Sunday, 29 September 2013

Back Soon

Back Soon.......
Firstly, apologies for the lack of reviews and cider articles the past few weeks. I've been a busy little beaver! Judging at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show, writing two pretty lengthy magazine articles and dedicating my time to 'other' cider related activates has kept me busy.
I am off on a well deserved holiday for the next two weeks, but will be back invigorated and ready to get back to reviewing. A few special cider reviews to look out for first back will be of Tietons Reserve (USA), Lobo Norman (SA), McCrindles 2011 Vintage (UK) and John Hollows Ginger Beer (UK). 

PS Good luck to all who entered into the Australian Cider Awards! Best of luck!!  

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Goose Apple Cider (2012)

I must admit, The Goose which is made by vintner Gilbert by Simon Gilbert in Mudgee (NSW), has been on my bucket list of ciders to try for some time now. Firstly, the classy and contemporary label had me hooked from the word go. The idea of the ‘Goose’ was to represent a playful and naughty natured cider made to a traditional dry style. Secondly and most importantly, I got hooked because the cider was made using real organically grown cider apples from Orange. Fundamentally, the cider is a hybrid blend of cider and dessert apples. The varieties consist of the bittersharps - Kingston Black and Foxwhelp and desserts of Pink Lady and Granny Smith. The actual precents of the blend are a mystery but one thing stands out - the cider is made using malic acid dominated Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Foxwhelp AND is DRY! I’m sensing a tooth destroying, enamel rotting, acid bomb here. Another point to note is both Kingston Black and Foxwhelp are high in tannins, and this would be a great addition to the cider structurally.  
The cider poured a very pale straw with just a small amount of soft carbonation in the glass. Very crisp, sharp and under ripe notes of Granny Smith and crab apple flesh dominated the nose. Fresh lemons, grassiness and a touch of soapiness was also evident. I would label this nose the Semillon of cider (a young Semillon that is). Although very simple, it was super tight, fresh and zingy. Was there any evidence of cider fruit? Unfortunately not. This was a very dessert apple dominated nose.
On first mouthful, the cider offered up a very refreshing dryness which led into a mouth puckering invasion of malic acidity. Wowzers! This baby as predicted, was a super tart number with a strong acid back bone. Textbook Pink Lady and Granny Smith at play here, and unfortunately was a little out of balance. With dominate lemon/citrus flavours being so lean and green, the acidity was over amplified and confused. The consequence of this was that the palate weight suffered, leaning towards the thinner spectrum. Another disappointing feature was the distinct lack of bittersharp tannins - none to be seen! However towards the back palate, a woody character and also what seemed to be creamy note did add some much needed interest. There was also a hint of apple seed bitterness which I did enjoy and the alcohol was in good balance. 
This cider was made to be simple and clean and I think the brief was nailed here. One thing I do question is the lack of cider apple fruit presence. Kingston Black and Foxwhelp are famous for their high tannins and rich fruit. Unfortunately these traits were no where to be seen. It was very dessert apple dominated with its lean acidity and simple flavours. You may be left wanting a little more, but to its credit, it was very drinkable and would satisfy any mean thirst.
Producer: Gilbert by Simon Gilbert
Country: Australia (Mudgee, New South Wales)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Rating: 12 out of 20


Friday, 6 September 2013

2013 Australian Cider Awards

It's that time of year again where entries open for the Australian Cider Awards. The awards will be held in Orange, on the 9th of October. For the second year running, I couldn't make it along to help out! Argh!! Maybe lying on a beach in hot, sunny Cairns drinking cocktails isn't so appealing after all?? I wish everyone involved a great time judging. But I urge all Australian producers to enter this completion. It heaps to unite and strengthen our Australian Industry, and shows it mean business.

Please go to: or for entry forms and the Awards details. ENTRIES CLOSE - SEPTEMBER 24!!!! Don't miss out.

If having cider expert (my cider hero) Andrew Lea involved with the awards last year wasn't enough, the years international flavour comes from the US. Gary Awdey is a cider expert who is president of the US Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association. This guy has some serious cider clout, and will be a perfect addition to the judging panel.  


2013 Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show

Yippee! It's time to say my final goodbyes to my already ailing tooth enamel, and prepare for the all out attack and barrage of malic acid. All About Cider is off to Sydney to judge at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show on the 19th of September. I am super looking forward to judging again, and excited to taste and examine the many ciders available across Australia.

Again, like the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards in February, I will blog my experiences and perceptions of how the current state of cider is looking (in my eyes). I have a feeling it will be quite positive with some encouraging style evolution.

Wish me luck!!



Monday, 2 September 2013

Pagan Cider - Apple Cider

Pagan Cider is a relatively new brand in Australia, and like many commendable ciders, this apple cider comes from Tasmania. The apples, pears and cherries which are used in the Pagan line up all come from the Huon Valley. We all know the reputation this apple growing region has in producing fine, world class cider. Pagan came about when two men named Mick Dubois and Harry Moses started to make pretty solid batches of home brew. At the same time by sheer coincidence, Winemaking Tasmania (who most notably contract process wine), were investing heavily in cider making equipment. It was from here Pagan Cider was born as a commercial cider as the two forces banded together. The cider is now produced wholly at the Cambridge facility, along with Franks Cider.
The Pagan apple cider is considered ‘super premium’, and only made in smaller volumes with whole fruit free of concentrates, flavourings and sugars. Our Pagan ‘Oath and Law’ is the Pagan Promise. The dessert apples are sourced from fourth generation grower Andrew Griggs of the Lucaston Park Orchards. Pagan Cider has also been nicknamed the ‘Champagne of Ciders’, by who I don’t know, but to me it seems overly presumptuous. Big call, but the proof is in the pudding they say. So let’s have a look at this cider, and see if it deserves the prestigious hype.
The cider poured a very (and I mean very) light straw, and was filtered to clear. The apple had initial over carbonation issues in its first release. But it was great to see a new lowered explosion of bubbles, fading to a fine bead in this batch – perfect. The nose was a sexy little number. Seductive/feminine upfront citrus, fresh red apples, musk, peach and perfume added beautiful varietal purity. The exceptional cleanliness was fresh, crisp and very inviting. This was a simple nose but with impressively tight, elegant and inviting features. What it highlighted well was the power of the Huon Valley fruit. It did show the finesse fine champagne displays, so this must be commended.  
A balanced level of medium sweetness added great weight to the mouth feel. This sweetness was perfectly balanced with a tangy acid backbone and some phenolic grip. Flavours of pure musk, rich apple and sweet apricot offered nice, smart varietal characters. The cider felt soft and fluffy as it glided past the tongue with ease. The back palate did fall a touch short with the apple characters diminishing away into what seemed to be a sherbet character. The lower alcohol did not affect palate weight, and no watered down characters were evident. Again, this was a simple but effective cider. The palate was soft, well balanced with just a little fading out towards the end. However, it was a pleasure to be enchanted by its clarity and style.
I like what Pagan are trying to achieve with this cider. I felt as every mouth full went down, I was drinking a little bit of Tassie too. The cider is soft, flirtatious and seductive – it will win you over (and this is coming from a self confessed cider purist). I can see this being quite a popular offering, and I love how it highlights that a simple, dessert apple cider can be so charming. It actually reminds me a lot of the Napoleone Ciders from the Yarra Valley. I recommend you give this cider a try. Is it the ‘Champagne of Cider’ though? I’ll let you decide!!! Ha!
Producer: Pagan Cider
Country: Australia (Cambridge, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 4.5%
Rating: 14.5 out of 20