Sababay Winery on the Indonesian resort island of Bali is a testament to the struggle against all odds to grow grapes for wine in a tropical climate.
We know Bali for many things – idyllic beaches, pleasure resorts by the dozens some of which come with some excellent cutting-edge fine dining, and some fabulous local eats – but making wine is not one of them. Well, we’d be wrong. Bali in fact is home to a couple of wineries; pioneering Hatten Wines has been making wine in Bali since 1994, and they were joined by Sababay Winery in 2011. But while Hatten isn’t open to the public, Sababay is.
Sababay Winery is located in Bali’s district of Gianyar, its second most densely populated area and also home to some of the richest cultural, natural and traditional heritage available on the island. If you’re looking to find out more about how wine grapes can be grown on the island of Bali with its hot and humid tropical climate, this winery needs to be on your to-do list.
Sababay Winery started as an idea by Mulyati Gozali and her daughter Evy Gozali back in 2010; Mulyati was witnessing many grape farmers, who were starting to look at other crops as barely subsisting on the table grapes they were growing, and wondered how she could ease their plight. Since they couldn’t get a fair price on the grapes why not convert those grapes to wine instead, she thought. She started research into growing quality grapes from local varieties – such as the Muscat Saint Vallier – that could be properly vinified into wine, and in 2011 finally opened this winery working in collaboration with a cooperative over over 180 grape farmers. Gozali even hired Nicolas Delacressonniere, a French winemaker from Bordeaux, to oversee winemaking operations.
For sure not all the wines made here uses grapes wholly produced on Bali; Sababay does source bulk wine from Australia – especially Shiraz – to blend into its wines. But be sure to try the Sababay White Velvet, made from Muscat Saint Vallier, because it’s highly unlikely you can try wine from this varietal anywhere else easily, as well as the Mascetti Port-style wine, made from a blend of Australian Shiraz and locally produced Alphonse Lavallée grapes.
Unfortunately Sababay is a working winery and not a vineyard – its vineyards are located in Gerokgak, Seririt and Banjar in the northern part of Bali – so aside from some vines grown for show in the front of the property, your winery tour here is limited to checking out the massive fermentation tanks and a tasting experience after.
Does Sababay make stupendously excellent wines of an international standard? Some would argue yes – it’s received some 30 awards from various international wine competitions, including a silver medal from the International Wine and Spirit Competition in Singapore back in 2014.
We think it’s still early days for Sababay, but we love how it’s an amazing testament to the grit of the Balinese grape farmers and Gozali’s vision of helping bridge a market gap by growing grapes for wine in such a hostile environment.
Sababay Winery (Gianyar, Bali)
Address Jalan Professor Doktor Ida Bagus Mantra No.333X Keramas, Medahan, Kec. Blahbatuh, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80581, Indonesia (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 9.30am to 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays, closed on Saturdays and Sundays