Sunday, 21 April 2013

Comte Louis de Lauriston - Poire

The appellation (AOC) of Calvados Domfrontais closely resembles that of a wine AOC of say Bordeaux or Burgundy. The calvados spirit of Calvados Domfrontais must contain at least 30 per cent Domfront pears in the initial cider to be distilled. Regulations also state that the yields from the press must not exceed 65 per cent extraction, and the spirit must be aged for three years in oak. To top off the strict rules of the AOC, a Domfrontais orchard must have at least 15 per cent pear trees. In the grand scheme of things, Calvados Domfrontais only produces around 1 per cent of all calvados produced in the three appellations of Calvados (Pays de Auge, Domfrontais and Calvados). So how does this affect the ciders made in the Calvados Domfrontais region? Well obviously they contain the highest amount of pears present in the ciders produced from Normandy. What you will find is many ‘poire cidres’ made from super traditional pear varieties with some trees being up to three hundred years old. Two other notable producers from the Calvados Domfrontais Appellation consist of Victor Gontier (Saint-Georges-de-Rouelley) and Eric Borderlet (Charchigne). The Appellation is said to have very distinct minerality and distinctive floral characters in the ciders, along with great structural integrity.
Comte Louis de Lauriston is situated in the outskirts of the town of Domfront and along with cidre and poire, they also produce pommeau de normandie and of course, calvados. The calvados is distilled by farmers in the area and transported to the Lauriston cellars to be aged and labelled under the Comte Louis de Lauriston name. In 1992, the brand and production of Comte Louis de Lauriston was trustfully handed over to Pays de Auge calvados and cidre producer Christian Drouin to continue the exceptional calvados and cidre tradition.

The Comte Louis de Lauriston poire is made using traditional French pear varieties like Plant de Blanc, Muscadet, Avenelle and Poire de Grise. Bet you’ve never heard of them before! The poire cidre itself is made fairly simplistically with wild fermentation taking five to eight weeks in what I would have thought to be old oak vats. To get the natural carbonation, the poire is bottled half way though the primary fermentation and left to finish. The process in a whole leaves a very fresh and fruit forward poire cidre which is very approachable.  
This poire has stunning packaging, with a classy label and nice heavy 750mL bottle. Visually is looked spectacular and on opening I hoped it tasted as good as it looked. The colour shone a dark straw, with just a slight haze in the glass. Remember this poire was bottled during fermentation, so no filtration would have occurred besides multiple rackings, especially from oak to bottle. But I love this hazey feature as it means the poire hasn’t been tampered with intruding industrial processes. On pouring, there was a lovely large mousse, which faded into a subtle bead. The nose was dominated by a very delicate pear aroma, along with complimentary stone fruit characters, earthiness and some spice. Other hints of freshly cut hay and grass, cat urine (Yes, funnily enough it’s a descriptor and not a bad one either– especially for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) and cider apples also were present. Judging by the nose, my experience suggests there is a healthy amount of cider apples present in the blend too. Also noted was a beautiful musty character, almost like an old underground cellar which harboured some complexing oakiness. There was a tiny touch of reductiveness too, but not enough for me to worry or think negatively about.

The palate offered up rich and focused medium pear sweetness which seemed to be of a pure and delicate nature. True to the Calvados Domfrontais philosophy, the mouth feel showed great minerality and structural acidity. The acidity I thought was a little confused though; being what I thought was a mix of citric and tartaric. This made the mid palate taste quite lip smackingly sherberty and tangy. But I did find the fruit spectrums to be very clean and focused with an explosion of fresh pear fruitiness. Stewed apricot pie along with a luscious, almost oily texture lingered in the back palate nicely and added depth. There was no textural astringency, just pure pear fruit which didn’t affect the body or mouth feel in any respect. The natural carbonation was soft and delicate in the mouth, and was all in balance with the alcohol and flavour. I found this poire to be a real cider connoisseur’s drink.
This is the type of poire cidre which would easily substitute a sparkling wine on any dinner table. It had class and sophistication and was elegantly poised. The acidity was a touch out of balance for me, but the other components made up for it in flying colours. It offered up everlasting generosity which would make any cider lover happy. A very nice Domfrontais poire cidre indeed.

Producer: Comte Louis de Lauriston
Country: France (Rue du Mont-Saint-Michel, AOC Calvados Domfrontais)
Alcohol: 4.5%

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Monday, 15 April 2013

Meet the Maker

Damien Viney - Spreyton Cider Company (Tas)
1. What got you into making cider?

