All posts by SwanValley

Growing Pedro Ximenez in the Swan Valley

 Growing Pedro Ximenez in the Swan Valley

Pedro Ximenez grapes grow readily in the Swan Valley in Western Australia. Pedro Ximenez is a white wine grape best known for the sweet sherries of Spain.  Pedro Ximenez comes to the fore as a fortified wine either as a Sherry style, or as a fortified single-variety wine known as Pedro Ximenez (PX).

Here are made the great sweet dessert wines of the world. Once called sherry in Australia, and now called by its varietal name as the Europeans own the name Sherry.

We have 300 Pedro Ximenez vines planted in our organic vineyard. Situated at the top of the Swan Valley, 29 km from Perth, Western Australia is the organic vineyard and winery. This 3 ha of land is the only certified organic in Perth.

The vines cover an area of 1890 square metres. They were planted in 2002 as part of our efforts to continue making our great unfortified and preservative free dessert wines. However the clone of our Pedro Ximénez is unknown and here they are grown on their own roots and do well.

The vines are planted with 2.1 m spacing. The rows are 3.0m apart. The vines are trained to the wire at 900mm high, and are rod pruned to 6 buds per rod. The vines are trained on VSP trellis to 1.8m above the ground.

During spring the vines are sprayed with wettable sulphur after rain and bordeaux mixture before any rain events.

The vines are continually maintained with summer pruning. After fruit set the vines are leaf plucked on the south side so that fruit thinning can be performed at veraison.

To reach the highest sugar levels the un-irrigated vines are only allowed to have one bunch of fruit per shoot. This leaves 6-8 bunches per vine and approximately two kilogrammes per vine at 25 Be’.

Site characteristics

Pedro Ximenez is grown at an elevation of just 19m above sea level. Situated 30km from the Indian Ocean, the vineyard is flat, as is the surrounding Swan Valley land. The Pedro Ximenez vines are planted east-west direction in soil that comprises a duplex sandy loam over clay. In January, the site experiences a mean maximum temperature of 33.2°C and a mean minimum temperature of 17°C. The average annual rainfall over the last 10 years has been 650mm dominated by 140mm averages for June and July. The site doesn’t experience frosts while winds are predominantly south-west in the afternoon, with some easterly gales in spring and autumn.

Trellising and canopy management

The row and vine spacing of the Pedro Ximénez is 3m x 2.1, respectively, and is trellised to a five-wire Vertical Shoot Position (VSP). We practise leaf plucking on the south side of the vines, trimming around Christmas time, shoot thinning, shoot-positioning when putting the wires up in November and bunch thinning to carry the fruit through to 25Be.

Irrigation and soil management

The Pedro Ximenez vines are unirrigated. Between rows, we grow lupins, vetch and a mixture of wild radish, soursobs and capeweed to increase soil carbon and nitrogen. Strip digging and ploughing the vine rows in spring produces a dry earth mulch. This helps to conserve soil moisture and help manage weed growth.  Wood chip compost is spread out along the vine inter-rows to act as a fertiliser in autumn.

Pest and disease management

Pedro Ximenez is more susceptible to downy mildew than the other varieties grown here. To reduce its susceptibility, we prune the vines late in the season so that budburst is up to two weeks later than the other varieties. Budburst this year occurred on 10 October.

Pruning

We hand spur-pruned the Pedro Ximénez to two-bud spurs as recommended by the Handbook of Horticulture and Viticulture of Western Australia, first published by Adrien Despiessis in 1895. ( When my own 1921 second edition of the handbook by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture started to fall apart, I undertook the task of re-printing this wonderful book on behalf of others as well as myself in 2007). We have the intent of producing a small amount of PX fruit at 25Be for a PX sherry liqueur. After 5 years of spur pruning I have changed the pruning method to cane pruning. This reduces the amount of time required for hand thinning of the shoots during Spring.

