Thursday, 31 January 2013

St. Ronan's Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider

St. Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider
From the word go, I wanted this cider. There was just something about it. Maybe it was the cool label, its Yarra Valley roots or its Methode Traditionelle style. I wasn’t sure, but I had to have it – like Torvill had Dean, Hall had Oats or Ren had Stimpy (you catch my drift). The St. Ronan's range consisting of the apple cider and a pear cider (which I will review soon) was born through a venture of mates, Eric Driessen (from a fruit growing family of 25 years) and Troy Jones. The ciders are made at Eric’s farm in Healesville (Yarra Valley), just a short 50km drive south-east of Melbourne.  Apples and pears from the local growers are used in the ciders, but the duo has recently planted an orchard of pears trees on the farm. The ciders are purely and strictly made via Methode Traditionelle, which is highly labour intensive and costly, but well worth the hassle. Fine Champagnes of France are made using this method - or Methode Champenoise, and produce wines of superior structure and finesse. So can this style and method carry over to cider? Well first, what is Methode Tradionelle or MT in the eyes of St. Ronan's?  

The techniques involved in making the St Ronan’s range begins with fermenting the juice with specific yeast strains to make what is called a base cider (or base wine for Champagne). This base cider is bottled into 750mL bottles, fermented for a second time to create carbonation, and then left on its yeast lees for six months (Champagne can sit on its lees for up to three years!).This time on lees imparts creamy textures from the yeast autolysis where yeast cells break down over time. Now for the time consuming bit! The ciders then need to be riddled after ageing, meaning the yeast have to drop down to the neck of the bottle. This is a slow process which carefully forms a yeast plug that can be removed from the bottle. To remove this plug, the St. Ronan's bottles are hand – yes hand!, disgorged where the pressure of the carbonation pushes it out of the bottle. This leaves the cider hazy, but with no clumps of unattractive yeast in the bottle. What’s left is a higher alcohol cider (due to two fermentation stages), which is usually very dry with no sweetness. The ciders are topped up after disgorging with a dosage liqueur - and to quote Troy, “I’ll tell you what it is, but I’d have to kill you”. But basically it’s a sulphured juice solution which helps sweeten up and preserve the product – remember the yeast has been removed, so the sweetness (plus sulphur) will not referment. The ciders are then corked, caged and left sit for another two weeks before release. Troy believes that this method of production produces superior mouth feel, texture and phenolics in their ciders. He also believes the extended time on lees adds more tannins, depth of flavour and structure. These traits are something I look upon very favourably in cider, as this is what real cider is all about. But I’ll let the cider do the talking now!
The colour of the cider gleamed a light pale straw, with a slight haziness. The carbonation in the glass was quite light on, with tiny bubbles and thin bead. This lower level of secondary carbonation suited the style perfectly. The nose was dominated by very fresh and clean characters of green apples, tight citrus, confectionery bananas, peach, apple skin and pear. Lovely leafy notes and freshly cut grass characters combined well with creamy, yeasty notes and earthy tones. A slight touch of green apple aldehyde was also evident. The nose was super focused, tight and very inviting.

The palate offered up exactly what Troy described for this style of cider. There was awesome mid palate astringency, balanced by focused acidity and rounded off dry dosage sweetness. Every component was complimented by super fresh and clean flavours of apple and hints of pear. The back palate was where the real party was. Beautiful creamy notes lingered on top of underlying apple seed bitterness which made its presence felt minutes after the cider was swallowed. There was also some heat from the eight per cent alcohol levels. The mouthful was delectable, being a little fuller and rounder due to the sweetness which was not cloying by a long shot. There was some steely residual sulphur that was quite evident; however, this did not pose any issues. This was a silky smooth palate which was complex, textural, and indeed deep in flavour.     
What can I say? This is a sexy cider which oozes class and sophistication. This is a Champagne drinker’s drink, and would please the most discerning tastes. Lots of attention, hard work and passion have gone into the making of this cider, and it’s evident in the final product. It’s everything you want in an MT cider – fresh, clean and complex. And I was thrilled to see some astringency too. Stored under diam cork, you’ll never see it corked either, which is a big bonus. This is pure and unadulterated Yarra Valley cider. What more could you want? Brilliant.

*This cider won a Bronze at the 2012 Australian Cider Awards in the Bottle Conditioned/Methode Champenoise class.

