Our story begins in Stranraer back in 1995. Emile van Schayk went to visit his neighbour, retired shepherdess Sarah Lanaghan. She asked him if he would like to try a home made drink. To which he replied ”Did you put alcohol in it” oh no she said, she hadn’t put any alcohol ”in” it. A pint of this home made drink later Emile left the car and walked home. The next day he returned to pick up the car and Sarah gave him some country wine (fruit wine) recipes.
This is when the wine making fever took hold and the hobby began. There were many trips to car boot sales searching for more demijohns. To cater for the ever increasing number of new ideas and recipes he’d come up with. There were demijohns in every room of the house, under the stairs even under the beds! All sorts of ingredients and combinations were being dreamt up. As each recipe was tweaked and fine tuned, to get them better than each previous batch.
Two years later the van Schayk family upped sticks and moved to Orkney. After settling in and just about taking over half the house with demijohns. Emile decided it was time to enter the local Homebrew and Wine competition. To his amazement he won, not just the first year, but two years in a row. It was this and popular demand that encouraged Emile to turn his hobby into a business.
Which is when the Orkney Wine Company was born. He couldn’t commercially make it in the house so decided to convert the entire double garage into a winery. After digging up and laying a brand new concrete floor. Drainage systems, extractor fans and a new electric door was installed before the twelve 1100 litre tanks and one 2200 litre tank (the big yin) arrived. Along with all the other equipment; cork machine, filter/filler machine, bottle sterilizer, pumps, mixers etc.
To go from gallon sized demijohns to 1100 litre capacity stainless steel tanks was a rather steep learning curve, but Emile soon got to grips with it and began trading in 2001. The whole family would help bottle the wine at the weekends. With the kids as young as twelve helping out too. Several different products were launched and soon a core range was developed. Which has evolved and improved over the years into the range we produce and sell today.
The company outgrew the double garage after about 7 years and found the empty factory on Lambholm. With the help of a new roof and floors it was turned into an ideal winery. An onsite warehouse for storing stock, a labelling & packaging room that’s kept warm and dry. Even a purpose built bottling room that can be kept sterile at all times. A shop was built beside the winery for convenience and to take advantage of the passing trade the Italian Chapel gets through the summer months.
While our packaging, product range and business has evolved over the years. We will always stick to our main principle which is to do everything as naturally as possible, without the use of chemicals or animal products.