Future methods of management

Changing from a four-wire to a five-wire trellis helped reduce hedging time, and increase the verticality of the shoots and changing from spurs to canes, to reduce shoot thinning hand work.

Harvesting

At veraison all excess fruit is removed leaving only one bunch per shoot, i.e., about 12 bunches per vine. A typical analysis of our Pedro Ximénez at harvest: Sugar (Baumé) 25, Acidity (TA) very low with a pH of about 4.0.
We harvest less than a tonne of Pedro Ximénez per year.
Average phenological timing:
Budburst early October
Flowering November
Fruit set December
Veraison late January
Harvest usually about 1st April, sometimes can stretch out to May

Winemaking

Pedro Ximénez fermentation  is carried out on its skins for a few Beame’ before pressing. The fermented juice is returned to tank, prior to fortification. Once fortified with certified organic neutral brandy spirit it is racked and allowed to settle for a few weeks before racking to barriques. Ours is an organic fortified version, fortified with certified organic brandy from the only organic distillery in Australia. Matured for many years  in our underground cellar, the Pedro Ximénez is packaged in 375ml bottles.

Biggest challenge in producing Pedro Ximenez

None really, it’s a matter of learning more about the variety and the terrior as the vines become more mature, although it does require a lot of hand work, particularly fruit thinning to improve flavour and ripeness.

Advice to other growers

For best results, the more hand work the better.  Love your vineyard and the vines will perform for you.

Crown thinning Pedro Ximenez
Crown thinning Pedro Ximenez
Autumn Pedro Ximenez
Autumn Pedro Ximenez.

Wwoofing – Harris Organic Wines – 2016

Wwoofing Harris Organic Wines

2016 Photo Album of WWOOFs and Helpx

 

What a Wwoofing year and has it gone fast.  Thank you to all you guys for helping me make Harris Organic wines the success it is. You are all welcome to return and stay at any time.

 

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Joel the movie maker from the UK
Marie and Hugo
Lucy, always keeping eye on everyone
Pauline and Lewis
Summer Manyao and Xie
Celine and Jesse and  Tom
Edyta and Bartek and Michelle and Franziska
Michelle and Franziska
Immy from the UK
Remi after work
Ann
Gazza - Gary

 

Here is a list of the 2016 participants Wwoofing at Harris Organic Wines:

Allan

Manon and Marcio

Amelie and Clement

Sophia and Dominic

Henrike and Daniel

Amadine and Coralie

Sherry

Joel

Marie and Hugo

Pauline and Lewis

Manyao and Xie and Summer

Celine and Jesse

Tom

Edyta and Bartek

Michelle and Franziska

Imogen

Ann and Remi

Lise and Gary

 

 

Trousseau comes to the Swan Valley.

Trousseau comes to the Swan Valley.

This is a story about Trousseau. When I started in 1998 in the Swan Valley Western Australia, my organic vineyard was not established. I wanted to purchase grapes from good Swan Valley growers.

I was introduced to Bill Vinicombe who’s family owned the old Socol property on the eastern side of the railway line in Herne Hill.

Trousseau in the Swan Valley
Trousseau in the Swan Valley

Bill had three vineyards, one on the red bank along the Swan River, another in Herne Hill beside the highway and the rest east of the railway. On Great Northern Highway the block contained Muscat a petits grains rouge, pedro ximenez and a few alternate varieties. Bill called one “black riesling”.

Bill was so fond of the variety that he grafted a row of cabernet savignon over to this unknown variety on his home block beside the Swan River.

Over the years several knowledgeable persons had looked at this variety regarding identification. At one stage petit verdot and petit merceau we discussed, however the grape matured to high baume and much earlier than cabernet sauvignon. These were discounted.

Further identification in 2007 with the leaves and fruit  matched against the pictures and description in the book ,” Wine Grape Varieties” by Kerridge and Antecliff I identified this as Bastardo.