Producer: St Ronan’s Cider
Country: Australia (Healesville, Yarra Valley)
Alcohol: 8%

Rating: 9 out of 10


Monday, 28 January 2013

Cider of the Month - January

This month’s edition of Cider of the Month goes to:
Victor Gontier – Cidre Bouche Fermier (Farmhouse Cider)
Rustic, authentic, farmhouse, genuine and spectacular. Basically these five words sum up this cidre produced by Victor Gontier. This is what ‘real’ cider is all about. It’s produced in St-Georges-de-Rouelley in the AOC Calvados Domfrontais region in Southern Normandy. This AOC specifically outlines that all cidres and calvados produced MUST contain at least 30 per cent pear in the blend. This is the same for Domfrontais orchards too, where an orchard must contain at least 15 per cent pear trees to apple trees. There are also restrictions on the per cents of apple varieties, origins and classifications too, with only bittersweets and sharps allowed.
This cidre is a real humdinger, and it immediately impressed me with its personality. The colour was a hazy dark orange, and there was a nice light natural fizz which was persistent and very foamy. I liked it to pouring a beer, as it produced a large foamy head which disappeared after sometime. The nose was super complex and hugely farmhouse. Some descriptors I found comprised of old leather boots, petroleum jelly, bright marmalade, citrus, honey, stewed apricots and old soft apples. Different aromas of horse and blue mould added some authenticity to the blend. Don’t be put off by the mould characters, as they are beautiful and 100 per cent intentional. You have to remember these farmhouse cidres are put into old oak vats and left alone to their own devices – so anything can happen! This hands off approach also explains the onion/meaty reductiveness on the nose (mercaptans) too. But this does blow off after some swirls of the glass. There were still copious amounts of freshness though, which enhanced attractive mineral and stoney notes. This nose was very complex and rustic – almost resembling an old barn.  
The palate offered up some rich, thick, apple sweetness which was addictive and delicious. Some apple astringency, back palate bitterness and foamy carbonation all added a pleasant touch of texture. A long leathery flavour dominated the more subtle pear characters and woody oak notes. It was well balanced and quite full. The pears added a touch of volatile acidity on the back palate, but was by no means detrimental in any way. The whole palate of bittersweets and sharps was sown up with some lovely candied apple flavours which lingered long after the cidre was swallowed.
Never had a French farmhouse cidre? Then give Victor Gontier’s Cidre Bouche a go. Don’t be scared of its authenticity, as cidre has been made like this for centuries. I am positive you would not have tasted anything like this, but you’ll fall in love with its charm and individuality. This can be purchased in Australia too which is a massive positive for cider enthusiasts. Would love to hear peoples thoughts on it too!              
Producer: Victor Gontier
Region: St-Georges-de-Rouelley, Domfront (Normandy, France)
Alcohol: 4.5%
Website: None provided – go to   

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Pear Cider/Perry Tasting

So I thought it would be a cool idea if I was to taste through some Australian pear ciders and perry’s and jot down my thoughts and findings. I have taken out the formal approach and focused on the short, sharp and shiny – sometimes that’s better. I won’t score them, but l hope this will act as a guide and help you with your next purchase. I want to help take the umming and ahhing out of the decision making process. My quick fire reviews will be on examples sourced from South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. Please enjoy!!

Spreyton Cider Co – Perry
This perry is very new to the market, and is made in Spreyton which is just out of Davenport in Northern Tasmania. It’s the most unadulterated of the bunch, being the only cloudy example and having a much higher alcohol content. It’s also made with a number of varieties of pears including: Packham, Buere Bosc, Josephine and Commice. This perry does have a 10 per cent addition of apple cider too. So the perry is nice and cloudy, with the tiniest amount of carbonation – possibly naturally carbonated. There is good (but subtle) earthy, meaty/yeasty, and confectionery characters and some nice hints of citrus round out the nose. The palate is quite neutral, but has notable juicy rounded sweetness, with a drying/warming finish. There was a small textural component too, which worked well with the soft and restrained acidity. Some back palate minerality was also a nice addition.   

