07/12/2004 - 21:00

Monkey Rock seeking to preserve its market niche

07/12/2004 - 21:00


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A NEW label based in Denmark has found a niche market with the recent production of its first vintage of preservative-free wines.

Monkey Rock seeking to preserve its market niche

A NEW label based in Denmark has found a niche market with the recent production of its first vintage of preservative-free wines.

Named after a local landmark, Monkey Rock was established in 2000 by Hermann and Regula Fehr, in partnership with winemaker Angelo Scifoni, at the Fehrs’ property in Denmark.

The Fehrs, who arrived in Denmark from Switzerland in 1982, initially built chalets on the property, (Turicum Chalets) and have since added olive trees and grapes.

Mr Fehr says the chalets were built about 15 years ago, but his wife had wanted to add grapes to the property as well.

“My wife really liked the idea of making wine and growing grapes and saw it as a bit of a romantic sideline,” Mr Fehr says.

“We planted our first vines in 2000 and this year is our first vintage.

“We have merlot, cabernet, pinot, and shiraz, and are hoping to have a cabernet merlot bottled by Christmas.”

But Mr Fehr says the winemaking at Monkey Rock has been entrusted to friend and business partner, Angelo Scifoni.

‘My wife and I are actually very bad gardeners, we don’t have green thumbs at all,” he says. “I’m an architect and my wife was running a big company in Europe before we moved to Denmark, so Angelo is in charge of the winemaking.”

Mr Fehr says Mr Scifoni started winemaking as a hobby in his native Italy.

“Angelo made wine for his family, who live in Tuscany, which is where he’s from, but he’s also an artist.

“Monkey Rock is actually a place nearby; it’s a rock that looks like the face of a monkey but it’s a bit tricky to put into a label, so Angelo has been involved in creating some designs for these as well.”

Mr Fehr says that, at the moment, Monkey Rock will only be producing red varieties, as white wines are harder to produce and bottle in a preservative-free form.

“We’re only making red wine as white needs more to keep it clean; the fermentation process is different and it generally needs a preservative to be bottled,” he says.

“It’s common for people to get headaches when they drink wine but sometimes these happen when you’ve only had a small amount to drink, and in this case it’s probably due to preservatives.

“We’ve done some testing with people who usually get headaches and other symptoms from ‘normal’ wines, and we’ve had a good response.

“We already have some wine on order and we’ve also received enquiries from Perth, where some restaurants are looking to stock preservative-free wine, as well as some local people who want to try something without preserva-tives.

“It’s a different thing in Australia. In Europe you see a lot of wines and beers that are preservative-free, but it’s not a big thing here.”

Mr Fehr says the production process at Monkey Rock is a lot different to that of the bigger Western Australian wineries.

“All our wines are hand made, which makes it very different to some bigger wineries I’ve been to some wineries around Margaret River; they look more like factories,” he says. “You could almost wear a suit because you wouldn’t get dirty. The wine moves through pipes and vats and you don’t really see it.

“We’ve actually had some of our visitors staying at the chalets help us out with picking and crushing grapes, and we like that people want to get involved.

“We’ve also had some interest in organising weekends where visitors can stay here and get involved in the winemaking process. Some of our visitors here have already joined in with picking and crushing, and it’s good that we can give them some of the wine at the end of the process.”

At the moment, however, the Fehrs are in the process of finalising Monkey Rock’s licence, which will allow them to operate tastings and direct sales from a cellar door.

“They said by next week, so hopefully we’ll be open very soon,” Mr Fehr says.


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