I was working as an Environmental Health Officer in Melbourne when Spreyton Fresh called and said they were going to “branch out” into cider making. I thought it was a wonderful idea and an exciting opportunity to be involved from day one. I had been following the trends in cider since returning from the UK where it seemed so widespread and acceptable to enjoy cider. Drinking cider and the Australian climate go hand in hand I think.
2. How long have you been making cider for?

Just over a year now. Obviously a lot less than most and we have had a lot of help developing the method for out ciders. It has been a steep learning curve to say the least, but very enjoyable.
3. Can you give a brief run down of your ciders?

Spreyton Cider Co currently makes five different blends of cider. All of these are made with 100% Tasmanian apple and pear juice and undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle – hence the dryer more authentic style of cider.
The ‘Vintage’ is a dryer, more traditional style of cider using exclusively ‘cider varieties’. We currently only grow three cider varieties in our orchards, but have reworked existing tress with Kingston Black, Bulmers Norman, Frequin Rouge and Yarlington Mill. We also have a new cider block going in this year with other varieties such as Somerset Red Streak, Bec D’oie and Closette. So the Vintage will continue to evolve and become a unique and interesting blend – while only being a limited amount. The ‘Classic’ is made from predominantly Pink Lady and Sundowner apples and has a clean crisp apple flavour. The ‘Bright’ is slightly sweeter with a softer apple flavour from Golden Delicious and Jonnagold apples. The ‘dark’ is based on the Fuji apple but quite uniquely has been ‘dry hopped’ with a blend of Tasmanian hops. This creates a more robust flavour through the mid-palate, while finishing clean like a cider should. And lastly our ‘Perry’, which is a slightly sweeter, subtle pear flavoured cider made from predominately Beurre Bosc and Packham pears.
Quite a bit to launch into the market with, but all different in their own right and hopefully something for everyone’s palate. One of the obvious advantages of growing our own fruit is the extensive variety of apples we have access to.

4. What is it you like most about making cider?

I like the hands on nature and intimacy of making craft cider. Our ferments run in 1000L batches, so although only small amounts compared to bigger companies, they are critical to get right because we can’t afford to dump 1000L of juice. I like coming in of a morning when ferments are running and smelling and seeing and tasting to see how they are going.
5. What has been your most memorable ‘cider’ moment?

Trying our very first Vintage after it had gone through secondary and had a month to condition in the bottle. It was a bit of a breakthrough moment because I was so proud of what the company had achieved at that point. It was also a bit of a relief because if that was what we were capable of on our first go, we could have a lot of confidence going forward as we refined out process.

6. What is the most common question you are always asked about cider?

“Which one tastes like 5 Seeds?” or “Which is the sweetest?” – both are equally annoying. However, if people are prepared to try our range of ciders, I can’t begrudge them for that.

7. What are you views on the current state of cider in Australia?

There seems to be a fair bit of congestion at the moment and I think there needs to be some clarity on why ciders are so different. There is a misconception that all cider should be sweet and fizzy when this is not quite the case. There is a huge variety of cider out there and a big difference from heavily commercialise, mass produced numbers, to your small scale craft producers and I think more can be done with labelling integrity to better allow consumers to know the difference. I have a problem with Bacardi Breezer having a ‘cider’ in their range when you know an apple has probably never been near the process.

The state of cider in Australia is looking good though. And by state I mean Tasmania! We are having a cider revival down here and with such good produce to work with, it is exciting times ahead.
8. What makes cider so popular to consumers?

It’s the perfect summer drink! And Australia has the perfect climate for it. Somewhere between sparkling wine and a light, fruity beer – so it has a crossover appeal to a wider range of consumers. There has also been a significant shift I think to what is acceptable for a ‘bloke’ to drink. At the bottle shop last week, I saw your standard Tasmanian 20 something’s buying their grog for a Friday night. Jim Beam cans….and a 4 pack of Bulmers Blackcurrant! And no, it wasn’t for the ‘missus’. You wouldn’t of read about that ten or even five years ago.

9. What are your reasons for the sudden surge in cider popularity?

I think there is a few, so I’ll dot point them – in no particular order.

Interest in the ‘new’. Although cider has been around forever, the surge in popularity has meant an increase in producers. It’s no longer just Mercury and Strongbow at the local bottle-o. Enough people are interested in trying new, premium craft products.
Beer fatigue. Traditional beer drinkers looking for something new to try.

Influence from the UK. I think more and more people have spent time working and travelling in the UK and realised the huge potential for cider and brought it back to Australia.
Alcopops. There is a certain market that certain producers are aiming for. The sweet and fizzy stuff. We don’t make it – but if it lifts the profile of cider all round it can’t be a bad thing.