This is a good, simple and easy perry which is unpretentious but very refreshing.
Producer: Spreyton Cider Company
Country: Australia (Spreyton, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 7.0%

Napoleone and Co Cider- Pear Cider
This pear cider is just another little beauty coming out of the stables of Napoleone in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. This is the little brother to the very popular and highly awarded Methode Traditionnelle pear cider which Napoleone have mastered. But this ‘little bother’, is not to be overlooked. It’s made with the Packham and Buere Bosc varieties. It’s filtered clear and has a nice level of carbonation when poured into the glass. Lovely exotic fruits, lychee's, and juicy pear characters are all woven together with an endearing floral bouquet. The nose is very clean and pretty. The palate is like biting into a pear, with an impressive purity of flavour. There is some creamy richness, earthiness and spice combined with a lower level of sweetness. The pear flavours carry onto the back palate almost seamlessly. This is a very fresh, crisp and clean pear cider – very elegant.

A very nice pear cider which is clean and pure, with good fruit definition.
Producer: Napoleone and Co Cider
Country: Australia (Coldstream – Yarra Valley, Victoria)
Alcohol: 4.9%

The Hills Cider Company  - Pear Cider

This is a company from Adelaide/ Adelaide Hills in South Australia which has only gone from strength to strength recently. Walk though the Adelaide pubs and no doubt they will have The Hills Cider on tap. It’s a success story which you would only dream of. I remember tasting this pear cider almost two years ago and back then, it was a very neutral and very subtle drink. It was nice, don’t get me wrong but wind the clock forward to today, and this pear cider is somewhat different. It’s made from 100 per cent Adelaide Hills Packham pears (which I am a huge fan of), and is in theory a very simple example. But oh no, it’s far from that. It has a more golden colour and is filtered clear with a medium amount of fizz. But the nose! Dear Lord, the huge and I mean huge amount of fresh Packham characters is mind blowing. Put it simply, it’s like pure juice. But other little nuances of pineapples, subtle citrus and nuttiness also feature. A tiny bit of volatile acidity (acetic acid or vinegar) is present too. The nose also features a creamy edge. But overall, a super impressive nose which is powerful, intense, clean and fresh. The palate has good upfront pear sweetness, and a higher level of acidity giving it focus. The carbonation is nice and creamy too, offering up tonnes of body and refreshment. All I can say is this pear cider has massive juicy pear flavours all wrapped up into a neat little package. It’s also appropriate to note that this pear cider won a Best in Class and a silver medal at the recent 2012 Australian Cider Awards.

Focused, amazingly varietal, very refreshing and a great summer’s drink.

Producer: The Hills Cider Company
Country: Australia (Adelaide Hills, South Australia)
Alcohol: 5.0%

Houghton Cider Company – Perry Cider

Brett Thorburn not only is the maker for Houghton Cider, but he’s an avid campaigner for ‘real cider’. His passion for real cider is seen in is own offerings with only the most natural of ingredients used. Houghton is a small little town located in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia – just a wee drive out of Adelaide. Brett utilises many apple and pear growers throughout the Hills, and keeps his ciders fresh, simple and uncomplicated. The pear varieties used in his perry are Packham, Lemon Bergamot and Williams and all come from the one grower. The colour is the darkest of all the examples, being dark golden orange. There is a very low level of carbonation – which is a Houghton Cider stylistic trait. On the nose is an unmistakable amount of upfront volatile acidity or vinegar. It’s huge! It reminds me of a botrytis wine. The positive is some of this blows off with a few swirls of the glass. Underneath the high VA levels nice earthy, honey, golden syrup, fairy floss and pear characters leap out at you. It’s a very big, rich, candied and juicy nose. The palate offers up a sweet, candied, sugary sweetness with big and bold juicy, fleshy pear notes. I can seriously compare it to a large twirl lolly pop that you used to get from a show. The VA does follow through onto the palate, and adds some heat. A pleasing red apple characters is also evident which adds more juiciness. Overall it’s rich and full with lots of mouth filling body.

Big, daring and rewarding if you can get past the huge vinegary levels. 
Producer: Houghton Cider Company
Country: Australia (Adelaide Hills, South Australia)
Alcohol: 5.1%

So there we have it, four good quality pear ciders/perry’s all with their subtle differences in style and composition. So what did I get out of this? I found that there was no real tannin or astringency present, which really is to be expected. This is unlike traditional perry which has mouth gripping tannins that coat your teeth. All had medium to low carbonation levels too, which was good to see as these examples all boarder on the softer, more feminine style. Being made with pears which have a certain level of unfermentable sugars (sorbitol), all the examples has some degree of sweetness which aided in adding body and form. Lastly, I saw some great earthiness and loads of juiciness. This makes sense, as picture biting into a pear – you get great earthiness and juiciness don’t you. Have fun giving them a shot!