Winemaking

In 2005 Bill gave me half a tonne of grapes to process into wine. The wine was made in a French style, ie minimal intervention, natural yeasts, fermented warm on solids and matured in an old barrique for 6 months prior to bottling. Most was sold in 2006 at cellar door under the label LEDASWAN 2005 Petite Verdot.

Later in 2012 a young French winemaker Kevin Mazier came to experience a Swan Valley vintage with Harris Organic Wines. He brought with him two bottles, one of which was a bottle of Cotes du Jura, Domaine des Ronces, 2010 Trousseau.

Upon opening, I was intrigued to note that this was a wine that I had seen before. I remarked that it was like the variety bastardo I had seen in 2005. Luckily there were two bottles of the 2005 left in my cellar to taste against the younger 2010 bottle.

Then Kevin confirmed that even with age difference, these two wines were made of the same variety.

References

There are numerous references to the variety bastardo and trousseau being similar varieties. Robinson, Jancis (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine, third edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198609902 mentions  ampelographer Comte A Odart.

Wikipedia sates:

Bastardo (Trousseau Noir, Trousseau) is an old variety of red wine grape. It is grown in small amounts in many parts of Western Europe; most famously it is used in Portuguese port wine. It makes deep cherry red wines with high alcohol and flavours of red berry fruits.

Why would it be Trousseau?

Many years a go there was a French man in the Swan Valley who’s name was Joseph Millard. He  lived in Guildford, he would ride his horse to the vineyard each day and ride home again. He had a vineyard of many varieties. Some of these were brought directly from France when customs clearance was not an issue.   To be continued.

Bastardo – Swan Valley

Bastardo comes to the Valley of the Black Swan

What is Bastardo and Trousseau and why is it in the Swan Valley?

As you may recall, I was investigating the origins of a wine grape varietal called Bastardo found in the Swan Valley. I discovered a cache of a grape referred to locally as Black Riesling. Having identified the variety as Bastardo, I decided to make some Rose’ with it. It sold out quite quickly. I gave the mystery little thought thereafter, being preoccupied with establishing my organic vineyard and winery.

The variety Bastardo is not only Spanish for bastard, it is also an Italian Town in the Perugia province. Bastardo is a baseball player (Antonio Bastardo) for the Philadelphia Phillies, an Ibiza artist, and a music single by Charlotte Hatherley.

Bastardo Swan Valley
Bastardo Swan Valley

Jura, France

Then, in 2012 a young French winemaker named Kevin Mazier came to stay with us. He came to complete an Australian winemaking internship.
Kevin wanted to include Bio or Organic winemaking in this experience. Kevin’s family are viticulturalists and winemakers in the Jura, in the north east of France. Kevin brought with him two bottles of wine. One of these bottles was a Cote du Jura, Domaine des Ronces, 2010 Trousseau, a lovely red wine similar to a light dry Shiraz!

The region of Jura, by the way borders France and Switzerland.  Jura gave its name to the Jurassic period of prehistory. Upon tasting,  I was transported to the making of the red wine Bastardo vintage I had made. I had a very strong feeling that I had tasted this wine variety before!

Fortunately, there were two bottles of the red 2005 “Petit Verdot” wine still left in my cellar. Upon tasting, young Kevin agreed that despite the age difference, it was doubtless that the French Trousseau and the Swan Valley Bastardo were indeed the same variety. Further, this was confirmed upon research when I discovered that indeed, Trousseau Noir (Trousseau or Bastardo) is an old variety grown in small amounts in many parts of Western Europe. This includes the winemaking region of Jura.

In Australia a small amount of Bastardo is grown under the name Gros Cabernet; so the must thickens. This variety is also famously used to make Portuguese port red wine. So, how did the French Bastardo come to be in Bill Vinicombe’s little vineyard in the antipodean valley of the Black Swans?

Where from here

Mr. John Kosovich OBE a friend and neighbour and another Valley vigneron who was born and grew up in the Swan Valley commented. He said that in the early to mid 20th century there was a French Canadian man who owned a vineyard in the Swan Valley. Joseph Millars was his name and he apparently resided at Margaret Street, Midland Junction.

