Swan Valley goes organic in its approach to wine production

Name: Duncan & Deborah Harris with Madeleine Claire

Harris Organic, established in 1998, is the only Australian-certified organic winery in the Swan Valley. Focusing on sustainable winemaking techniques, Harris Organic produces organic table wines and preservative-free dessert wines.

As part of Harris Organic's commitment to sustainable winemaking techniques, winemaker Duncan Harris built a 20x7m underground wine cellar in 2001. The cellar has an average temperature of 18°C and is able to store oak casks for long periods of time. Fermentations are performed warm, without refrigeration.

Harris Organic chooses to close its wines exclusively with cork, believing in the renewable resource and seeing corks as a better match for its organic wines than aluminium screw caps.

'Even though the screw cap is cheaper, the aluminium industry uses a huge amount of electricity for its production and therefore its environmental footprint is larger than the cork industry,' Harris said.

Minimal additions are made to the wine, including no PVPP fining or preservative salts, and minimal to no filtering. Harris also uses low levels of SO2 in table wines and none at all in the making of the preservative-free natural dessert wines.

Inside the winery's office, recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks, is the norm and water for wash down is sourced from Harris Organic's rainwater tank.

Harris Organic produces approximately 400 cases per year of its nine grape varieties; Muscadelle, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Madeleine, Pedro Ximenez, Muscat a Petite Grains Blanc, Muscat a Petite Grains Rouge, Verdelho and Shiraz.

A small number of cases are exported to the US, UK and Asia. Most of the wine is sold through cellar door, by distributors throughout Australia and on-premise at organic restaurants. Harris noted that Harris Organic is experiencing greater penetration to its export markets since being granted certification by the Australian Certified Organic.

'The Harris Organic brand is becoming increasingly recognised for unfortified preservative-free dessert wines, and our certified organic full-bodied dry white and red wines,' Harris said.

'We think it is so important to be environmentally sustainable as we want this land to be in good condition for future generations. There are issues with salinity, algal blooms and ground water pollution in WA and we want to do everything we can to prevent any further damage,' he said.

Last year Swan Valley's Heafod Glen Winery signed its first export deal to Japan. Heafod Glen Winery's customer, Susumu Sawada of Yasuzukaya Corporation, opened a bottleshop in Kawagoe City after a wine tasting visit to Australia. Sawada's marketing is aimed consumers of boutique, hand-produced quality products. Although the Japanese business is still young it continues to grow and further orders have been placed for Heafod Glen Winery. The winery is currently in discussion with Yasuzukaya Corporation to produce wine labels in Japanese for its export range.

Heafod Glen Winery proprietor, Duncan Head, has noticed an increase in the interest in its wines since its export program began.

'We have definitely noticed an increase, particularly with the increasing number of Japanese tourists visiting the Swan Valley. As far as them being interested in where and why we are sending wine to Tokyo, it is a co-marketing exercise,' Head said.

Heafod Glen Winery has not yet expanded its export offer to other countries, however, it is actively looking for another market that offers quality boutique wine wholesalers.

Head strongly believes in the importance of export as it creates awareness of the quality Australian wines bring to the global wine industry.

'Through export we are inviting people from across the world to sample our wines. Swan Valley is seen on the whole as a clean, untouched environment, and consumers can have confidence in our products,' he said.

The full article can be found in the September/October 2007 issue of the Wine Industry Journal. To subscribe visit winetitles.com.au/wij/subscribe.asp

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