Tuesday, 15 January 2013



So whilst minding my own business one day in mid to late 2012, I stumbled across a new and somewhat different cider from New South Wales in Australia. The cider was being marketed hard via social media in and around the Sydney area – and it was gaining a following super fast. I must be brutally honest with this and say my first initial reactions of a bright pink ostentatious label, and the ‘dcider’ pun name did not sit overly well. I remember thinking I hope this is not another new comer trying to exploit cider and capitalise on its new famed success. But I was intrigued about it from the word go, as I wanted to see if this flashy bottles content matched the outer ‘pazazz’. Now fellas, not to be sexist or over judgemental but yes, it’s a pink label and yes some of you may feel a little ‘weirded’ drinking this out in town. But seriously, it’s 2013 and who cares. Don’t let little insecurities or the thought of drinking a supposed ‘chick drink’ ruin a perfectly good time. With this product, there is no need to. Good, glad we got that sorted.
The cider is made by Jeff Aston from Eling Forrest Winery, who is also known for making the Apple Thief ciders once upon a time. I wonder if Jeff is the ‘young, sexy winemaking genius’ which is written on the back of the label? Cheeky. The winery (Eling Forrest) is located in the New South Wales highlands, almost smack bang in between Sydney (NSW) and Canberra (ACT) and is the home to dcider. The cider is made using the premium apples from the cool climate Batlow region, which is located on the western side of the Great Dividing Range in NSW. So this cider gets a tick right away, as it sources its fruit from one of Australia’s premier apple growing regions. The apples in question for this cider comprise of 50 per cent pink lady, with the last 50 per cent consisting of gala, galaxy, red delicious and other red apple varieties. I’ll come back to these varieties when I discuss the cider in detail, as they play an important roll to the style of this cider.
For something different, I thought I would take the carton of dcider away with me over New Years where I could get a few more opinions over a more casual setting. The general consensus for this cider over a couple days was quite overwhelmingly positive, and was really enjoyed by all (especially by my Brother who is an avid Strongbow drinker! – I know it's horrible). So why was the cider a hit? I’ll tell you why.
On initial inspection, the colour did scare me as it was a very pale straw bordering on clear. To me this screams “THIN WITH NO TASTE!!”. The carbonation was light with a fast fading mousse and large bubble bead. There was two big surprises with this cider, and the nose was the first (I’ll explain the other in a tick). Huge wafts of musk, red apples, grape fruit, passionfruit and kumquats leach out the glass. This complimented by gorgeous floral and herbaceous characters and a hint of sweet candied apple. Some creamy and buttery complexity also shone through which rounded out the whole experience. This nose is seriously fresh (handled reductively – no oxygen contact whilst making), ultra focused, clean and very pure. I really loved the sweet angle of this nose being soft, mellow, and super inviting.
The palate gave off the second of the surprises, with its big and bold medium up-front sweetness combined with an amazing creamy texture. This textural component was way out of left field, and I didn’t see it coming. It gave the palate a whole new dimension. Now, Jeff’s vision was to create a cider with a ‘rounder, creamier character on the pallet’ and he has successfully achieved this via his apple choice. Gala, galaxy and red delicious all combined have darker flavours and creamier textures when eating them, so it makes sense that this would follow through to the cider. This is a very well thought out and clever apple selection, and shows eating apples can achieve diversity and style. The palate is rich, luscious and fat with good balancing acidity - from the pink lady's. There is an addictive red apple character which lingers, along with the prominent creamy texture (maybe some lees contact was carried out?). The higher residual sugar gives the cider mouth feel tonnes of weight, and the soft carbonation offers some excitement. I am super impressed with this pallet, as it was able to capture the purity of the apple very well.
So my initial worries about this cider where put to rest when I actually tasted the product. I can see this cider gaining a huge cult following in Sydney (if it hasn’t already), as it really captures your imagination. It’s quirky, very inviting and would appeal well to many of the younger consumers. The only real bummer is some traditionalist may see this as commercial apple lolly water, being sweet and packaged colourfully. But it’s definitely new wave, and is a style not really seen in Aussie ciders. The sweetness may also become a little cloying over a night, especially coupled with the creaminess. But overall, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with this offering – a real surprise packet. So go out and give it a try and you be the dcider (Now I am falling into the cider pun game!).  
Producer: Eling Forrest Winery
Country: Australia (Batlow/Sutton Forrest – NSW)
Alcohol: 4.5%

