We have mentioned the Cellar upgrade program a few times during the past year and it is finally complete! The original Vrede en Lust winery was completed 10 years ago and designed primarily as a red wine cellar with target crush capacity of 500 tons. Gunther Brozel’s design served us well, but as with life, some plans changed along the way. The expansion project has increased our crush capacity from 500 tons to 750 tons per harvest.
In 2005 we added the vineyards in Elgin and started with the production of a range of white wines. In 2007 we upgraded the historic 200 year old winery for use as part of our very popular function venue. The historic winery was supposed to become our bottle maturation cellar, so this left us a bit short of space!
We embarked on the winery expansion project in 2009, adding a total of 20 new tanks to the winery. First, a new wing dedicated to white wine production was added in time for the 2010 harvest. That wing has now been fitted with 6 x 10,000L and 6 x 5,000L stainless steel tanks, plus all of the required insulation, catwalks, cooling & control equipment.
The new tanks allow Susan and Ansone far greater control in managing the quality process during white wine production. Smaller tanks give them the capacity to keep different blocks and different levels of press (grape juice produced at different pressure levels) apart.
In addition to the tanks in the new white wine wing, we also installed 4 x 7,000L tanks in die maturation cellar. This reduces the distance that wine has to be pumped during the barrel rack & return process. It also provides with extra tank storage capacity during the peak fermentation periods.
One can never predict when all the different vineyards will ripen and this leads to severe harvest pressure at times. Extra capacity ensures that wine ready for the press, can be removed from the skins, at the right time. It also ensure that grapes that are perfectly ripe, may be harvested without becoming overripe, while waiting for space in the fermentation tanks.
In addition to extra capacity, we also focused on equipment that could improve wine quality. A handy addition to the winery is the set of 4 mobile stainless steel tanks. These 1,000L to 1,500L tanks are designed to be moved around by forklift. This will allow the winemakers to do smaller rack & return jobs right next to the barrels or to move smaller batches of wine around without extra pumping.
During the 2010 harvest, we tested a Pellenc automatic grape sorting machine. We had the opportunity to test it on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz grapes. Susan was very happy with the outcome.
The machine dramatically reduced the amount of MOG (matters other than grape) such as leaves, stems and other insects/animals. These items often end in the grape bins during the harvest process.
It also eliminated the little green shot berries, rotten berries and a decent % of the pips. This reduces the amount of potential harsh tannins especially in red wines . The Pellenc has now been installed below the crush bay and is ready for action!
We have been using a 5 ton Bucher Vaselin pneumatic press since 2002, but things got tough as our white wine production ramped up.
White grapes have to get crushed as soon as they get to the winery, in order to prevent the quality destroying impact of oxidization. With only one press, this meant that either white grapes end up waiting for a red skin press to complete (and the time to clean it properly etc) or red wine ready to get off the skins, have to wait while white grapes were being pressed.
We added the 10-15 ton Europress last year. This has allowed Susan a lot more capacity to press as required and she loves the quality she gets from the Europress.
Last but not least, we added a new bottle maturation area on the southern side of the winery. This added more than 250 square meters (2,500 sq feet) of 4 bin high, bottle storage space. Up to now, we have been using another bottle store higher up on the estate, but this will be far more efficient.
The store is insulated and temperature controlled. This will allow us to move all extra bins out of the maturation cellar, just in time for the new barrels coming in for the 2011 harvest.
Etienne and Susan, aided by DJ from the financing side, did a great and cost effective job of overseeing the expansion project. At full capacity, the winery will now be capable of producing about 50,000 9L cases of high quality wine.
We expect to crush at full 750 ton capacity in 2011, but will continue selling a % of our wine off in bulk to other producers for the next few years. We are likely to produce about 30,000 cases from the 2011 harvest. I hope to see us reach the 50,000 case production level by around 2015/16.