His vineyard was about 40 rows and possibly just 5 acres, containing nonetheless over 20 unknown grape varieties. I myself have 5 acres under vine and grow 8 varieties in my organic vineyard, so it is not especially unusual.  Mr Joseph Millar’s story is not known.  It may never be known from where this gentleman procured the cuttings for the Trousseau or Bastardo. If this vine could speak, what stories it could tell!

Organic Brandy Distillery – Western Australia

Organic Brandy Distillery

organic brandy
organic brandy

Duncan Harris started his organic brandy distillery in 2008 when he had an excess of grapes. In the hot climate of the Swan Valley where the worlds best organic fortified wines are made, a brandy distillery is necessary to produce fortified wines.

Rotunda

Harris Organic has two brandy stills. The first one is a 300L stainless pot still with a copper condenser.  The capacity of the condenser is rated at 20kW. The pot is fired with wood, which is highly unusual these days. Most stills are gas fired or electric. The wood used provided by the vine arms pruned off with the chainsaw during the winter pruning.

This brandy still is used firstly to knock down the freshly fermented wine into a stable alcoholic brandy solution so it can be used later. Later the brandy low wines are re distilled to produce eau de vie to make fine wood aged organic brandy.

Bertha

Bertha is the second still at Harris Organic. It is a 50 litre beer keg modified with a four inch triclover fitting to allow the column to fit on. The four inch hole allows for easy cleaning of the still too. The beer keg has legs welded to the base and an outlet with a drain valve. Attached is the 1.5 metre column that is made of 2 inch stainless steel tube filled with stainless steel pot scrubbers. The pot scrubbers add surface area for increased refluxing within the tower, this increases purity of the brandy spirit. Black foam insulation sleeve helps with efficiency of the still. On top of the column is attached a cross flow condenser. This two inch condenser was designed by Harry Jackson.

Under the condenser is the working part of the brandy still. This is a VM still, which means that is a vapour managed (VM) still. A one inch stainless tube is teed off the main column with a one inch brass gate valve as the controller of the vapour. From there the vapour condenses in a one inch vertical condenser. The maximum rate obtained from this still at 94% is about 900mL per hour. A rate of one litre per hour is easily obtained at 90 plus percent.

When the spirit is over 90 % by volume alcohol the product is very smooth to the taste when it is diluted to an acceptable 40%.  This organic spirit is classed as a neutral brandy spirit.  Instead of calling it NBS or SVR we call it vodka. This smoothness is due to the ability of grapes to give a wonderful mouth feel, compared with other grain based organic vodka spirits.

 

 

Organic Wine in the West

Organic Wine in the West

By Louise FitzRoy; “We’ve created a niche and people come to us for that niche.” Harris Organic Wine in Western Australia is the only certified organic distiller in Australia making brandy and vodka for the national and Asian markets. Owner Duncan Harris says, “We sell a lot of wine and spirits online and have just started exporting our certified organic brandy and organic vodka that was released in 2010 to Asia.” read more about our organic wine blog.

Organic wine maker
Organic winemaker in the Swan Valley

“It is proving extremely popular with Asian countries and here in Australia. Our spirit is used in making the only Australian fortified organic wines, which are winning medals at the Swan Valley Wine Show. We were producing spirit for our fortified organic wines, so thought we’d make the most of it. Vodka has the same spirit base used to fortify our ports.

Selling Direct

“All our sales into Asia are done with online sales. No intermediary; no wholesalers. We ship direct, door-to-door, with no import duty for Hong Kong.” In 1998 Duncan Harris bought a property in the Swan Valley – the oldest wine region in Western Australia and about 30 kilometres from Perth – and started establishing an organic vineyard. Their first vintage was in 1999 using Swan Valley grapes from a neighbouring dry grown vineyard.

