Tag Archives: organic wine

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. I had a very strong feeling that I had tasted this wine variety before!

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!

Organic Wine in the West

Organic Wine in the West

By Louise FitzRoy; “We’ve created a niche and people come to us for that niche.” Harris Organic Wine in Western Australia is the only certified organic distiller in Australia making brandy and vodka for the national and Asian markets. Owner Duncan Harris says, “We sell a lot of wine and spirits online and have just started exporting our certified organic brandy and organic vodka that was released in 2010 to Asia.” read more about our organic wine blog.

Organic wine maker
Organic winemaker in the Swan Valley

“It is proving extremely popular with Asian countries and here in Australia. Our spirit is used in making the only Australian fortified organic wines, which are winning medals at the Swan Valley Wine Show. We were producing spirit for our fortified organic wines, so thought we’d make the most of it. Vodka has the same spirit base used to fortify our ports.

Selling Direct

“All our sales into Asia are done with online sales. No intermediary; no wholesalers. We ship direct, door-to-door, with no import duty for Hong Kong.” In 1998 Duncan Harris bought a property in the Swan Valley – the oldest wine region in Western Australia and about 30 kilometres from Perth – and started establishing an organic vineyard. Their first vintage was in 1999 using Swan Valley grapes from a neighbouring dry grown vineyard.

Duncan says, “Most of our handmade produce is sold at the cellar door, which opened in 2000, besides one bottle shop in Perth. We prefer to sell “cellar door” as we are able to give seated tastings, build a relationship with our customers. This develops our brand. We don’t need to worry about competing against other organic wineries in established wine states in Australia.” “We have no desire to sell interstate because the wholesalers want 30 per cent markup.

This means we would have to make twice as much wine for the same income. “We are looking for more markets in Western Australia however. Some years ago we sent out a survey asking our customers where they would prefer to buy our wine. People asked us to supply bottle shops in the city.  We asked a few stores about their range of customers and whether they would like to stock our organic product and most were not interested. This has been disappointing considering how close we are to Perth. “I’d also like to target more overseas markets, but you have to consider whether the effort of doing so is worth it.

Overseas markets

Duncan would like to sell his wine to an organic, all-natural wine bar in New York or Paris, but with the continual trips required – not to mention the import and export permits that are necessary – you’d spend a whole year doing it and may not even end up selling any wine. You would need to be there several times a year to service the customers, the wholesalers and the importer. Personally, he would prefer to be at home driving the tractor.”

According to Duncan, there are only about 10 organic wineries in Western Australia. “We are the only certified organic winery in the Perth area. We became certified with Australian Certified Organic in 2006. There’s a big enough market for more than one of us, however, not many wineries want to venture into the organic industry. It starts with the vineyard. There are only a few viticulturists that have the energy and passion to get out and dig weeds and walk vineyards day after day.”

The environment, social aspects, customs and economics are four important elements of Duncan’s sustainability plan. “I built an underground cellar for naturally cooler storage temperatures and we bottle our wine in recyclable glass and cork. We use very small amounts of electricity in producing a litre of wine. This is low compared with the average usage for most other wineries in Australia. We also use low amounts of preservatives and additives.”

Pricing

Being an organic producer in a state well known for producing high quality wines has not influenced Duncan’s price point.  I add up the production costs plus margin, but being organic doesn’t mean that I need to raise the price point. My wine is competitive with other high quality wine in the country. He says the business’s online presence,  continues to be very important to its growth and viability.  This includes being on Facebook and Twitter. This is where people look for answers and this is how many of our customers have found us. You’ve got to be on line, otherwise you’ll miss out.

Chemicals

People in general are not aware of the herbicide, pesticide and chemical fertiliser residues found in wines. More marketing of the differences and health benefits will increase the awareness and the demand for organic wine.”

Events

It’s not unusual for Duncan to host the occasional ‘Brandy evening’ at the winery. This gives him the opportunity to educate people about his products, enabling guests to ask questions about organic viticulture. “To make a supply chain work, it’s like building a brick wall. Do it one brick at a time.” Harris Organic Wines is the only certified organic winery and vineyard in Perth’s Swan Valley.

“We believe that the organic wine movement is a world-wide trend because smart consumers are demanding to know exactly what is going into their foods. It represents a social backlash against corporate monopolies who are fundamentally only interested in extending shelf life and profits, rather than human life and ecological sustainability. We say: think biological welfare – not warfare… it is the way of the future.

Wine Fermenting on Solids

Organic Wine Fermenting on Solids – blog

Fermenting on Solids

  “Secrets of fermenting on solids” by Australian Wine Research Institute  (AWRI).
Duncan Harris at Harris Organic Wines  ferments his white wines on “solids”, while most Australian winemakers ferment off solids, what does this mean? read on.
organic grapes
Preying mantis after organic grapes

Fermenting white grape

organic grapes fermenting on solids
organic grapes

Grape juices containing high levels of grape solids can result in increased hydrogen sulfide production during primary fermentation. However, excessively clarifying juices may result in fermentation difficulties. Attenuated or stuck primary fermentations resulting in elevated levels of volatile acidity may occur.

Text books

Well says wine making text 101. While there is a lot to be said about wine making 101. For Winemaking 101, previous work by the (AWRI)  has revealed that fermenting on grape solids also results in significantly more polysaccharides in white wines.  This is due to more than extensive skin contact, using pressings, and even more than  partially fermenting white juice on skins. Higher levels of polysaccharides are thought to positively contribute to white wine mouth-feel. Polysaccharides also enhance both protein and cold stability resulting in less bentonite fining and lower refrigeration costs.
While juices will naturally clarify under the action of gravity given time. Commercial vintage logistics dictate that the settling process be achieved as quickly as possible.
“We never say we have plenty of time, it’s vintage”.  We don’t say this.  Adding pectolytic enzymes achieved fast clarification.  Adding enzymes, which within minutes, ‘mulch down’ the juice polysaccharides that inhibit settling.  This hastens clarification. Alternatively, settling grape juice can be sped up by adding bentonite as its charged surface helps to agglomerate grape solids into heavy particles which precipitate more easily.
Meanwhile, the AWRI investigated the effect of different types of juice clarification (natural settling, enzyme and bentonite assisted settling) on the macro-molecular composition of white wine.
Clarification  methods and the time taken to achieve various levels of clarity are being investigated. Polysaccharide, protein and phenolic composition levels are also being investigated by AWRI. For more information about fermentation of our wines, please contact me by email in the first instance.

Organic Natural Wine – What does it mean

Organic Natural Wine – What does it mean.

By D. Harris ” WINE, ALL OF ITSELF – Organic Natural Wine. ” When Duncan Harris talks about natural wine he is talking about more than the fact that his Swan Valley vineyard and winery is certified organic. Duncan 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.

Organic winemaker
Organic winemaker in the Swan Valley

Definition

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. Duncan recommends all the free solar energy that vintner’s have at their disposal during vintage should be harnessed with photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Natural Wine

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 Duncan’s 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. Screw capped wines don’t allow the wine to mature in the bottle unlike a corked bottle. Aluminium caps are an insult to the wine and to the environment. 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.