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

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