage added, you’ll end up with a variety of sparklings, defined by terms that can be a bit confusing but are basically a scale from sweetest to driest.
In Australia’s warmer climate the wines have a higher potential alcohol and less searing acid allowing for more balance and less dosage to balance the palate.
Here are the recommended dosage for a particular style of sparkling wine.
Doux: 50 or more grams of sugar added per litre. This will taste outrageously sweet to most sparkling wine palates. It’s about 2 teaspoons’ per bottle—but back in the days of yesteryear, Champagne tended to come a lot sweeter. Do you remember the hollow stem glasses with the cube of sugar in the base, exuding the effervescing bubbles to continue? I do.
Demi-Sec: Dosed with 35 to 50 grams of sugar. Again, higher on the sweet sparkling spectrum than most of us are willing to go. In Australia there are a lot of cheap sparkling with this dosage, namely the Australian invention of red sparkling “burgundies” .
Sec: “Sec,” in French, means dry. But dry here actually indicates a medium-sweet sparkling. 17 to 35 grams of sugar, on average a teaspoon per litre.
Extra Sec: Literally “Extra Dry,” which would seem to indicate a very acidic wine but here means a bit less sweet than Sec, thanks to about 12 to 20 grams of sugar.
Brut: A mere 6 to 15 grams of sugar added, really for balance in Australia. Slightly rounder than “Extra Brut” because of the increased added sugar, and the type of sparkling we tend to drink most.
Extra Brut: With fewer than 6 grams of sugar added, this may come off with usually a higher apparent acid on the palate and accentuate the carbonation. However with ripe grapes the acid is reduced.
This is the style of modern handmade traditional method sparkling of the Swan Valley.
Brut Nature: For the winemaker to showcase the essential nature (hence the name) of the sparkling wine or Champagne with no sugar added. This is not common, however more common in the the Swan Valley that other regions. Higher notes of minerality and acid, basically a party in your mouth, and everyone’s invited, except sugar!