The Yak chatted to Sababay co-founder Evy Gozali about life, wine … and the Pope.
Evy, can you give us a brief background of life up until you were 21 years old?
Born as the eldest kid and raised in Jakarta until I was 12, I moved to Singapore for my secondary education but decided to change school midway through as I was eyeing American universities. I knew that my mom was super busy so I looked for a new school myself, settling on Singapore American School. I took the admission test and was accepted – it was only then that I told my mom. She agreed, and later my sisters followed in my footsteps.
After that I got into Cornell University at Ithaca, a true village four hours out of NYC. They used to have cow and horse auctions every weekend! The first three years of my bachelor degree were really fun. I made amazing friends and of course the classes were hard, especially the final year when I did my Masters of Financial Engineering.
What was the naughtiest thing you did as a child?
Ha. As the eldest child, my dad always looked at me whenever my sister cried. He would be like, ‘what happened to your sister?’ I’d be like… ‘errrr…she cried? I don’t know…’. Of course sometimes I did know. The naughtiest thing I did was probably climbing mango trees.
What three major things have you learnt since the age of 21?
- That my parents love me lots, and I always have my family to go back to.
- That there is a higher power beyond yourself, an Almighty God who creates you, loves you and give you superpowers deep within you if you only believe and trust HIM to guide you.
- I learnt that everyone is unique and unique is beautiful.
Who is the person that has most influenced you in your life?
My parents, especially my mom.
You and your mother founded, and run, the award-winning Sababay Winery. Tell us a brief history of your New Latitude Wines and their raisons d’etre?
My mom has always had a soft spot for farmers, and basically most people. In 2009, after working for our family’s public company for 37 years, she felt like it was time for a new chapter in her life and Bali was a natural option. Being able to mix business with pleasure is a dream come true! And so she started to explore the island.
We went up to the Buleleng area, mostly famous for hot springs, scuba diving and dolphins, and we saw grapes for sale on the side of the road…and then vineyards. We got curious so we stopped and chatted with the farmers. I vividly remember seeing grapes hanging from the canopy, very ripe, and I asked the farmer why he hadn’t harvested them. He just said ‘I can only them sell for 500rps per kilo, it’s not profitable to even pick them’. So this chit chat made a big impression on my mom and her business sense kicked in. So she started learning about the wine industry …
She had a vision to maximize local potential, empower local farmers and apply international standards, starting plan after plan to make Sababay a two-way bridge between farmers and the market. We grew in tandem with a movement called New Latitude wines (a term coined by Frank Norel), which started in Thailand and represents non-traditional wine making regions. In 2015, 21 million litres of wine were consumed in Bali, with only 1% made locally. By 2017 that figure had grown to 25%. Did Sababay Wineries help balance this surplus? Our wines entered the market in 2014, and we just pushed and pushed, improving our grapes and wines, introducing the concept of pairing with Indonesian gastronomy and working with foodie communities like ACMI, Aku Cinta Masakan Indonesia and Jalan Sutra.
How many different wines are you currently producing?
For our own brands: 12 wines. From our Sababay distillery: 3 liquors, grappa and the latest ones are vodka and vodka infused … epicly yummy. For the catholic church : 1 type of sacramental wine.
Please introduce us to your Master Blender.
His name is Nicholas Martin Delacressonniere, a French guy who approached us through social media and I interviewed online. A young winemaker ready to take on a new challenge in Bali. I told him that his background and experience in France, Medoc, Bordeaux would not impress me as he has to work with our grapes and our people. He took the challenge, and honestly I am glad he did! He is a humble and funny guy and hard-working … he works with our team well. I think he has Indonesian blood hidden somewhere.
You make Sacramental wine? How did that come about?
It gives me goose bumps every time someone asks me about this. Honestly there was a deep desire from my parents to make sacramental wine from the beginning, as in Catholic church not everyone gets the wine during the mass. So time passed by and we met strategic people in the Catholic community that actually, from a long time ago, had a desire to make local sacramental wines. So we got connected and it started from there. We were visited by the priests/fathers who had ‘specialty’ knowledge in making sacramental wines … and the monsignors came to our winery to sign the agreement and bless our winery.
Do you think you will ever meet the Pope? Or send him bottle of your sacramental wine?
Yes! My mom and I have a feeling we will.
You have recently started these fabulous, picnic-style, wine-tasting soirées in your winery gardens. Tell us a bit more about them.
The simple idea is to enjoy wine outdoors, with great music, great company … and of course my team and I love creating great ambience and promoting Indonesian gastronomy. All the pairings are locally made, like the heavenly cassava cheese with sambal matah dabu dabu style on the side and white wine, satay lilit with rose and beautiful local cheese with our port wine, Mascetti.
You currently also have a distillery and have created an amazingly smooth Italian style Grappa. Tell us how that came about?
We actually bought the copper alembic distillation machine to make sacramental wine. And we realized with this beautiful machine we could make alcohol from pure grapes, which was the first thing we did. Grappa in Italy is made from the leftovers of wine, but ours is from the fresh grapes the best ingredients, not the leftovers, that’s why it is so good…so smooth.
Lastly, do you have a message of hope or support in these pretty challenging times?
I believe our response/ attitude to what happens to us or our surrounding is very important in determining the course of our lives. To keep living by faith, and not by sight is a day-to-day practice, and in these challenging times it is a ‘harder’ practice. And this faith is an active faith, it involves actions, decisions.
My message of hope is that there is an Almighty God who loves and He’s just been waiting for you to acknowledge Him and to trust Him and pour your heart out to Him. Keep searching for that ‘Faith’ inside of you and don’t be so serious about life, be kind to yourself , that’s why I always have a bottle or two of wine handy at all times. Cheers!
Many thanks for your time, Evy.