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Island Fever

Ondy Sweeting sings the praises of a Bali-produced range of wines whose quality well exceeds its pricepoint. Photos: Lucky 8.

Midway through 2018 a real buzz started to roll among island dwelling wine lovers old and young. They were repeating the two same words – Two Islands.

A Bali wine had quietly rebirthed into a glamorous new player in a market desperate for delicious grape-based libations.

Two Islands immediately and dramatically filled the niche when it rethought and reinvented the brand so seamlessly that it became perfectly new. The celebrations began – hip hangouts, gorgeous restaurants, elite hotels, beach bars and house parties were quickly realizing that a wine revolution was underway.

At the recent 2018 Yak Award winning charity event – the Anthony Bourdain Tribute – more than 2,000 glasses of Two Islands were sold.

This was no simple rebranding exercise. The clever brains at Two Islands had decided rather than cut costs at the expense of quality to keep their usual price point, add some pizazz to the packaging and most importantly, they improved the wine. For possibly the first time on the island a bottle of wine that cost about $20 was worth the coin.

“People here want to drink wine and it’s not necessarily good to drink wine in Bali because the value disparity is too big. People feel ripped off spending $50 on a $10 bottle. So we decided to keep the price and improve the product. Two Islands white label is a $20 bottle that is worth $20,” says the brand’s business development strategist Richard Colin.

The people’s republic of wine drinkers rejoiced. The wine maker produced a ‘white label’ for daytime drinking and casual quaffing plus a more complex, sophisticated and harder to make reserve batch – or black label.

“Two Islands consistency and quality has reached a level that puts it above the good or bad argument. The two different labels for Two Islands are really about preferences. They are very different and appeal to different tastes,” he says.

The white label produces a Riesling that is light and crisp, a buttery yet woody Chardonnay aged in French Oak barrels, a dry Sauvignon Blanc, a fresh sparkling wine and a seriously good Pinot Grigio for the white varieties and reds include a meaty Shiraz, a full-bodied Cabernet Merlot and a smooth Pinot Noir.

It was the Pinot Grigio that first captured the attention of venues and the wine loving population, leading to a surge in sales that saw sales records broken at many of Bali’s most iconic destinations.

The fine flavours and lush aromas are related to the single origin grapes that come from vineyards in Australia’s famous wine regions in South Australia. The company deals directly with the farmers and the winemaker visits the farms often. A lot is at stake, both for the South Australian grape farmers and the vinification process in Bali because sales are through the roof.

The delicious drop is pouring out of the doors at La Plancha’s Sparkling Sunset on the beach in Seminyak, the fabulously fancy Viceroy resort, La Laguna, Finns Beach Club and Recreation Club plus the Ayoda resort and its popular Sparkling Sundays. These wines are the house pour at the chic Italian restaurant Da Maria and her funky beach club sister, Tropicola.

It’s clear the Two Islands wine maker is serious about creating an excellent product and the marketing team is smart and plies clients with attractive glassware, fridges, cool ice buckets as well as collaborating on events, education and training staff.

“We work with our clients and aim to be much more than suppliers. We are in a serious relationship together. Our shift is to make Bali the hub of wine development in Indonesia and that takes partnerships,” Richard says.

The Reserve black label range is harder to secure having been produced exclusively for luxury hotels and restaurants. It cannot be bought through retailers but does appear on the sommeliers menus at Metis and Bulgari Resort.

The Mandarin Oriental in Jakarta recently featured Two Islands reserve wines at a superb dinner with carefully paired wines.

Back in Bali, our own beloved Franco-American chef Chris Salans is working on a wine paring dinner with the Two Islands Reserve at his excellent Mozaic restaurant in Ubud.

“The two different wines are being enjoyed in similar markets with the white label fun and flexible and inexpensive enough to fit into multiple niches while the Reserve is more sophisticated and works well with up-market lounging and dining experiences,” Richard says.

All Two Islands sparkling wines are meticulously made in the traditional methode champenoise, and are even hand riddled in Bali – a step that is now mechanized in France – The reserve sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay is kept on lees for four years, creating a wonderfully complex and delicate wine.

In vino veritas.