Duncan says, “Most of our handmade produce is sold at the cellar door, which opened in 2000, besides one bottle shop in Perth. We prefer to sell “cellar door” as we are able to give seated tastings, build a relationship with our customers. This develops our brand. We don’t need to worry about competing against other organic wineries in established wine states in Australia.” “We have no desire to sell interstate because the wholesalers want 30 per cent markup.

This means we would have to make twice as much wine for the same income. “We are looking for more markets in Western Australia however. Some years ago we sent out a survey asking our customers where they would prefer to buy our wine. People asked us to supply bottle shops in the city.  We asked a few stores about their range of customers and whether they would like to stock our organic product and most were not interested. This has been disappointing considering how close we are to Perth. “I’d also like to target more overseas markets, but you have to consider whether the effort of doing so is worth it.

Overseas markets

Duncan would like to sell his wine to an organic, all-natural wine bar in New York or Paris, but with the continual trips required – not to mention the import and export permits that are necessary – you’d spend a whole year doing it and may not even end up selling any wine. You would need to be there several times a year to service the customers, the wholesalers and the importer. Personally, he would prefer to be at home driving the tractor.”

According to Duncan, there are only about 10 organic wineries in Western Australia. “We are the only certified organic winery in the Perth area. We became certified with Australian Certified Organic in 2006. There’s a big enough market for more than one of us, however, not many wineries want to venture into the organic industry. It starts with the vineyard. There are only a few viticulturists that have the energy and passion to get out and dig weeds and walk vineyards day after day.”

The environment, social aspects, customs and economics are four important elements of Duncan’s sustainability plan. “I built an underground cellar for naturally cooler storage temperatures and we bottle our wine in recyclable glass and cork. We use very small amounts of electricity in producing a litre of wine. This is low compared with the average usage for most other wineries in Australia. We also use low amounts of preservatives and additives.”

Pricing

Being an organic producer in a state well known for producing high quality wines has not influenced Duncan’s price point.  I add up the production costs plus margin, but being organic doesn’t mean that I need to raise the price point. My wine is competitive with other high quality wine in the country. He says the business’s online presence,  continues to be very important to its growth and viability.  This includes being on Facebook and Twitter. This is where people look for answers and this is how many of our customers have found us. You’ve got to be on line, otherwise you’ll miss out.

Chemicals

People in general are not aware of the herbicide, pesticide and chemical fertiliser residues found in wines. More marketing of the differences and health benefits will increase the awareness and the demand for organic wine.”

Events

It’s not unusual for Duncan to host the occasional ‘Brandy evening’ at the winery. This gives him the opportunity to educate people about his products, enabling guests to ask questions about organic viticulture. “To make a supply chain work, it’s like building a brick wall. Do it one brick at a time.” Harris Organic Wines is the only certified organic winery and vineyard in Perth’s Swan Valley.

“We believe that the organic wine movement is a world-wide trend because smart consumers are demanding to know exactly what is going into their foods. It represents a social backlash against corporate monopolies who are fundamentally only interested in extending shelf life and profits, rather than human life and ecological sustainability. We say: think biological welfare – not warfare… it is the way of the future.

Wine Fermenting on Solids

Organic Wine Fermenting on Solids – blog

Fermenting on Solids

  “Secrets of fermenting on solids” by Australian Wine Research Institute  (AWRI).
Duncan Harris at Harris Organic Wines  ferments his white wines on “solids”, while most Australian winemakers ferment off solids, what does this mean? read on.
organic grapes
Preying mantis after organic grapes

Fermenting white grape

organic grapes fermenting on solids
organic grapes

Grape juices containing high levels of grape solids can result in increased hydrogen sulfide production during primary fermentation. However, excessively clarifying juices may result in fermentation difficulties. Attenuated or stuck primary fermentations resulting in elevated levels of volatile acidity may occur.

