Sunday, 5 January 2014

St Ronan's Methode Tradionelle Pear Cider

It’s not every day a cider makes you sit back in your chair, taking in the finer things in life and go wow. It’s always the little things which make you so appreciative. The new batch of St Ronan’s Pear Cider is exactly that. If there was such thing as a Miss World Cider Competition, the St Ronan’s would not only win the swimsuit segment, it would also win the personality test too. It’s one sexy, damn fine looking cider with the added brains to give it substance. This cider wouldn’t ask for “world peace”, it would stand up and say “I AM CIDER, HEAR ME ROAR!” It would represent Australia perfectly, and take it up to the rest of the world. It’s a pear cider which makes you feel proud about the Industry and about what producers are out to try and achieve. Just to give you some background and scope on this pear ciders history over the past two years, have a read of these accolades:
2012 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – Bronze Medal
2012 Australian Cider Awards – Gold Medal and winner of Best Australian Pear Cider/Perry
2013 Australian Cider Awards – Gold Medal, best in class (Methode Champenoise/Bottle Conditioned Perry) and finalist for Best Cider of Show.

The mounting accolades and respect this pear cider is receiving is a testament to the crew at St Ronan's Cider – Troy Jones and Eric Driessen. These guys are producing some of the best presented and made pear cider I have seen so far in Australia. It's steering away from the more mass produced commercial pear cider, and being made with real elbow grease and flair. It’s meant to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than heavily consumed and mistreated. It’s real Aussie cider at its best.

The colour offered up a nice yellow straw, with a slight cloudy haze which got cloudier as more of the bottle was consumed. On opening the bottle, there was good pressure behind the cork and the cider poured with an impressive natural fizz.

The nose could only be described as heavenly. I would even go as far as saying divine (in my very best posh accent). Amazing earthy pear varietals leaped out of the glass with impeccable clarity. Super soft, floral and very pretty/feminine. Other notes of lavender, bath salts, lychee's and strangely enough coconut added focus and dimension. This was a nose full of aromatics, focus and purity. Absolutely stunning, loved it.

The palates ability to offer up so much generosity was another reason why this pear cider was at the top of its game. Beautiful up-front pear varietals were soft and sweet, but also very delicate and floral. Fresh and pure flavours of juicy pear impressed. A good level of sherbety/citric acid zing added structure, along with just a hint of powdery phenolics. The mid palate offered up complex sensations of creaminess and earthiness, which lingered to the back palate. The 7 per cent alcohol was well balanced with no signs of alcoholic warmth. If you closed your eyes, you could be mistaken for drinking sparkling pear juice. Just so pristine, clean and delicious. It was a perfectly balanced pear cider, with a nice level of dosage sweetness to round it out.

It’s now very understandable as to why this cider is gathering so much momentum in terms of popularity and quality. It’s beautifully made and pays respects to the Australian grown pears. A perfect cider to match with food too. This pear cider captures the purity of the pear so well, but also ones imagination. Beautifully made Australian real cider – what more could you ask for???

Check out the review on St Ronan’s Methode Tradionelle Apple Cider:

Producer: St Ronan’s Cider
Country: Australia (Healesville, Yarra Valley)
Alcohol: 7%

Rating: 18.5 out of 20


Friday, 3 January 2014

2014 - Welcome to the year of Cider!

