Case Study Overview
Freedom of the Press Winery is an urban winery in the Cotwolds, producing small batches of fine still wine from grapes grown in English vineyards. Founder Gavin Carver's production aims were ...
- Fermenting & aging in a variety of vessels, including stainless steel to accommodate different batch sizes
- A press & destemmer designed for gentle grape handling & flexible processing
- Room temperature control in the vessel room
- Comprehensive back-up services
We supplied an Enoveneta PPC9 pneumatic press, an Enoveneta TOP5 destemmer, a Quantor/Kreyer MR135 thermofan, and a variety of Speidel variable capacity tanks.
We asked Gavin the following questions ...
Where did the inspiration come from to set up a winery?
'The inspiration to set-up the winery came as something of a surprise actually - although in retrospect it was an obvious choice. Wine has been a great interest of mine for 30 years. Alongside what was my ‘real job’ as an academic of theatre and performance I had a micro-business important burgundy from small grower-producers, and I’ve spent much of my free time around wineries. When I decided to take the risk and leave lecturing to do my own thing I thought I’d relaunch the wine importing business, or even the buy a small vineyard in France. At the same time however I was tasting more and more excellent English still wines and it hit me that rather than sell somebody else’s product, or move to France to make my own, there was a perfect opportunity to make excellent wines without leaving my home. The English sparkling wine scene is quite high profile now and its story is well known. However we are also making some world class still wines across the board, from ‘classics’ to natural wines. I think there is a really exciting future for small still-wine producers which focus on quality rather than quantity.'
'Of course I needed to buy-in expertise and find a venue. John Worontschak, from Litmus wines, one of England’s most experienced wine makers came on board as a consultant, so I was in good hands. I honestly couldn’t be having more fun!'
What interests you about fermenting and ageing in a range of materials, particularly stoneware and concrete.
'The ambition is to make wines that each have a personality of their own, based on the quality of the fruit, and the winemaking resources available. I want my small range of wines to be distinct from each other, to be suited to different occasions and palates while maintaining a family resemblance of being complex with reasonable body, and quite linear and ‘minerally’.'
'That means drawing on a range of practices that best suit the style I’m after and the quality of the grapes. I’ve been really drawn to stoneware ‘amphora’ and concrete eggs for fermenting and ageing the wines. My hope is they will facilitate a rounded mouth-feel and a good expression of the fruit. They offer micro-oxgenation of the wine, keep stable temperatures, and a shape that keeps lees contact with the wine during fermentation, without the presence of oak flavours. They are also much easier than oak to keep clean, they should last forever and they look stunning. My 2020 Pinot Gris has been fermented in stoneware and a little oak, then aged wholly in stoneware, half being kept on lees and undergoing malolactic fermentation. For the Chardonnay I’m using a mix of 3 year and 1 year old French oak to bring a subtle wood characteristic to the wine - the quality and ripeness of the fruit (from Martin’s Lane in the Crouch valley) can handle it. It will be 100% aged on lees after malolactic fermentation. We used number of different yeasts in a 2 stage inoculation. For the Bacchus we’re aiming for a clean linear style, and hence are using steel, with just 10% fermented in stoneware (before moving to steel) for a touch roundness.'
'Being a very small winery we can use a range of small vessels, choosing the right material, yeast and bacteria combination for each vessel and each wine style. Three approaches for three styles.'
Why did you choose Vigo?
'When I was researching equipment suppliers I had a few criteria. I needed equipment suited to a small winery, but it needed to be professional standard rather than hobbyist. In fact I wanted to ensure that I was getting the same features in terms of gentle handling and flexible processing as equipment designed for larger premium wineries. Enoveneta, through Vigo, provide what seems to be top-end equipment for a small set-up. It seemed sensible to buy equipment though a UK agent with comprehensive back-up services. It also made sense to find a supplier who could cover most of my needs, and while some kit was sourced elsewhere, the vast majority of my supplies from the big to the small (such as cleaning equipment) has come from Vigo. Because of this I’ve built-up a good relationship with the company for advice and support.'
What do you think of the equipment supplied?
'The press and destemmer have behaved flawlessly. They are easy to use and to clean, and very gentle on the fruit, something that was really important to me. The press itself is very quick and intuitive to programme, and you can easily make changes when the press is in progress. Being small(wish) they are also easy to move around as I reconfigure the winery for various stages of the process.'
'The tanks are well made with almost invisible seams, so great for cleaning. The cooling jackets were extremely important for managing temperature in fermentation and keeping a stable, controlled fermentation. So much simpler and cleaner than the cooling snakes used in the barrels and stoneware!'
'The chiller fan is a really efficient way to cool a room - though to be fair I’ve not needed it much yet, however a test run last summer showed how useful it is going to be to keep the barrel room at 15 degrees through summer 2020. In addition to the big stuff I bought most of my hoses, lab and cleaning kit, as well as accessories from Vigo - and all have performed their tasks well.'
'We did make some adaptations to the press tray to suit our operating procedures, and this was easily done.'
How was your first pressing?
'This year we processed Bacchus, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all sourced from vineyards around the Crouch valley in Essex. The fruit was excellent in terms of ripeness and flavour. The winery is very small, and sensibly laid out, so the trailer could back right-up to the destemmer, and baskets were unloaded straight into it, where the grapes were then gravity fed down a short chute to the press. Again, being small the hose runs are generally only a a few metres, making it easy to manage, and gentle on the juice.'
'As I write (in mid November) the wines have finished alcoholic fermentation and those which are going through Malo have more or less finished. I’m really happy with the way they’re shaping-up. My job - and that of the kit - was not to get in the way of the excellent fruit, and, finger’s crossed, I think we’ve managed.'
Setting up a business is a challenge in any year, but you've had to deal with setting up in the middle of a global pandemic. How has it been?
'The biggest impact was in fact on the location of the winery. I was in the process of settling on an urban venue in Oxford when the virus struck. The venue needed a lot of work to make it useable as a winery, and with lock-down on the way I was not sure id be able to organise the works, or have them carried out safely. So at the last minute I looked round to see what else was available, and I saw a brand new unit on a farm in the Cotswolds, about half an hour from Oxford. It was perfect, so I took it. An urban winery on a hill in the country!'
'Once I was in the winery, in June, the pandemic had almost no impact on the work. I spent most days working by myself building the insulated barrel room, sorting out the cooling system, pumps etc and prepping all the kit, so my work was not really affected. The winery is in a beautiful location with hares, deer, birds of prey and very few people were about, so it felt very peaceful.'
[Photos courtesy of Freedom of the Press Winery]