GURNEYS Cider of Foster has got another sort of brew well under way at their place – this time it’s a huge production shed that’s steadily going up on the Gurnett family’s 28.5-hectare property in Fish Creek-Foster Road.
Measuring 48 metres by 18 metres, the shed will become what Bill and Lorraine Gurnett, and their sons Tom and James describe as “a desperately-needed new cider making facility”.
The roof of the shed has just gone on and some of the wall panels are being installed, which in time will fully enclose about two-thirds of the building to create an insulated cider crafting area, along with plenty of storage room.
The remaining one-third will provide an undercover, sheltered but essentially outdoor place where what Lorraine calls “the messy stuff”, such as the seasonal pressing of the apples, will occur.
The idea for a purpose-built shed came along during the 2020 pressing, when the cider makers “realised we were running out of space,” she said.
Planning began in earnest soon after, including the design process, and lodging the necessary South Gippsland Shire Council permit applications.
The new facility will be finished by late 2022 and its internal fit-out staged over subsequent years.
The production shed will connect to “The Arches”, an underground cellar thought to be one of the largest in Australia and among the biggest cider cellars in the world, which is also currently under construction at Gurneys.
The Arches project received a $470,000 grant through the Victorian Government’s $46 million Regional Tourism Investment Fund (RTIF) in March 2021.
“The new shed will give us an awful lot of storage, which will let us get literally all of our bottles in, along with the apples, labels and boxes,” Lorraine said.
“The cider-making area will be used to get ready for making, and for bottling and canning product.”
The Arches building itself is progressing, too, and now has doors on both ends, making it windproof and water-tight.
There are more membranes to go across the entire structure as well, and the Gurnetts have also decided that it will have a grass roof.
“Our methode champenoise or champagne-style ciders will be made in the production shed but aged and stored in The Arches,” Lorraine said.
“Tom has started to order the oak barrels and the stainless steel tanks for the underground cellar.
“Together with The Arches, the shed will allow us to increase our annual cider production, and will attract more visitors to Gippsland, too, as both will be part of our guided Gurneys Cider tours offering an immersive and educational cider experience.
“Gurneys will continue using a mix of fruit from our own orchards and from other local growers, making it easy to support our local farmers,” she said.
“The traditional low energy production techniques we use mean people will be drinking one of the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly beverages on the market.
“One day you’ll be able to grab a Gurneys across not just Gippsland … but eventually the whole of Victoria!”
At the moment Gurneys Cider is closed for a winter break, but the Gurnetts are as busy as ever, and not only with the two building projects.
They are currently bottling their Ice Cider, which is made from the syrup that separates from the more watery part when frozen apple juice defrosts, and is later fermented with a strong yeast, resulting in a first-class aperitif or dessert wine.
“It’s been nearly a year to the date to get the production shed project from inception to commencement and we’re really grateful for the huge amount of support we’ve received to turn this dream into reality,” Lorraine said.
“During the next 18 to 24 months at Gurneys Cider there’ll be a significant amount of construction going on, and we really appreciate people’s past encouragement and their ongoing support and patience during this period,” she said.
“Take care everyone and remember, the future is apples!”