The 3000 vines at Cwm Deri were planted by hand by John & Lyn Hamilton Cowburn in late 1990/early 1991, as nine-inch long two year old rooted cuttings. It took 3 years after planting before the vines could support their first small crop of grapes. Every ten rows Grey Alder trees were planted to act as Windbreaks. These trees form part of the 650 trees planted on the Cwm Deri Estate since 1990. 2.5 miles of plastic mulch was placed around the young vines, and John put up 16 miles of wire and 700 posts to support the vines as they grew.
In 2004, Mike and Danny undertook the renovation of the first three sections of vineyard, replacing several hundred posts and wires. The vineyard post renovation continued into 2005, replacing the remainder of the original ones placed by John, which had rotted. As well as the renovation of the vineyard, Mike & Danny have invested heavily in other areas. John took all his wine-making equipment with him to New Zealand, necessitating a total re-equipping of the winery. The result is a modern semi-automated production plant capable of bottling the 30,000 bottles per annum produced on the Estate with ease. The main components of the bottling process can be viewed in the bottling room viewed from within the shop
The white grape vines planted at Cwm Deri are 'Madeleine d'Angevine', 'Seyval Blanc', 'Gold Riesling', 'Phoenix' and 'Orion'. The Estates' red grapes are 'Leon Millot' and 'Triomph d'Alsace'. Cwm Deri is about 100' above sea level and the vines are planted north to south on a gently south facing slope. The winds can attack from the North and South-West, and Willow whips have been planted in several rows to form a windbreak on the northern boundary to try and produce a better meso-climate to protect the vines. Our soil is clay loam and calcified seaweed is added bi-annually to improve the quality. The alder windbreaks have been pruned back hard in early 2005 to allow more sun into the vineyard.
In a good year, such as 2003, the vines at Cwm Deri can produce as much as 10-15 tonnes of grapes. Cwm Deri has adapted over the years, to produce a fine range of fruit wines and liqueurs, which require a smaller quantity of grapes and more fruit, nuts and flowers. The vast majority of these ingredients can be found growing on the Cwm Deri Estate.
The Winemaking process starts by crushing the fruit in the destemming and crushing machine, which removes all the stalks etc., and breaks the skins to let the juice out. The pulp is then put into the Hydro-press where it is pressed from a rubber water bladder, which expands and squeezes the juice out. It is then pumped into the holding vat where it settles for 24 hours. The "must" is then pumped into Fermentation Vats. Fermentation takes place during the winter months in stainless steel tankage, for as long as possible to enable the full fruity flavours to develop. The Wine is stabilised and tested, filtered, then finally tasted, blended and fine-filtered before bottling. Our range of liqueurs is fermented with fine spirits to achieve their characteristic strong, full-bodied flavour.
The Bottling Room
As you view the bottling room from the shop/tasting room you can see:
The 'Hydro-press'. This is the wooden-slatted barrel-shaped object, which is used to squeeze the grapes to produce the grape juice.
Through the right-hand doorway is the laboratory table where the various tests are carried out on the wines. Tests are made to ascertain the acidity, sulphur levels, sugar levels and alcoholic content of the wines prior to bottling.
On the far right of the Bottling Room are three 'Holding' Tanks. The wine from the fermentation tanks in the winery building is pumped into one of the Holding Tanks prior to bottling. At this stage, the wine is tested and the flavour, acidity level and sulphur levels are all assessed and adjusted according to requirements.
The wine is then pumped to the 'Plate Filter' which is a coarse filter made up of a series of filter plates. The number of plates used varies according to the type of wine being filtered. From the Plate Filter the wine is pumped through a series of two 'cartridge' filters. By the time the wine has passed through the second filter the wine is totally sterile, which gives it a very long shelf life.
The wine is then pumped to the 'Bottling Head' where six bottles at a time can be bottled.
Two bottles at a time are taken from the pallet of bottles on the left hand side of the Bottling Room and placed upside down on the twin heads of the small sink which can be seen on the left hand side of the table housing the 'Capping Machine'. Powered by the compressor underneath the table, the Bottle Washer squirts a sterilising solution into the bottles to ensure their cleanliness. The cleaned bottles are placed underneath the arms of the Bottling Head (stored off the machine in a sterilising solution) where six are filled at a time. The filled bottles are then placed individually on the 'Screw-Capper' machine, which is capable of capping 600 bottled per hour, although Mike is only capable of some 300 per hour!
The capped bottles are then quality-checked and labelled prior to being placed in crates and transferred to the winery where it is stored in large metal cages until sold
Labels are produced at Cwm-Deri using pre-printed backgrounds, which are then over-printed with the individual wine details. This enables any quantity of label from 1 upwards to be produced as and when required. The labels are applied to the bottle using a specially-designed label-applying machine.