Along with many, we are believers that great wines are made in the vineyard. Our entire range is produced from estate grown fruit and our two vineyard locations offer a diversity of soil type and climatic influence. Our northern Dunsborough site enjoys a warmer growing season of rich and ripe qualities while the southern ‘Three Hills’ property brings cooler-climate elegance and finesse to the harvest each vintage.
Both vineyards share a unique trellis system not seen anywhere else in the region, the “Up and Over Lyre”. The open, solar-effective vine canopy maximises aroma and flavour development while increasing air flow to reduce pest and disease pressure. This allows us to employ an environmentally sustainable management regime and the avoidance of herbicide use altogether. As a result, soil microorganisms thrive and the vines are better for it.
All fruit is hand-harvested by an army of backpackers who annually enjoy the warm hospitality of the Happs family and staff. The fruit arrives at the winery in perfect condition, requiring little or no addition of sulphite and can be cooled prior to crushing. Under these circumstances it is possible to produce wines that are low in, or entirely free of sulphite.
Our vines are dry-grown. It is our belief that the making of iconic wines requires soils that are sufficiently deep to sustain a mature plant without irrigation while being shallow enough to ensure the vine runs out of easily obtainable moisture in January. This essential feature forges wines that are rich in flavour, colour and natural tannins; wines that will drink well early in their life and further improve in the bottle.
In 1966 Professor John Gladstones predicted the potential of the southwest area of WA becoming a world class wine region by comparing it to the French appellation of Bordeaux. ‘The Margaret River region is appreciably warmer during ripening than the Medoc but similar to Pomerol and Saint Emilion. Sunshine hours during the growing season and ripening period are marginally more than in all Bordeaux areas, whilst relative humidities are probably about optimal. Summer and ripening period rainfall totals are very low. These are conditions which in Bordeaux would typify a great year”.
Margaret River has become known as the most versatile wine region in the world. With an extraordinarily long growing season (low latitude) and a relatively cool-temperate fruit maturation period (maritime influence) it is possible to produce flavoursome wines from a wide range of varieties. This is the strength of the region. It offers optimal grape flavour conservation and is extremely reliable from vintage to vintage.
Here at Happs we are fortunate to have access to fruit from both ends of the cape; Our northern Dunsborough site enjoys a warmer growing season of rich and ripe qualities while the southern ‘Three Hills’ property brings cooler climate elegance and finesse to the harvest each vintage.
“Margaret River is the closest thing to paradise of any wine region I have visited in my extensive search for knowledge.” – Jancis Robinson MW.
Written by Erl Happ based on information provided by uncle Bert Happ, brother Peter, and our contemporaries in the Eastern states, Robert, and Steve Happ.
Nobody keeps diaries any more. The stuff that we are interested in tends to be regarded as either banal or too dangerous to commit to print. The attitude that I met when I inquired of my Uncle George about his parents and grandparents was that they were all God Fearing, well behaved types and ‘let’s leave it at that, shall we’! But I knew that every family has its black sheep (my dad for instance) so that didn’t cut any mustard with me.
Family are the people who, when you really need help, you can count on them, but they are also your keenest critics. They don’t hold back. Family members who are in business together do not give each other the respect and tolerance that non family members get. That behaviour begins in the nursery and it’s always simmering below the surface.
Back in the 1970s two young teachers named Erl and Ros Happ were inspired to plant a wide range of grape varieties in the Margaret River region.This pioneering spirit has paid off; today the estate vineyards produce more than 30 grape varieties and a comprehensive portfolio of wines sold nationally and exported around the world.
A distinctive feature of the Happs winery history is the family’s artistic flair and ongoing patronage of the arts. Erl and Ros built the onsite workshop and gallery as a space to create in themselves as well as a showcase of local talent. Over the years many potters, artists, jewellers, sculptors and musicians have used Happs as a home for their creativity and talent. So many wonderful things have come out of one single location over the years; three remarkable children, five dogs, four cats, thousands of artworks and hundreds of wines.
To spend time with the Happs family is to experience a bright flair of imagination which is grounded in reality; a wonderful combination that is manifested in all that they produce.
Why Do I Make Wine?
By Erl Happ
I want to make wine that is better. It’s flavour is preferred.