Rating: 8 out of 10


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Wychwood Brewery - Ginger Beard

Wychwood Brewery – Ginger Beard

Right oh folks, I am excited to bring you the first International ginger beer review on the All About Cider blog. This new edition called ‘Ginger Beard’ hails from Oxfordshire in England and is made by the Wychwood Brewery. The brewery itself is apart of the Marston’s group who are an independent brewing and pub retailing business in England. They own several breweries across the country and possess a large portfolio of beers.
This ‘fiery alcoholic ginger beer’ (as it says on the label), is an amber ale at heart with ginger root being infused to give it a kick. So what that meant to me was that there was going to be maltiness and body in the drink. The colour was a real dark golden brown – or amber, and was filtered clear. There was a large mousse once poured into the glass, with a nice constant bead. I have read previous reviews claiming this example had poor carbonation. I must have struck it lucky, because this was right on the money. The nose smelt like Christmas, with real tempting ginger bread spice and cinnamon infused into the beery, malt base. A big waft of chilli burnt the insides of the nostrils which was unexpected, but well received. Other characters of vanilla, creaming soda, molasses and lemons burst out in an excitable fashion. This was a really funky nose, and I liked it lots.

The palate offered up some really interesting features too. The mouth feel was thick and creamy, with just a hint of sweetness. The sweetness was overshadowed by a big whack of drying bitterness with lots of bite to it. The finish was very malty, spicy (like chilli seeds), and warm. The heat seemed to linger for an eternity too. It really tasted like a beer with a creaming soda, clove and candy apple angle to it, which made it super addictive. But I would have liked to see more ginger characters.  
This is Christmas in a bottle, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the fact that the sweetness wasn’t in your face, and the chilli spice hit was a great surprise. The alcohol was a very reasonable 4.2 per cent too. This ginger beer needs to be enjoyed in a cold glass on a hot day I reckon. Really cool example of an English ginger beer, so give it a go as it is readily available in Australia.

Producer:  Wychwood  Brewery (Marston’s PLC)
Region: Oxfordshire (UK)
Alcohol: 4.2%

Friday, 4 January 2013

Perry Vs. Pear Cider Smack Down

In the red corner, weighing in at hundreds of years old, steeping in unquestionable tradition and not afraid to give your taste buds a solid punch of tannin - it's............ Peeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyy!

And, in the blue corner, weighting in at an ever growing popularity, changing the face of pears, can sometimes be just a little feminine but not afraid to stick it to tha' man - it's...........
Peeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrrr Ciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Ding Ding!!

As both beverages come forward to duke it out, it's Perry who's larger presence over shadows its lesser bodied and thinner counterpart. Pear cider, however light on its toes, floats around the ring like a cloud and is easily out manoeuvring its powerful foe. The first punch is taken it's all tannin and oak, perry stands up to it like it was just a mere poke. Pear cider with its punchy aromas and ever growing fan base, cops a light jab of juiciness straight to the face. The fight goes on and rounds pass, but who will win this smack down you all may ask?? (Cheesy intro hey!)

Well, that's a really good question and currently is being debated amongst the cider community. On one side, the traditionalist are crying for the blood of the new wave contemporary pear ciders. But on the other, it's pure rock star treatment and popularity to burn. It's like the new kid at school, who's cool, intelligent and all the girls like him. Pear cider has capitalised on perry's recent dips in popularity and become king - especially here in Australia. Sounds a lot like school doesn't it! Pear cider which is now being understood and made quite well in Australia is beginning to flourish in our hot climate. Consumers both young and old are enjoying the fresh new pear alternative to apple cider. Pear cider in Australia is typically refreshing, inoffensive, light with usually a touch of sweetness. Alcohol levels are in and around the comfortable 5 to 6 per cent levels too. The beauty about pear based alcoholic drinks in Australia is the surplus amount of good fruit with varieties like Lemon Bergamot, Williams, Beurre Bosc, Packham and Josephine all readily available. 'Readily available' may potentially be the doing's of two large profit based supermarkets who dominate Australian fridges and lunchboxes (if you catch my drift). Like eating apples, these varieties can lack in the tannin department - unlike Corella pears which are for eating, but highly astringent. This in turn leads to the more softer, more neutral pear ciders being made currently. Perry which is made from traditional varieties like Gin, Blakeney Red and Moorcroft is known for its exceedingly high tannin levels, juicy sweetness and complexity. One could argue that pear cider is indeed made from the pretender pears, with traditional perry being made from the traditional perry pears. Interesting argument in itself really, but does that mean apple cider made from eating apples needs to change its name? Tricky.   