Text books

Well says wine making text 101. While there is a lot to be said about wine making 101. For Winemaking 101, previous work by the (AWRI)  has revealed that fermenting on grape solids also results in significantly more polysaccharides in white wines.  This is due to more than extensive skin contact, using pressings, and even more than  partially fermenting white juice on skins. Higher levels of polysaccharides are thought to positively contribute to white wine mouth-feel. Polysaccharides also enhance both protein and cold stability resulting in less bentonite fining and lower refrigeration costs.
While juices will naturally clarify under the action of gravity given time. Commercial vintage logistics dictate that the settling process be achieved as quickly as possible.
“We never say we have plenty of time, it’s vintage”.  We don’t say this.  Adding pectolytic enzymes achieved fast clarification.  Adding enzymes, which within minutes, ‘mulch down’ the juice polysaccharides that inhibit settling.  This hastens clarification. Alternatively, settling grape juice can be sped up by adding bentonite as its charged surface helps to agglomerate grape solids into heavy particles which precipitate more easily.
Meanwhile, the AWRI investigated the effect of different types of juice clarification (natural settling, enzyme and bentonite assisted settling) on the macro-molecular composition of white wine.
Clarification  methods and the time taken to achieve various levels of clarity are being investigated. Polysaccharide, protein and phenolic composition levels are also being investigated by AWRI. For more information about fermentation of our wines, please contact me by email in the first instance.

Organic Natural Wine – What does it mean

Organic Natural Wine – What does it mean.

By D. Harris ” WINE, ALL OF ITSELF – Organic Natural Wine. ” When Duncan Harris talks about natural wine he is talking about more than the fact that his Swan Valley vineyard and winery is certified organic. Duncan is an organic natural wine specialist and is quietly surprised how natural wine has become such a hot topic of conversation among many a wine aficionado.

Organic winemaker
Organic winemaker in the Swan Valley

Definition

While the definition of natural wine seems as manifold as there are vintner’s making it, Duncan would like to state for the record that his philosophy of Natural Wine is wine that begins in an ideal vineyard, is hand-picked, gently pressed, fermented with natural yeasts, unfined, unfiltered, aged and sealed with cork. The wine should be very stable and not liable to spoil. Ideally, the energy used should be sustainable sourced also. Duncan recommends all the free solar energy that vintner’s have at their disposal during vintage should be harnessed with photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Natural Wine

1. The Vineyard – must be not irrigated. This means that the fruit does not uptake artificial moisture as from dammed water or bore water. This means that the water is sourced by the (quite resourceful) vines – making for a high quality fruit harvest. The vines are hand-pruned and dressed, de-leafing is carried out to reduce fungicide spraying and the fruit is hand-picked when the sugar level is optimal for good wine-making.

2. For Duncan’s natural dessert wine, the fruit should be picked late in the season and very high in sugar. It is de-stemmed and crushed before ferment starts via natural yeasts (another gift from the Gods of wine). Thereafter the must is pressed by any means practicable. Duncan uses a basket press, to extract the partially fermented juice.

3. The wine should be unfined and unfiltered. There is a saying,” Good wine falls bright”. This means very little to no sediment most of which can be avoided by age settling prior to bottling and decanting after opening on the part of the consumer. Any protein haze is a natural part of the process of maturation.

4. The wine should be sealed with cork. Screw capped wines don’t allow the wine to mature in the bottle unlike a corked bottle. Aluminium caps are an insult to the wine and to the environment. Cork is a renewable resource and uses 1/2 the electricity to produce, and hence half the CO2. Unfortunately electrical energy is cheap and screw caps are about half the price of corks.

In conclusion, natural wines are better for you and the environment. Enjoy.

Removing Caltrop from your vineyard

Removing Caltrop from your vineyard

Caltrop (Tribulus terrestrilus) can also be called bindi eye, GG’s, Cats head

Removing Caltrop, an obligate summer grower in the Swan Valley area, so it will only appear after summer rains. In some years it is really bad, in others it will not be seen. There are also several similar native species, but these generally have less spiny fruits.

