Wednesday, 20 February 2013

2013 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards - Judging


Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – Cider and Perry
So after a 4 am start, a plane flight to Melbourne, an endless tussle with Melbourne traffic, and a cabbie who couldn’t distinguish between a Showground and a Race Course, I made it to the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – albeit 40 minutes late…oops. So why all the commotion? Well I was lucky enough to be asked to be apart of the judging for the inaugural autumn cider and perry competition for the Melbourne Fine Food Awards. An honour which I am still buzzing about, as cider is a HUGE passion of mine. The whole competition was carefully organised by Ross Karavis (Event Manager for the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria) along with Max Allen (wine writer and cider buff) who meticulously defined the classes and categories for the cider and perry competition. Along with Max Allen and myself (the blogger), the other judges consisted of cider makers, wine makers, wine writers/journalists, and bottle shop beer buyers – so there was a good spread of experience and walks of life. It was pleasing to know that over sixty ciders were entered into the competition, which showed that producers aren’t afraid to contest their products against their rivals in a epic battle of apple and pear supremacy…..ahh too far maybe James?

The program consisted of differing classifications or classes determined by sugar content and method of production. The run down looked like this:
Modern Dry Cider and Perry
Modern Medium Cider and Perry
Modern Sweet Cider and Perry
(Modern being light, artificially carbonated, made from dessert apples, mass produced and commercial)

Traditional Dry Cider
Traditional Medium Cider
Traditional Sweet Cider
(Traditional being likely made from cider apples, more European style, oaked, complex, astringent)  

Cider and Perry Blend
(Blend of both fruits in a single blend)

Bottle Fermented Cider and Perry
(Bottle fermented being made using methode traditionelle, natural carbonation, either dry or sweet with dosage liqueur or keeving).

And NO FLAVOURED CIDERS!! Halleluiah!! Get excited!   

The ciders fell into different categories according to their sweetness or specific gravity (SG). This consisted of: Dry 1005 or below, Medium between 1005 and 1012 and sweet being above 1012.

Max Allen tasting his way through a bracket
The day ran nice and smoothly with judging being efficient and concise, as the layers of tooth enamel progressively got thinner and thinner. I was told to channel my ‘inner eighteen year old girl’ whilst judging the modern sweet cider category as I was really finding it hard to give a positive for some entries – best advice I’ve ever gotten, thanks Mr. Allen! Some ciders presented were lovely and well made, with others making you wish you could go back in time and not put it anywhere near the vicinity of your nose and mouth. But overall, the important thing I got to take away from this exercise was the bigger picture of the state of our Cider Industry in Australia. Things are looking promising and quality is rising as more batches and experiments are being made/produced. With the knowledge of the cider making process, and blending/stylistic component options continually growing, Aussie cider should continue to grow. Faults like reductiveness (or rotten egg), mousiness, cooked characters and volatile acidity (vinegar/nail polish remover) did plague some ciders throughout the judging. This stewed, or ‘cooked’ note was quite common in many classes, and it was debated whether it was a storage issue or a result of pasteurisation. Remember pasteurisation can potentially heat a cider up to 60ÂșC, which is more than enough to have an adverse effect on flavour. The quality of Australian cider is slowly climbing the mountain of cider superiority. The addition of true cider apples, and the experience to utilize them with dessert apples will see quality rise substantially to the peak over time. But until then, the urge to over use and over complicate the humble dessert apple needs to be restrained. Otherwise there will be a whole bunch of confused consumers unsure of what they are consuming – being lolly water or an oxidised mess. The cider making process will also become more understood in Australia over time, with knowledge to what apples and pears respond to best expanding which will be of a huge advantage.

So the awards hailed no gold’s or trophies, with a general consensus amongst the judges that an awarded sliver is currently a gold in Australian Cider right now. I hope to see this change in the not so distant future, with more producers entering the competition (and the Australian Cider Awards) with higher quality styles.

Here's a run down of the winners at the 2013 RMFFA’s:

Napoleone and Co Apple Cider
Three Oaks Cider Dry
Flying Brick Draught Cider
Graci Premium Apple Cider
The Hills Cider Company Apple Cider
Pagan Apple Cider
Tin Shed Apple Cider
Binderee Grove Apple Cider
Baw Baw Sparkling Organic Apple Cider
Spreyton Cider Company Classic, 2012 Vintage
St Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider
Flying Brick Pear Cider
The Hills Cider Company Pear Cider
Napoleone and Co Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider
Red Sails Perry
St Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider

Three Oaks Apple Cider Sweet
Henry of Harcourt 2012 Kingston Black
Napoleone and Co Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider
Napoleone and Co Pear Cider
Pipsqueak Pear Cider

Congratulations to all winners!

Finally, a huge thank you goes out to Ross Kavaris and Max Allen for the giving me the opportunity to judge. It was a great experience!


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