Perry pears, like cider apples are broken down into classifications of: Sweet, Medium Sharp, Bittersweet and Bittersharp (astringent). These differing classes can all be blended together to make fine perry, which can rival any good French champagne in quality (Just don't tell the French that). Perry trees are known to out live a human 4 to 1, and grow as high as 50 metres! The problem with perry pears, is they take a long time to grow, "Plant pears for your heirs" is a very well known old English saying. I do know of a pear grower in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, who is considering grafting his crop to perry pear varieties. Grafting onto an established tree significantly cuts down fruit bearing time. Good move? He's not getting any love from the giant supermarkets i speak of, and pear cider is booming remember. Tempting for sure. But is Australia ready for traditional perry? All these questions will be answered when the Australian Industry and consumer palates evolve over time. Especially too as more and more traditional English perry's and French poire cidres are being imported into Australia. But the sheer lack of these perry pear varieties in Australia is also one of the factors to why we are seeing the more lighter styles in our market. The one question which burns on my brain is what happens when the curiosity of the Australian Cider Maker boils over and the thirst for a fuller, oaked, tannic and more complex cider is made. What will they call it? What was that C+C Music Factory song from 1991 called??......Things that make you go Hmmmm!!  

Further more, do we have the evil empires of Strongbow, Rekorderlig, Bulmers, Kopparberg and Magners to blame for the pear cider phenomenon? Australian producers have been quick to snap up the new name on their labels like a bull at a gate, but is this due to paranoia of being left out to dry? No, i don't think so, but i think we need to thank these big boy producers for some its popularity. It's purely marketing and associating their product with an ever growing and popular product. Can't blame them for that can you. Don't get me wrong, there are Australian producers who are labelling their products perry, and that's great to see. I just wonder when the ever growing curiosity of the modern day consumer will start to get confused? I can see a young consumer walking into a bottle shop and being bombarded with hundreds of Australian pear ciders and perry. Imagine the questions asked? "Excuse me, what's the difference between this perry and this pear cider?", to the response, "nothing.....i think?". I know many people who have asked me to explain perry when i mention it in conversation too. I am not for one second saying there needs to be regulations on what you can call it. Hey, it's not wine! But the French don't like sparkling wine being called Champagne do they. Don't then get me started on Poire Cidre! Wonder what the English think?

So what i really want to come to terms with is are the differences of name a pure stylistic thing? Or is it a new name given to a new fresh modern approach to a very old and wise beverage? I believe i would go with the modern Vs traditional alternative. Pear cider in my eyes is the name given to a product which is easily made, living off the popularity of apple cider and is super trendy. It's readily available for you at a bar, it's a talking point, males can now drink it without succumbing to stupid taunts and it just tastes good without being in your face. Unfortunately a traditional perry today may seem outdated, but also misunderstood to the new wave cider consumer. Hence i urge everyone to expand their tastes. But pear cider is modern. Pear cider is here to stay.

So who wins the Perry Vs. Pear Cider Smack Down?.........You be the judge!

Australian Label Examples:

Perry: Spreyton Cider Company, Small Players, Lobo, Lost Pippin
Pear Cider: The Hills Cider Company, Napoleone, St Ronans, Harcourt, Hillbilly
Poire: Two Meter Tall

International Examples:

Perry: Gwatkins, Severn, Olivers, Ross on Wye
Poire: Le Pere Jules, Eric Bordelet, Louis De Lauriston


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Willie Smith's - Organic Apple Cider

Willie Smith’s - Organic Apple Cider
So along comes another Tasmanian cider hailing from the Huon Valley, located just 35 minutes from Hobart (Tasmania’s capital). But this little cider is different and when I mean different I mean in a very good way. It boasts four generations of apple growing history, it’s made entirely with organic fruit and is made replicating the methods of traditional Normandy cider. Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider was founded by apple grower Andrew Smith and Sam Reid, a Sydney Businessman. The Huon Valley is fast becoming cider country in Australia with superior apples growing in perfect conditions. Couple this superior fruit with a producer like Willie Smith’s who are willing to push the boundaries of style, and then you have a cider revolution. What do I mean by revolution you ask? I’ll explain a little later, but I am really excited by this cider and excited to what the future holds for this company.