.10. Where do you see the Australian cider industry in five years time?

I think we will see a change in quantity to quality as the trends change and cider stops being the ‘it’ drink. I think you will see a very strong and authentic cider market, with plenty of regional producers and the producers trying to ‘cash in’ will be weeded out.
*Picture taken from

Meet the Maker

Steve Dorman - The Hills Cider Company (SA)

1. What got you into making cider?

As a winemaker by trade, I was attracted to the similarities in production between wine and traditional cider. I was lucky to do some cider vintages in Europe, which excited me to explore the category further.

Having a before dinner drink with (now business partner) Toby Kline in 2010, we realised that there was nothing on the market between wine and beer – what we were looking for was a fresh, light drink that wasn’t too filling before a meal (like beer) or too alcoholic for the start of the night (like wine.) At this time, the only ciders on the market were mass produced, sweet, commercial styles. We decided to look into crafting a traditional, artisan cider from 100% fresh local fruit – and The Hills Cider Company was born!

2. How long have you been making cider for?

For around 10 years now. After doing some cider and beverage consultancy work and a few vintages over in Europe, I got really serious in 2009 when we started pulling concepts together for The Hills Cider Company, which was launched in January 2010.

3. Can you give a brief run down of your ciders?
Our core range is The Hills Apple Cider and The Hills Pear Cider. All our ciders are crafted from 100% fresh fruit from the Adelaide Hills, with minimal intervention – no added sugars, concentrates, flavours or water. Our Apple Cider is a well balanced, clean, fresh, dry style cider, with a crunchy apple palate and bright fruit flavours. Our Pear Cider has great fruit complexity, clean spicy notes and a luscious mouth feel, again finishing clean, fresh and dry. We have also recently introduced the first of our Hybrid Series – a harmonious blend of fresh Adelaide Hills grown apples and spicy and creamy Queensland farmed ginger.

4. What is it you like most about making cider?

What I love about making traditional cider is that I get to do a vintage every month, and I have a large range of fruit to experiment with. I have been playing around with different blends and oaks, and looking to connect with the history of artisan cider and the different styles throughout the world. I have a few ‘limited editions’ in the pipeworks that I’m really excited about releasing.

5. What has been your most memorable ‘cider’ moment

When Toby and I began The Hills Cider Company, we were doing everything by hand from our garage. It used to take us 8 hours to clean and fill 10 kegs by hand! The day of our first ever delivery, we loaded up our first load of finished kegs into our Holden ute. Little did we know these utes had faulty tailgates (which were eventually recalled) - the first roundabout we came across, there goes the tailgate, and there goes our first load of kegs, all across an intersection in North Adelaide! We pulled over and started retrieving our scattered kegs, and some bloke starts rolling one away for himself. He wasn’t having it when we tried to explain the situation, told us to stop being so selfish and taking them all for ourselves! He took quite a bit of convincing before he handed it over and we were able to finish our delivery.

6. What is the most common question you are always asked about cider?

Is your cider sweet?!!

Because the cider category in Australia is still quite young, there is a lack of education amongst consumers about what ‘traditional cider’ is. Many of the mainstream, mass produced, popular ciders on the market are made using fruit juice concentrate (often from China) or flavours, and are often quite sweet. Traditional cider makers, like ourselves, craft our product from 100% Australian farmed apples and pear, generally producing ciders that are clean, crisp and medium to dry.

7. What are you views on the current state of cider in Australia?

The cider category in Australia is growing exponentially at the moment, but is still a relatively small category. What we lack at the moment is consumer education and label integrity. We, along with Cider Australia and others passionate about traditional cider, are keen to see an introduction of legislations that help differentiate between ciders made from concentrate or flavours, and ciders made from 100% fresh fruit. And we want to see this information included on packaging and labels, so the consumers can make informed choices on what they are drinking.

8. What makes cider so popular to consumers?

Cider is such a refreshing alternative to beer or wine. What’s interesting is we are now seeing such a broad range of people enjoying cider; thanks to traditional cider makers producing real, fruit driven cider it’s no longer a sweet drink enjoyed by the fairer sex! Because it is lower in alcohol than wine and not heavy like beer, it makes a great ‘sessionable’ drink.

9. What are your reasons for the sudden surge in cider popularity?

The resurgence of cider popularity in the UK took off about 7 years ago, and is still showing no signs of slowing down. This activity definitely caught the attention of producers here in Australia, who realised this crisp refreshing beverage suits our outdoor lifestyle perfectly and makes a great alternative to beer or wine.

