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!

1 comment:

  1. Well said, James. I respect your stance on not reviewing flavored ciders!