Eradication is essential, and vigilance against introduction is critical.

Readily controlled by herbicides in most situations, as few other pasture plants are alive at the same time, and selective control is easy in lawns and grass pasture. It generally grows too low to mow, but could be controlled by solarising.
It is definitely a plant against which an eradication campaign is worth mounting. Incidentally, the original caltrop was a weapon of war – an iron device with four tetrahedral prongs that was strewn in the path of enemy horses. Which ever way it fell, one prong was always upright, ready to lame the horse.

Charming – but walk on the plant with bare feet and you will agree that it has been well named!

Removing Caltrop
Harvested Caltrop

Caltrop in an Organic Vineyard.

Occasionally, Duncan finds some caltrop in the vineyard. It grows after summer rains and we have had a few showers this year.

In row three in the shiraz plantings, right in the middle of the row, was a larger plant 800mm diameter, with lots of dried seeds besides some 20 other smaller plants.

What is an organic vigneron to do? He can not use herbicide.

A wheel barrow, pair of snips and a dust pan and broom is all required besides some patience.  Watch the video to get a better idea of what we do.

Firstly, spot the bright verdant green caltrop plant in the late afternoon sun. Using the snips cut the tap root, then lift the plant carefully and remove it to the wheel barrow. Then with the dust pan and broom sweep up all the loose sand and seeds from the plant area. Most dried seeds are within a hand span of the crown.

The removing caltrop job is nearly done.

Next is the hard part, walk all the rows to check for other plants, then return in two weeks to check for new plants again before the Autumn rains.

https://youtu.be/KWNBlK5hMqo another video.

You may ask, what do you do with the contents of the wheel barrow? Duncan puts it in the waste bin for the local tip to compost it. Once he tried to burn the plants. The local authorities saw the smoke and believed that a conflagration was occurring.

Pizza oven – Build your own

Build a pizza oven

Building a pizza oven from used solid bricks can be a very rewarding project.

This pizza oven building project was started in May 2010. Here you will find all the steps to build  a workable oven that cooks real pizzas and marvellous bread.

The pizza oven is a traditional dome type whereas the tunnel type of pizza oven is easier to build. If you have any questions feel free to make comments.

Step 1.

The base

First of all determine what type of base you require. This one is made from delta core concrete, light and strong and transportable. I got it home with my 6×4 trailer . This means I can pick the oven up with my forklift and place it anywhere I want. Most people will choose to build theirs in place.

oven base
oven base made by deltacore

The base is 1500 x 1200 mm and 150mm deep. You will need to add two tension bars across the base to give tension in that direction.

Step 2.

Dimensions

Determine the diameter of the oven. This one is one metre inside diameter.

Pizza oven base
Pizza oven base

Here I have marked it out and placed the outside base layer of red solids in place. These are glued to the concrete with a mixture of clay, lime and cement. Remember you are building a brick oven not a mortar oven. To do this keep the gaps between your bricks less than 3mm.

Pizza oven base
Pizza oven base
Pizza oven base board
The Pizza oven base board
Pizza oven base cutoff saw
Pizza oven base saw

To set the base out I drew the one metre diameter on a 6mm sheet of cement sheet with the entrance of the pizza oven door too. Under the sheet went a 25mm layer of high temperature ceramic insulation. To cut and shape the bricks I used a friction saw, with a masonry disk. Old bricks are easy to cut and if soaked in a bucket of water have a reduced amount of dust.

Pizza oven base insulation
Pizza oven base insulation
Pizza oven base insulation
oven base insulation
oven base insulation
The oven base insulation is under the cement sheet.
oven base insulation floor
More oven base floor
oven base floor
oven base floor
oven base floor insulation
The oven base floor insulation
oven base floor bricks
oven base floor bricks
oven base floor bricks
The oven base floor bricks

Here is the first layer in place, ready for  the next layer.

