Behind the Barrels
James Kalleske, the winemaker at Hatten Wines, shares about his passion in winemaking and how he deals with extreme challenges on this Tropical Island...
He is the passionate young man behind Bali’s wellknown winery, Hatten Wines. His dedication has brought the pioneering winery in Bali and Asia to various regional awards for several years, including the Winery of The Year 2017 by Asian Wine Review. How does he do it? Bali & Beyond (BB) talks to James Kalleske (JK) to find out his secrets in making Bali’s very own fine wine...
BB: What has brought you to this island and make wines?
JK: Gus Rai Budiarsa, the owner of Hatten Wines, invited me to work in Bali in 2012. When I was presented with the opportunity to make wine here, there were so many challenges in my mind. I thought it was time for me to make some kind of a groundbreaking. Here in Bali, it is a challenge already to grow grapes, let alone to produce tropical interesting wines using grape varieties that no one else grows in the world. It is just interesting for a winemaker. I guess it is more experimental and more progressive. Those challenges brought me here.
BB: What are the top two challenges, especially in growing grapes, in Bali?
JK: We have no dormancy because of the tropical climate. Here, grapes don’t seem to go to “sleep”, so we have three harvest times in a year. One harvest in the wet season, one in the dry season and one somewhere in between. That’s why the flavor and the quality may change significantly. That is our number one challenge.
The second is the variety of the grape. Currently we have three varieties; Probolinggo Biru, Alphonse-Lavallee and Belgia. The challenge is how many styles we can make only from those three grapes. In France and Australia, there are 30 varieties of grapes. This year we are planning to have another three varieties, which is only 10 percent of what they have in France and Australia. Why only 10 percent? It is because of the tropical climate in Bali. But still, it is quite exciting. Other than that, I find challenges almost every day because I am active in research and development.
BB: Where did you learn your winemaking skills?
JK: Winemaking is sort of an art and a science. To be more specific, it is a craft. You learn science at the university, while the craft or the art side is purely passed down from generation to generation. I got all the basics and the passion of winemaking from my mother and I am lucky to have the chance to work with five of Australia’s and France’s number one winemakers. I learned a lot from Virginia Wilcock from Vasse Felix Winery, Cliff Royle from Voyager Estate, Bob Cartwright from Leeuwin Estate winery – he is an amazing Australian winemaker who likes to redefi ne wines from the late ‘70s and ‘80s! I also learn from Alphonse Mellot from Domaine Alphonse Mellot.
BB: How do you enrich your winemaking knowledge?
JK: I travel a lot, tasting as much wine as possible from all around the world so that I can keep a good perspective of my own wine styles by comparing them to other wines that I tasted. Because it is easy to lose perspectives of good and bad if you only taste your own wine. I also do wine judging. Last year, I did it in Hong Kong and it was amazing because I tasted more than 200 Asian wines, which is relevant to what I am doing now.
BB: Hatten Wines has just won several awards this year. Is receiving awards also one of your goals?
JK: Winning awards is great, but my number one goal is to understand my market so I can produce at least good (if not great) wines that consumers enjoy drinking. If I can do that, then I am doing my job well and I am happy. And if our wines win awards, then that is a great endorsement or acknowledgement of our quality and hard work. But what we really want to do is to make wines that people like and talk about.
Gus Rai’s and my goal for the company are the same; to make Hatten Wines the real icon of Indonesia that is internationally known. We want to make our winery not only as the pioneer but also a benchmark for quality wine, especially Asian wine, in the world. Therefore, I think awards are important as they can help us fulfill that dream.
BB: What are Hatten Wines’ next projects?
JK: In three to five years we are going to build a new winery in Gianyar. Aside from that, my main goal is to produce another high quality red wine using our grapes in Bali. Currently, we only have Aga Red which style is more light and burgundy. It is fine, but I would like to produce a heavy, strong, bold and complex red wine. As we speak, we are planting grapes like Shiraz, some Tempranillo that is new in Indonesia.
BB: Would you please explain a little bit about Hatten Wine’s vineyard tour in North Bali and how it supports the tourism industry there?
JK: It is a big step that we opened our vineyard to the public so everyone can visit anytime. People can see how we grow grapes and how the vineyard is developed. They can also see the modern and traditional method of winemaking. We work together with www.visitnorthbali.com to promote the north coast of Bali as a tourist destination.
By Wiwin Wirwidya
Magazine issue > Profile&Potrait