Thursday, 28 February 2013

Spreyton Cider Company


Spreyton Cider Company – Tasmania
Okely Dokely, it’s time to get stuck into another tasting/review of a companies cider range. If you remember, I composed a ‘range review’ of all Small Players offerings back in October last year http://www.allaboutcider.com/2012/10/small-players-cider-sweet-cider-and.html. It’s always a great exercise to go through a complete set of ciders from a producer, as you get a good scope of what they are trying to achieve. Most producers are trying to get their single cider tasting right, so to see companies producing up to five differing ciders, it’s always intriguing. So when the folks at Spreyton Cider Company sent me through their product range consisting of five offerings, I instantly wanted to line them up and taste my way through them together. It’s a hard life I know!


Like most of my reviews, I’ll start off with a little background info on Spreyton Cider Co to set the mood. Spreyton Cider Co is based in - you guessed it, Spreyton which is just a short ten minutes from Davenport in the north of Tasmania. Yes I know, another Tassie producer, but hey it’s the apple isle and the ciders being produced are of impressive quality. The company was born from its parent company Spreyton Fresh, which is one of Tasmania’s leading juicing companies. The families involved with these two businesses have been growing apples since 1908, which is pretty impressive in itself. So what does a successful juicing company do when it’s surrounded by an Australian cider boom?…….I think you get the point. Damien Viney (Cider Operations Manager) was called in to begin crafting the Spreyton ciders, and the first batches were only completed as late as October 2012. So this venture is very new, and still a baby (on the cider side of things), but it’s already growing a good fan base which is great. The other cool and somewhat rare thing is they run and operate out of a proper cidery, with a cellar door for tastings. I hear the cellar door also has a little viewing window where you can watch the cider being made and bottled. Now that sounds like my kind of heaven!! The ciders made consist of a Vintage, Classic, Bright, Dark and Perry and all are made to be cloudy, bottle conditioned and completely authentic (no concentrates or other fake muck). The alcohols are all around the seven per cent mark which is high yes, but to be expected with bottle conditioning. So they are not for the faint hearted.
So I am now going to go through them one by one with shorter reviews to give you a basic snap shot of the range.

Classic

The Classic is described by Spreyton Cider Co as a cider with a modern classic taste, as opposed to a traditional tasting cider. Traditional cider obviously use the traditional apples with astringency, where as this cider utilises the eating apples of Pink Lady and Sundowner. Immediately I wanted to see the crisp acidity of the Pink’s, along with the juicy apple characters from the Sundowners to create this modern approach. The cider is also the most likely style you’ll see in draught form for Spreyton. So really this example in my eyes is SCC’s run of the mill, all rounder cider which is not over complicated and super fresh.

The colour pours a nice yellow straw, with the cider being stylistically cloudy. Unfortunately, my bottle was a touch over carbonated (possible refermentation in the bottle), and it foamed out. I am assured by Damien Viney that the sugar levels are being tinkered with and lowered to rectify this little gremlin. But this is all part of the learning curve when it comes to making cider. The carbonation in the glass however was light and restrained, so the initial explosion was quickly dispersed once poured. The nose reminded me of straw, sour sobs, fresh apples, pineapples and stone fruits with hints of sweet confectionery. There were some great primary fresh characters with some oaky, earthy complexity.

The palate offered up a good balance of fresh off dry sweetness (maybe not as sweet due to possible refermentation in bottle). A lovely balance of acidity with tiny hints of tannin was evident, with a pleasing creamy length. Noticeable lingering bitterness also added an element of distinction. There was good juicy apple and green apple characters which lingered well into the back palate. This really did taste authentic and traditional/modern, and the seven per cent alcohol was well balanced.

The Classic is a very solid entry cider and I love the fact it’s not a sugar laden, headache material frankencider. It’s soft and structured and very consumer friendly. This would be perfectly suited to a draught style in bars and pubs also. I saw great acidity and juiciness from the apples used too which was perfect. Nice solid cider indeed.

Rating: 7.5/10

 Bright

What the heck is 'Bright' cider you say? Well I guess to try and summarise it, it’s a cider that is made using Golden Delicious and Jonagold apples (which is a cross of Golden Delicious and Jonathon from the USA), and it’s more commercial in style and more sweet(ish). SCC state that this cider is “closer to commercial cider”, not saying it is commercial as the process used to make it is completely different, but it’s in the same realm. But comparing this cider to a more commercial cider is like comparing apples to oranges….pardon the pun. Golden Delicious is a funny old apple for me when it comes to cider. It gives a cider a sweet, stewed sort of character which can be sickly and unpleasant. You can immediately tell if a cider is predominantly Golden Delicious in the blend due to this funny character. I’ve also never see Jonagold’s used in cider, but its main features consist of being sweet and aromatic - so in theory, perfect for cider.

The colour is much lighter than the classic (possibly why it’s called Bright?), and has more carbonation in the glass with a much larger mousse. The nose was quite reductive, and a little oniony. This did blow off to reveal some green apple characters, along with this really cool apple pie note. The nose showed more yeasty characters, almost bordering on beer. But overall, the nose was quite subdued, and not as pretty and intense as the Classic. The fresh primary characters were over taken by the yeasty, creamy characters along with the stewed character I mentioned earlier (this may be a pasteurisation/cooked character too).

The palate was definitely sweeter than the classic, with lovely juicy apple characters producing a much rounder and fuller mouth feel – this would have to be a Jonagold feature. A nice light and fresh finish, coupled with crisp acidity and foamy carbonation did liven up the experience. However, the length did drop off quite rapidly, with the flavours fading fast with no real tannins or bitterness to compensate on the back palate.

