“Do you like the wine?” The wait staff asked in anticipation.
I had been having Sauvignon Blanc with dinner at the off-the-beaten-path beach resort in Bintan Island. It was wet and balmy during the monsoon season. Sauvignon Blanc seemed like the best bet with spicy scrumptious Indonesian dishes. The spartan wine menu listed three whites and three reds, just grape varieties. No winery and no vintage were mentioned, making it easy to switch out certain wines. That was what happened.
|Plagã Sauvignon Blanc|
After I told him I actually liked the latest rotation better than the last one, the young man beamed with pride and informed me that the wine was from Plagã, a winery in Bali. An Indonesian wine? Go figure!
Journey of Indonesian Wine
Here’s a little known fact. Indonesian viticulture dates back to the 18th Century in Kupang on Timor island, where locals helped Dutch explorers put down the roots of the first vines. Subsequently, there was an expansion of vineyard areas to Besuki and Banyuwangi in the island of Java. When the Dutch rule in Indonesia ended with World War II and was followed by Indonesian self-rule, the Muslim country imposed strict alcohol controls that set its wine culture back.
In the last couple of decades, however, the Indonesian government has relaxed its controls on alcohol importation and consumption. With an ever rising popularity of Bali as a tourist destination and an increased appetite for fine wines among urban middle-class Indonesians, wine culture is making a swift comeback.
Viticulture in Bali
The arid high-altitude north coast of Bali is rich with volcanic soil making it suitable for growing wine grapes even in a tropical climate. Vineyards that dot Sanggalangit and Seririt villages grow mostly Probolinggo Biru (or Chasselasloulou), Alphonse-Lavalée, and Muscat. More recently, Syrah (or Shiraz), Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and even Italian grape, Malvasia Nera, were added to the mix.
|Vineyard in Sanggalangit Village, Bali|
|Hatten sparkling white|