By Fergal Gleeson
Erl Happ is seventy five years old. He was a science teacher and then a potter before establishing Happs winery in 1978. That combination of scientific background and artisanal temperament led to his interest in making a range of preservative free wines.
“People will tell you ‘if you put this in you get this reaction’,” he says about advocates for the use of additives. “The recommendation seems valid and best practice and then with time it’s seen as directly negative to the wine. If you keep the wine away from air and keep it cool you get a fantastic result” he says.
Happs first Preservative Free wine was a Red. Due to the high demand they have since added a White and a Rosé to the range. Happs grapes for these wines are sourced from Dunsborough in northern Margaret River.
“You can’t be lazy and hope for the best,” Erl says reflecting on the fact that making a preservative free wine needs a lot of attention. “You must be aware of the risks and be ready for a high level of intervention.”
The starting point for a preservative free wine is handpicked fruit. Fruit picked by machines can be damaged and start fermenting immediately without the use of sulphur dioxide to stabilise it. Happs Preservative Free wines are then produced in stainless steel tanks rather than barrels.
“They are handled like white wines. Keep it cold. You don’t want oxidation which leads to the growth of bacteria turning the wine to vinegar,” Erl adds.
If you’re visiting Happs cellar door one of the things that you’ll notice is the diversity.
Erl has planted over different 30 varietals including some pretty obscure Iberian and Italian varieties such as Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, Bastardo, Graciano, Tannat, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Souzão, Grenache, and Gamay.
Some of the region’s trendiest winemakers are buying grapes from Erl. Brad Weir from Amato Vino, Rob Gherardi from Mr Barval buys Nebbiolo and Remi Guise from Tripe Iscariot are tapping into this treasure trove.
He is most excited about Pinot Noir, Grenache, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese of his alternatives.
More at http://www.happs.com.au
There is a popular theory that it’s the additives in wine that cause hangovers. That if you drink preservative free wines you can avoid a sore head in the morning. Sadly all three interviewees concluded that alcohol is the guilty party when overindulged. However there is more research to be done.
There’s a science project for us all to be getting on with!
Wine Lingo Decoded:
Sulphur Dioxide is a preservative that is added to wine to prevent it from oxidising. A small percentage of people suffer allergic reactions to it.
Preservative Free wines are made with little or no additional sulphur dioxide apart from what occurs naturally at fermentation.
Organic winemakers will not use any chemical pesticides or fertilisers in the vineyard and will use only organic additions in making wine. They use less preservatives than conventionally made wines. Certified organic wineries are audited as they transition to organic and on an ongoing basis.
Biodynamic winemaking will be organic as well but also has a philosophical overlay in that it sees the vineyard as a living organism that should be run according to lunar cycles. Wineries can be biodynamically certified. Again they use less preservatives.
Natural winemaking is an ambiguous term. It generally means minimal additions or preservatives in the winery. Natural wines are usually not fined or filtered giving them a cloudy appearance and stronger flavours. Natural wines are not necessarily made with organic grapes.
Vegan Friendly Wines are wines made without animal products.