Step 3.

Finish the floor.

oven base floor
The oven base floor bricks
oven base floor tiles
oven base floor bricks

The first layer and the floor finished.

Here I have used clay floor tiles, in hindsight not a good choice as they crack under heat stress. A later version has ceramic furnace tiles in place of these. NB that under the floor tiles is a layer of 50 mm brick pavers sitting on top of the cement sheet. Next build I will place 50 mm of insulation under the brick pavers.

 

The photographer
Who is the photographer

 

 

The builder.
The builder.

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Step 4.

Making the door and form work.

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Red Tile floor
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The Tiled floor

You will require two pieces of steel, one for the door and the other for the flue entrance. I bent these the hard way with a hammer.  In the centre of the photo is the form for building the brick dome. The door is 550mm wide and 260mm high.

 

Shep watching on.
Shep watching on.
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Tile floor – Planning

The former is a piece of sheet metal angle welded to a steel rod. At the centre is a washer welded to the rod. SDC11232

Can you see the pin in the centre of the floor, next to the cup? Its a bolt through a piece of plywood and stuck to the floor with masking tape.

pin in the centre of the floor
See the pin in the centre of the floor

Here the second layer is stuck to the first layer. Looks like the last brick need to be cut to finish this layer.

The former
The former
Second layer in place
Second layer in place
third layer in place
The third layer in place

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Third layer in place.

The fourth layer nearly finished.
Fourth layer nearly finished.

Note the small pieces of brick used as wedges.

The fourth layer nearly finished.
Fourth layer nearly finished.

Step 5.

The chimney

A mock up early in the build.
Early in the build.
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A mock up of the chimney early in the build.
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Tricky bit over the door
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Starting another layer

A mock up early in the build.SDC11257 SDC11258 SDC11259 SDC11260 SDC11261 SDC11262 SDC11264 SDC11265 SDC11267

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Good brick work
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Half way there
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The builder – Duncan
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Duncan – the builder
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The builder brick layer – Duncan
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Another layer finished.

Note the inner top bricks are getting towards being vertical, meaning the mud between the bricks has to dry before moving the former.

Step 5

Finishing the dome

The final part of the brick build. In this step I have place a disk of sheet metal inside through the door up under the dome. It is held up with bricks and wood. On top of the sheet is some sand formed into a dome and the remaining bricks placed onto the sand.

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Build nearly finished
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Nearly finished, just need to add the flue.
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The build nearly finished- looks good where it counts

Once all the bricks are in place the sheet is remove and it all stays together.

The inside finished.

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See the good brick work
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Good brick work
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The finished dome before the mortar seals it
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Another cup of tea on the hearth

The first chimney in place. just needs mortar.

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Another view
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Finished
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Picked up with the fork lift

Step 6

Firing and drying

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See the first small fire

 

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Chimney redesigned #2

Chimney No. 2.

The first chimney was OK but smoked on startup. After making the larger chimney #2, which was much better, I found that they all smoke on startup. It is the volume of smoke produced that the chimney can’t cope with even if you have a big fire. The answer is to start small.

 

Step 7

Insulating the oven.

Here I have used old fibre glass batts, however rockwool is recommended.

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Shotgun chimney

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Step 8

Adding the mortar.

Painful. The lesson with this is to place aluminium foil or some other non combustible on top of the insulation under the wire mesh. Also you need to place foundry chaplets in the insulation too so the mortar will not squash the insulation. Then if the insulation is compressed the chaplets it will hold the mortar away from the bricks. In this case the mortar over hangs the concrete base, which does not help. There is a better way.SDC11300 SDC11301

Mortar layer all finished.

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Duncan, the  proud owner

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The finished article.

Then allow some time  for the mortar and bricks to dry inside and out and then its pizza time.
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One hot pizza oven
One hot pizza oven
Pizza oven running with woofs
Pizza oven running with wwoofs

 

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Making pizzas
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Just out of the oven