The Willie Smith’s Organic Cider is made using an arsenal of methods which only aid in strengthening the complexity and originality of the product. The apples are milled and pressed with the juice left to oxidise (which is a common technique to gain colour and minimise harsh tannins). Cold fermentation is in stainless steel tanks using white wine yeasts which usually have higher alcohol tolerances and are more often than not powerful fermenters – such as EC1118. I was surprised by the cultured yeast choice, as using wild yeast (or wild ferment) is a very traditional technique in Normandy. Post ferment, portions are divided into brand new French oak (which impart wood tannin structure and complexity), with the rest being able to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. What fermentation you say!!?? Malo-lactic fermentation (or MLF) which is most commonly found in wine is very and I mean very, uncommon in Australian ciders. It’s considered a ‘secondary’ fermentation, which converts malic acid - which is very sharp and found in copious amount in apples, to lactic acid which is much softer. Hence it leaves a softer mouth-feel on the palate. It also gives off some buttery/creamy or diacetyl characters in the cider, aiding in complexity. After six months, all the differing components are blended together, with the cider sweetened up with fresh natural juice and NOT concentrate and carbonated in bottle.
Now all these processes and procedures really do amount to an amazing product, with tonnes of complexity and originality. Revolution? I think so! The term ‘real cider’ is getting thrown around fairly loosely right now on products which don’t warrant the privilege. Willie Smith’s Organic Cider however can proudly wear this ‘real cider’ badge with honour, as this is truly the future of Australian cider.

The immediate thing you’ll notice about this cider is the classy and very informative label. It’s beautifully presented with no flashy gimmicks, whilst proudly displaying its organic heritage. The cider pours a deep cloudy golden orange with a light, but persistent carbonation bead. The nose is just layer upon layer of complexity and excitement. Were do I begin? Juicy apple characters along with orangey citrus notes of guava, grapefruit and tangerine all burst out at you. There is a nice level of wood integration too which is by no means overpowering or domineering. Other lovely aromas consist of fresh pears, ginger spice and apple/cinnamon pie. You’ll also find hints of an earthy mould which compliments all the fresh, ripe fruit aromas. This is a serious nose, and continues to open up its secrets as each minute goes by.
The palate was just as exciting and full of little surprises which make you sit back and go ‘Ahhhh’. I was expecting to see a real thick and rich palate but was surprised to see that the mouth-feel was actually quite light. The whole palate feel did seem just a little watery, but this is not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination. There was no real bitterness to speak of, but a tiny bit of textural astringency did shine through. The balance between the carbonation, sweetness and acidity was really good, with the acid levels being a little lower to what I am used to. The alcohol (at 5.4 per cent) gave off a little heat on the back palate too. I can only really describe this palate as biting into a juicy apple. This sweetness, combined with the acidity and long apple length all united to make this a truly wonderful experience. There is also some lovely creaminess and woodiness which round out the palate quite nicely. This is seriously delicious, attractive and innovative.

Well what can I say? This cider is made to emulate the traditions of Normandy, and I think its hit the nail on the head. I will go out on a limb here and say that nine times out of ten you would easily mistake this for a traditional Norman cider. I would also describe this cider as being a traditional farmhouse, but with a contemporary edge. It is flavoursome, it makes you think when you drink it and it’s perfectly made. It has been made by intelligent people. This would have to be the finest farmhouse cider in Tasmania currently, and I can’t see it being knocked off this mantle any time soon. Congratulations Willie Smith’s on bucking the trend, and making cider which pays justice to not only the apple, but also to the consumer. At the end of the day, the consumers are the real winners here. Pure Australian (and Tasmanian) magic.
Producer: William Smith and Sons
Country: Australia (Huon Valley, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 5.4%

Rating: 10 out of 10