Monday, 13 May 2013

What's in my cider?

So I was innocently working away at the day job a couple months ago, and like most days cider was consuming all my subconscious thinking. What hit me and stuck in my mind on this normal, run of the mill day was the ever growing use of certain ‘safe word’ terms like: ‘made with 100% real fruit’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘not made from concentrate’. These terms hardly seem harmful enough to come under scrutiny or under fire, and conversely should be considered reassuring and factual. But after really giving it some thought, I was beginning to see another side of it all – had it lost its meaning? Surely not! Why would I even think that? I’ve said it time and time again, cider producers in Australia are proliferating like rabbits. The problem I was seeing was that many of the new producers seemed to regurgitate these same terms – almost making it the unofficial motto’s of Australian cider. I was torn and struggling to find an answer, and to get some outside perspective I even asked the same question on social media. I got some interesting responses too, from “yes, it has lost meaning” to, “depends on what product you’re selling”. I couldn’t stop thinking ‘how dare I’ see this in a negative way. But on the flip side, I couldn’t see how the terms had any meaning left due to them being splashed over so many new cider labels. It’s like when you ask your mate “which English Premier League team do you go for?” and they respond with “Man U”. You can’t help but feel like you’re in the presence of a sheep that only follows the herd (no offense to any Man U fans). But being used over and over again surely something loses its true meaning, and is then taken for granted?
Firstly, I take my hat off to The Hills Cider Company from South Australia. A few years ago, this new and super funky cider hit the market with the statements ‘100% Adelaide Hills apples’ and ‘no sugar or water added’ splashed all over the label. I remember being in total awe. You got that feeling of amazement and curiosity because the cider was from ‘real fruit’ and was ‘hand crafted’. In my eyes these guys were the original pioneers of this real fruit movement in Australia, especially in the sea of concentrated Strongbow, Bulmers and Magners ciders. Even today, The Hills Cider crew hold these statements in high regard and keep it as a strong philosophy for the company. I pin point that moment in my Australia cider experience as the time where I expected no less in quality from any new cider. But over the past year, the many new producers with their pledged cider oaths proudly displayed for all to see have left me thinking what would consumers think? “Oh look, a new cider made from 100% yadda, yadda, yadda with no added this and that”. “Booooooorrrrring, been there done that!” I would hate to think this is true, but maybe there is some truth in it? I am positive I am not the only person who has noticed this?!     

Is this bad? Look at 5 Seeds for example. It’s Mass produced, made from concentrate and tastes nothing like real cider. A cider like this runs on high demand, high profits but low integrity. Good luck to it, it’s probably making tonnes of money and making all the Shareholders happy. Who am I to judge? But where is the ‘made from 100% concentrate’, ‘made with added water and sugar’? To supply demand, it would be almost impossible to produce this cider from the magical 100% fruit, with no water or sugar! Where is this on a Rekorderlig bottle? This is where my thoughts begun to change and I was immediately punched in the face with a hard dose of reality. To have a cider which is made from fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit is a privilege. Maybe the ‘made with 100% real fruit’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘not made from concentrate’ is a producer’s badge of pride? Is it a revolt against the larger companies who lack authenticity and integrity, and who are not limited by what they need to display due to loose labelling laws in Australia?
The more I delved into this, the more I realised that seeing so many producers claiming the real fruit, no concentrate and no added sugar or water connection only had pure intentions. It’s not a marketing ploy, or a feeble attempt to glorify the cider. In the grand scheme of things, I begun to see this as paying respect to Australian growers and the amazing fruit they produce. Being a hard and difficult time for fruit growers, paying homage to the tireless efforts and hard work is nothing short of brilliant. It revealed a grand and exceptional cider culture in Australia which honours the raw materials used and the supporting of local businesses. Many consumers are unfortunately happy to consume concoctions of artificial flavourings and high levels of processed sugar in flavoured ciders. To know a cider is made from 100% apples or pears with no added junk would not doubt change peoples drinking habits, and reconsider what they put in their bodies. It really made me sit back and think that we are so lucky to be able to enjoy these ciders which the producers proudly made with  Australian fresh produce. Its pure apples and pears, the way the producers wanted it to be. So when you’re sitting back after a long day at work, check to see if your cider is made with pure fruit, free of sugars and concentrate, and just savour it. Sounds bloody great to me!


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