This cider was a smidge on the dull side of life, being overshadowed by the Classic apple. It did struggle to redeem itself after the reductiveness disappeared which was a shame. It’s a very simple cider which may potentially get lost in amongst the other horses in the SCC stable. Only time will tell.

Rating: 6/10

 Vintage 2012

Now this was a cider I wanted to get my hands on. A vintage!! It’s limited, made using more cider friendly apples like Cox’s Orange Pippin, Sturmer Pippin (debatable) and Gravenstein, is dry and more styled towards a traditional cider. The cool thing about this cider is it will continue to evolve over the coming years as SCC plant more traditional cider varieties. I really love this idea, and it’s a great little initiative. Imagine what it’s going to look like in 5 years! Cooooool.

The cider pours a predictable cloudy with a lightish straw appearance. This cider also had larger bubbles with a bigger mousse in the glass, more than the last two options. The nose offered up nice fresh, clean and pure apple aromas. This was beautifully intertwined with some yeasty, creamy characters which added complexity and depth. Other interesting characters consisted of honey, fresh apples and citrus with just a touch of reductiveness in the background. But this was a very impressive nose which was pure and unadulterated.  

An excellent and very refreshing upfront dryness set the scene perfectly for this palate. Although being dry, the mouth feel was still full and would please anyone on a hot summer’s day. It was seriously crisp, clean and impressively fresh. A nice balancing acidity and clean finish polished and sharpened the structure. Awesome and addictive fresh and clean flavours of citrus and apple hit you like a tonne of bricks after each sip. There were no real tannins or bitterness, but this was not an issue. It’s not a big boned, rich and thick cider, but more a soft, delicate and refined option. It was a pleasure to drink and super mouth watering.

This was my pick of the SCC bunch. I really enjoyed it, with its uncomplicated approach and fresh, honest flavours. Oh, and I actually liked a cider with Strumer Pippin in it! It’s a miracle!! Real cool little cider, which will develop over time and continue to grow in personality. An exciting cider, so stay tuned.  

Rating: 8.5/10

 Dark

So we’ve had Bright, but what’s Dark? Dark, hmmmm……Oak aged? Oxidatively handled? Malt extract? Where did this ‘Dark’ come from? Well it turns out this Fuji based cider is infused with a range of Tasmania hops. Waahh?!!! What did you say!? Yes hops. Ok, yes I refuse to review anything which has had any sort of artificial or other fruit based additions but I thought hops are a little different. Adding hops to cider isn’t really reinventing the wheel, but I’m willing to give it a go and see if it’s a yay or nay (in my eyes). SCC state that this cider is suited to beer drinkers, is fuller bodied on the mid palate and very floral from the hops. Sounds interesting, I just hope it works and that the apple is not over dominated.

To my surprise, the cider is by no means dark. It’s not even the darkest of the bunch. So the ‘Dark’ reference is a little strange and trying to find where it fits in is a little confusing. The mousse was of a medium stature, and the bead was quite persistent. Ok all ticks there. Onto the nose…..

WOW, she’s an interesting nose that’s for sure. Where does one start? Lemons, limes, floral, medicinal, strawberries, perfume, mangoes, tropical fruits and roses all burst out at you. I seriously could have written more descriptors, crazy! This was super unique and powerful due to the hops. But apple characters? Unfortunately, it was hard to find them as the hops (presumably ‘dry’ hopped), overpowered the nose. Isn’t it meant to be all about those beautiful Tassie apples?    

The palate to me was super confusing, and in my eyes a little offensive. There was a huge whack of hop bitterness, along with a distinct beer character and nutty finish. In its defence, the Fuji apples did try to poke their aroma heads through the mostly beer dominated characters – but it was fighting an uphill battle. The after taste was not overly nice, and a touch disjointed. I liken it to a mixture of an over hopped craft beer, with a craft cider. Would this appeal to the beer fraternity? Possibly, but I think they would be confused by this too. Consumers I believe would be lost in a sea of mashed up aromas and textures and revert back to the Classic or Vintage.

It may sound like I am being super critical to this, but my immediate thoughts are that maybe this cider is being a little too adventurous? But I take my hat off to SCC as they are trying something different. I must stress it’s not to my taste/liking, so don’t use my review as a solid, set in concrete disapproval. You must try a beverage like this on your own, and let yourself be the judge. Its definitely unique and not your average drink. It’s an acquired taste, that’s for sure. So if you’re game, give it a go and I’d love to here your thoughts on it.

*Due to this cider not being a 100 per cent apple fruit cider, I will not score it.

 Perry

I have already reviewed this perry in a previous post. You can see it here: http://www.allaboutcider.com/2013/01/pear-ciderperry-tasting.html

Well summing up the Spreyton Cider Co ciders, I was generally pretty pleased with what I saw. There were lots of yeasty characters coming from the bottle carbonation along with great purity and authenticity of the Tassie fruit. A few little reductive issues were evident, but by no means offensive. I am really looking forward to seeing the evolution of the Vintage cider over time too. The Bright and Dark styled ciders may possibly succumb to the growing popularity of the Classic and Vintage, but I’ll let the consumers do the talking there. Overall, a great effort from a relatively young cider producer who are tackling differing styles and combinations head on. Watch these guys, as the quality will only continue to grow and grow.

It also should be mentioned that Spreyton Cider Company won a bronze for the Classic and bronze for the 2012 Vintage at the recent Melbourne Fine Food Awards in the bottle fermented class. Congratulations all round!

Producer: Spreyton Cider Company
Country: Australia (Spreyton, Tasmania)
Alcohol: Vintage 7%, Classic 7%, Bright 7%, Dark 7%, Perry 7%
Website: www.spreytonciderco.com.au

Cheers!

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