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Grapes of Glory

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After their big win in the 2017 Asian Wine Review – where they brought home a handful of medals and the prestigious Winery of the Year award – Hatten is on the spotlight as one of Asia’s top representatives in winemaking. We visit their vineyard in Buleleng.

Winemaking is more than art – it’s also chemistry and engineering at its most flavourful best. So when Hatten opened their winery and vineyard right here on the island for the first time back in 1994, all those complex combinations were the first that would come to mind. In Bali? Would it work? The scepticism was not without reason: growing grapes that are perfect for winemaking in the Asian tropics is nearly impossible to do, but we’ll get to that later. Yet, more than 20 years later, Hatten is now the biggest local wine and it is also probably one of the world’s most improving wineries. A true wine connoisseur who grew up in a family of arak  (traditional Balinese rice wine) producer, Ida Bagus Rai Budarsa started his business in the early 1990s. After realising that he needed to have his own winery and vineyard to cut cost and make profit, he did exactly that. Hatten, Bali’s first winery was built in the Sanur area while their first vineyard, was opened along the northern coast of Buleleng. 

Improvement is definitely the keyword here, since the climate in South-east Asia is deemed too hot for cultivating grapes – especially when the best earlier wines in the world came from slightly colder areas such as France or Italy. But if that didn’t stop California and Australia to find solutions to grow quality grapes and produce excellent wines, then why can’t Indochina and its surroundings? Gus Rai needed to be creative in handling these natural obstacles. Through calculated measurement and research, he found that the lands in Buleleng was perfect. His vineyard has enough ground water to keep his vines from drying, while for the fear of overheating, he uses a pergola system above his grape vines, covering them under balanced amount of shade and sunshine to grow well. Hatten grows several varieties of grapes (such as Alphonse Lavallée French), but their Probolinggo Biru is a locally produced variety and from it came many of Hatten’s award-winning bottles. Another amazing thing about their vineyard is that the vines don’t have a dormant period – making them available for harvesting all year long! 

Gus Rai’s last piece of the puzzle is James Kalleske, an artist in winemaking who makes sure everything that goes through Hatten’s baskets, fermenters, tanks and barrels are just perfect – especially now that they’ve expanded the brand so much and won accolades here and there. The whole experience felt like being in an old French movie – long drive through the countryside, walking under the grape vines, picking the best ones and tasting one or two, and resting under the shade with a chilled rosé. The fact that it’s in Buleleng made the sips all
more tasty. 



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