Well here we are again, at the start of a New Year and back into the swing of cider reviews, articles and of course commentary. I am tipping a big year for cider in 2014, with consumers continuing to wake up to the faux, sugar laden RTD’s, shunning them and converting to more ‘real’ cider (I am starting to sound like a broken record with this!). My hope/resolution is to see some of the ‘me too’ producers (the sprinters) who exploit the popularity of cider get weeded out, and the true cider makers (the marathon runners) become more prevalent. What’s ‘me too’? Well the ones who make cider for the real reasons understand the history and traditions behind cider, utilise real apples/pears and have a deep understanding of the production. These producers will continue to drive this Industry into the future. It’s the greedy ‘me too’ leaches who take short cuts, exploit the system, use artificial flavourings and concentrates etc. who will eventually drive the industry into the ground, sending the popularity of cider back to the dark ages….again. What would be the point of building an industry which is still earning respect and reputation, if it’s to eventually die in five years’ time due to poor management and exploitation? And how could we forget flavoured cider? It always makes me so disappointed when an established cider brand expands their portfolio to include fruit flavoured cider – be it natural fruit, artificial flavourings or concentrate. Clogging up the industry with ‘fruit salad’ cider is something which in my eyes is only opportunistic and very dangerous. Why divert attention away from what really matters – apple or pear?? If Australian cider is still so new and misunderstood, why add this rooster to the hen house? Ok, so you can argue that I am just a purist, a traditionalist and am being way too picky and over protective. Believe me, I firmly believe in diversification, but these Frankenciders are a whole new kettle of fruity fish. I also have a mountain of people who agree and back me up on this sentiment. How about some investing into real cider apple orchards? Or into other styles of cider? Graft, plant, barrel ferment, bottle condition etc etc? I take my hat off to the state of Tasmania. These guys are doing it right and have the perfect model to work around. I guess the argument is you need to maintain/sustain your competitive advantage – bollocks. Selling your soul to the devil with these ciders. Remember fruit ciders are a fad, and what goes up must come down. They are a pimple on the face of the Australian Cider Industry, and have about as much credibility as corrupt Politian.        

I want 2014 to be the year where I stop being asked questions like: “Have you tried that new Japanese cider?” “What’s Perry?” or “Have you tried that cider with elderberry in it?” I understand this will almost never stop, but the sorts of questions I want to begin to hear are things like “What varieties can you use for cider?” “What’s the difference between eating and cider apples?” “Can you explain the processes of making cider?” or “What foods can be match with cider?” Once people start to actually think about how their favourite cider is made, the better the understanding will be. I am a Winemaker by trade, and some of the most common questions I am asked is about the actual physical production of grapes to wine. Funnily enough, I never get asked this with cider. If I told a punter, a sommelier or a distributor that I made my wine with a concentrate imported from Chile, they would leave immediately and I would never hear from them ever again. So why does cider get away with this? The artificial flavourings and colours are enough to make you sick, let alone the higher sulphur too. There is nothing sexier or more exciting than tasting freshly pressed apple juice straight out of a rack and cloth or basket press. Just magic, and you can taste that freshness in the final product too. So why stoop on that?? (It must be real fun picking elderberries, or ginger, or what other bullshit additive, squishing or opening them up from a imported drum and flavouring your cider pfffftt!). Cider making is fun, it’s fascinating and its natural, so what’s not to love about it? Why cheat that? Something I will never understand, no matter how much someone tries to convince me.     
Don’t get me wrong, there a lot of producers in Australia who are kicking arse. Their ciders are complete top notch, top shelf stuff and doing the Industry proud. But there is always those bad seeds who ruin the fun and reputation for everyone else. Cider Australia is on the case and are working hard to get some law and order into the Industry. This is VERY encouraging and it's going to ruffle a few feathers, but it desperately needs to be done. Frauds will be exposed, or better yet leave the industry which would be a win/win for everyone. I am tipping 2014 to be make or break for these types of cider producers. Its survival of the fittest, and ciders made with no passion, no thought and no integrity are just fat slobs with no survival instincts whatsoever. So good riddance to them I say.

So please when you go to purchase your next cider this year, take time to read the label, or research where the cider came from. Fake or dishonest ciders can be hard to spot, but most are pretty transparent in the end. If you’re stuck for a new cider to try, swing by All About Cider from time to time and check out the latest reviews. I only ever review cider which has been made from the purist of intentions. Remember quality craft cider can be costly, but I think it’s well worth the price. It’s better for everyone, better for you, and better for the producers who slave away at their labour of love. Quality over quantity! Happy drinking!