Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bress - Harcourt Valley Bon Bon

Bress – Harcourt Valley Bon Bon
Bress Wine, Cider and Produce are a company residing in Harcourt which is Victoria’s mecca of apple growing, especially traditional cider apples. Harcourt is located around 122km’s north from Victoria’s capital Melbourne, which is a short 1.5 hour drive up the Calder Freeway (to all you International readers). Bress specialise first and for most in wine and cider, but also branch out into small boutique products like olive oil, honey, relishes and pickles. Adam Marks along with his wife Lynne are the brains trust behind Bress and have been making wine in Harcourt since 2001. In terms of cider, Bress sit on an impressive 14 acre apple and pear orchard which is home to nine different cider apple varieties (40 years old) and 4 different perry pear varieties (30 years old). Not that many Australian cider producers can say that they have 14 acres of premium cider fruit at over 30 years old at their disposal. The orchard is also farmed biodynamically too which gives great confidence that the fruit will be superior. The cooler climate of Harcourt also aids in higher quality fruit being produced. I have said it many times before, but this (traditional apples and pears) is the future of Australian cider, and Bress are miles ahead of the game.  

The cider made at Bress draw on the history and tradition of the farmhouse styles made in Normandy, France. The philosophy of the Bress cider is quite simple, but in the long run very effective. It’s focused on minimal intervention - let the fruit be the hero, its mouth feel, texture, complexity and tradition. These characteristics are only now being understood and recognised by Australian cider producers. Yes, I am all for Australia having it’s own identity in terms of cider style, but heck, when you have a producer like Bress making cider true to a style which has been steeped in history for a thousand years, then it’s hard not to get excited. The proof is in the pudding!!

The Bon Bon, is the sweeter brother of the Bress Brut offering. In France, remember Brut means ‘dry’, so the Bon Bon would be labelled Bress Doux – which means ‘sweet’. The cider comes in a large 750mL sparkling wine bottle with a crown seal closure. I absolutely love the silver label too with the large chook as the logo – really cool presentation. On pouring into the glass, the colour was a real deep golden straw being the results of the use of cider apples and oak storage. Being disgorged, this cider should have had a little cloudiness to it, but what I saw in my glass was clear and brilliant. The natural secondary fermentation gave off a lower mousse in the glass and this was a pleasant to see.

The nose was very complex, and super inviting and I found I could not stop sniffing it! It had a real distinct sharpness about it, which could have been the result of a large proportion of bittersharps being used in the blend e.g. Kingston Black. Some characters which were evident consisted of freshly picked green apples, pineapples and nashi pears. A beautiful floral character also rounded out the whole experience. There was also some oaky notes and wild ferment funkiness which all tied in perfectly. Really, this nose was rich, bold and meant business from the word go. It was open, aromatic and gave off a heap of interest for what the palate had to offer.

On initial inspection of the palate, the medium sweetness filled out the palate sensationally. This was a real treat. The sweetness was balanced out with good natural acidity too. I enjoyed the rich, luscious apple sweetness being infiltrated also by an attacking sharpness - pure bliss. A lovely creaminess from the 6 months of less contact gave some texture and a tiny hit of phenolics and bitterness. The carbonation also played a leading role, lifting the palate to another level. The overall structure of the cider was very tight and tidy, and it’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of experience. One thing to keep in mind is the 10 per cent - yes 10 per cent!!, alcohol level. Sure, this cider is nice and sweet, and goes down well, but that higher level of alcohol can really creep up on you and bite you in the arse. The higher levels seemed a little out of balance and made the back palate very hot indeed. From my experience, cider can handle higher alcohols well, but this cider may just be stepping over that fine line. Normandy (and Brittany) ciders are usually not this high in alcohol, with the sweeter options usually keeved or arrested at around the 2 to 5 per cent alcohol range. But this is the Bress style, and i am all for it. 

This cider hailing from the Harcourt Valley is a real insight into what Australian cider makers can achieve if they have the right materials. She’s big, bold, unrelenting and unremorseful with her whopping 10 per cent alcohol. This isn’t a cider to take lightly. But if treated right, it will reward you with an amazing cider experience which takes you back to Normandy. The Bress team need to be congratulated on this as they are single handily helping shape the Australian Cider Industry with innovation and tradition. I had an absolute blast tasting and reviewing this cider, and I reckon you will too.

Producer: Bress Wine, Cider and Produce
Country: Australia (Harcourt Valley, Victoria)
Alcohol: 10%

Rating: 8.5 out of 10


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