There are lots of useful things that I could make other than wine. For more than 20 years I was off at a tangent making pottery. That was a very engaging task. I made the clay from local soils, sought glaze materials in the local environment, made high temperature kilns out of which emerged a flood of beautiful and useful stuff for everyday use. I sold at craft rather than art prices making a very good income, supporting a family and relishing the opportunity to be my own boss.
The engagement with wine was stimulated by John Gladstone’s inspiring studies that compared the local climate with that in Bordeaux. Backing his judgment Gladstones wrote that the Cape to Cape area matched the climate of Bordeaux in a great year. It wasn’t at all obvious. Bordeaux is at latitude 54° north, the Capes area 33° south. The two hemispheres are very different, one mostly land the other mostly water, colder water at that.
You start with an aspiration. You want to make wine that can be compared with the best there is. You need to work out what ‘good’ and ‘great’ is. And when you fall short of the mark you ask why. And adjust. In fact you never stop wondering, adjusting, problem solving, learning and trying. You never relax.
Erl Happ backed his judgment some years ago in pioneering the cool climes of Karridale near Augusta, south of Margaret River. Not only did he go there with the intention of growing the standard varieties which were already popular in Australia, but he also started to experiment with new varieties which were little known to most wine drinkers. The wines under the Three Hills label are consistently first rate.
OWNERS : Erl Happ and Ros Happ
WINEMAKERS : Mark Warren
ESTABLISHED : 1974
VINEYARD LOCATION : Yallingup and Karridale Subregions
ANNUAL CRUSH : 230 tonnes
VARIETIES : Chardonnay, Semillon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Verdelho, Mourvedre/Mataro, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc, Nebbiolo
CELLAR DOOR : 575 Commonage Road, Dunsborough
OPEN : Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
WINE PRICES : $17 – 90
PHONE : 9755 3300
EMAIL : firstname.lastname@example.org
WEBSITE : www.happs.com.au
DISTRIBUTION : Cellar Door, Wholesaler, Online, Mail Order, Other, Retail
The fruit for this excellent chardonnay comes from the Three Hills vineyard that Erl Happ planted many years ago. It turned out to be a winner. A beautifully presented chardonnay with lemony fruit and oak showing a very light char. Crunchy flinty acid with a chalky edge to it. It’s rich and full bodied and ideal if you want a chardonnay with character and flavour.
SCORE 91/100 CELLAR 6 Years
This is a cabernet sauvignon-dominant red blend. It’s always a ‘best-of’ blend. So deep and powerful with masses of blackcurrant and dark chocolate on the nose. Some deep flesh fruit cake and edgy black olive in there work beautifully. This is one of the best I have tasted. Love the tannin and oak combo which harnesses the power perfectly.
SCORE 95/100 CELLAR 20 years
The tannins have been expertly handed in this classy example of petit verdot. The distinctive acidity of this variety is evident and gives some further focus to the finish. Grainy tannins support the dark chocolaty fruit, with rather appealing savoury oak adding an important dimension.
SCORE 92/100 CELLAR 9 years
Nobody keeps diaries any more. The stuff that we are interested in tends to be regarded as either banal or too dangerous to commit to print. The attitude that I met when I inquired of my Uncle George about his parents and grandparents was that they were all God Fearing, well behaved types and ‘let’s leave it at that, shall we’! But I knew that every family has its black sheep (my dad for instance) so that didn’t cut any mustard with me. Family are the people who, when you really need help, you can count on them, but they are also your keenest critics. They don’t hold back. Family members who are in business together do not give each other the respect and tolerance that non family members get. That behaviour begins in the nursery and it’s always simmering below the surface. It’s a by-product of passion.
People who grow grapes rarely make wine. So, it’s very difficult for them to relate what is done in the vineyard to the character of the resulting wine. Unfortunately, many winemakers have little idea of what to do in the vineyard to produce fruit and that makes good wine. The best situation is to grow your own fruit, ferment, mature and bottle your own wine. If you have an observer with an experimental bent, are a risk taker and a seeker of wisdom this situation makes for fast learning. Some things cannot be taught in universities. Many an employee is risk averse. Excellence is more frequently accidental than by design.
You will find very little of what I write here in text books. I started life as a teacher and never got out of the habit of sharing my enthusiasm.