10. Where do you see the Australian cider industry in five years time?

I believe with more consumer education about cider (traditional vs produced from flavours/concentrate) and regulations on label integrity, the category will continue to grow, with greater support for producers making real cider, who support Australian apple growers and regional farming communities by using 100% fresh fruit.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

New Cider Glossary to All About Cider

Cider loving peeps!

For anyone new to cider, or to anyone first to admit their cider knowledge is not up to scratch, then check out All About Ciders new Cider Glossary. It has all technical and regional info for you to read up on if you don't understand a term in a review or article. It will be a working progress with new terms added on a regular basis, so check back from time to time and have a look.

Cheers and Enjoy!

*Stay tuned as a new review on Comte Louis de Lauriston - Poire Cidre will be posted soon!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Golden Axe Apple Cider

When I think of the name ‘Golden Axe’ cider, I picture barbarian men with ripped muscles and long cascading brown hair slaying mythical dragons in a distant time. How this description would fit in with cider is beyond me, but funnily enough what you really get is a cartoon lumberjack straight out of a Super Nintendo game from the 80’s. In actual fact, Golden Axe was a computer game on Sega from the 80’s, so that’s a funny connection that I didn’t know. He’s a cute little dude, designed by an American illustrator called Mikey Burton and it really stands out. It’s quite a change from the many sophisticated cider label designs in Australia, a little cheeky perhaps? Anyways, I think it’s cool and it really caught my eye. To quote Callum, “We think the ultimate design really stands out on the shelf and lends itself to some fun brand-building concepts; so watch this space!” There you go!
So who and what is Golden Axe cider? From Victoria, It’s a project devised by Wine Marketer Callum Reeves, his wife Clara and his brother and homebrew nerd Nat Reeves. The slogan ‘The Home Brewer, The Wine Marketer and The Computer Game Designer – a golden recipe for an apple cider like no other’ I have to say is pretty hilarious and clever. Like many cider producers in Australia, their philosophy is to use fresh, local apples with absolutely no added concentrate or sugar. The apples used in Golden Axe consist of Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Sundowner and Fuji and all are sourced from the Yarra Valley, Gippsland and Shepparton. And what’s the definition of ‘winning’? - Having a mate who owns a juicing plant on an orchard in Melbourne’s outer East - and that’s what Golden Axe have in their favour…..lucky buggers.

This cider is claimed to be made very simple and reductively (no oxygen contact) to only highlight the fresh apple characters. Therefore, I was not expecting huge complexity or anything outside the square. What I did want to see was freshness and purity of fruit, structure and definition - all paramount in this style of cider. Now to the cider itself!
The colour was almost clear with just a tinge of straw evident. The carbonation was quite aggressive at first, but died down fairly fast in the glass. Nose wise, what first came to mind was that this was very fresh, very delicate and very feminine. Although the nose was quite subdued with no real punch, there were lovely soft and delicate fresh apple aromas. Other notes of tropical fruits, citrus and musk all added an extra dimension which was pleasing. It was a very one dimensional nose, but fault free and apple dominated. This definitely nails the brief and very typical of many Aussie ciders.

On the palate it tasted clean, fresh and pure. Nothing’s better than 100 per cent fermented apples! There was a nice balance of up front sweetness, along with a lower level of acidity. The lower acidity did leave a mid palate hole, but a good level of carbonation did fill some of the void. The mouth feel was very soft, almost cloud like and lovely fresh apples from the clean ferment complimented this. A really nice creaminess was also evident, and I wasn’t expecting this at all. The cider slid down the throat with ease; however, it did produce a fade away better than anything Michael Jordan could muster. It seemed to die quite fast which was a bit of a shame. But being true to its simplistic nature, there was no bitterness or astringency just pure freshness.
This cider was exactly what I was expecting. It was simple, fresh, clean and unpretentious. The simple nature of this cider would be perfect for new comers to cider. It’s not in you face, it’s not offensive, but it’s quite refreshing. You may argue that it lacks a little personality, but it’s made to a style and this needs to be taken into account. It would definitely be one of the most simple and straightforward ciders I have tasted, but that is by no means a disadvantage. Every cider has its place. You know what you get every single time with this example and many consumers would like this consistency. I found it was getting better with each mouthful too. I really look forward to tasting future batches of this cider.

Producer: South East Brewing Company Pty Ltd
Country: Australia (Victoria)
Alcohol: 5.2%

Rating: 6.5 out of 10