Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Gwatkin - Medium Farmhouse Yarlington Mill

It’s not every day you can say you get to relive something off your cider bucket list. By this I mean I got the opportunity to taste another of the Gwatkin's wonder creations from Herefordshire, England. If you can remember, I recently reviewed their single varietal Kingston Black. The cider blew my socks off with its character and complexity. Here’s a snippet of the introduction.
“There are things in life which can really get you excited. It gets the juices flowing, and consistently ‘boils your potato’. But to get overwhelmed, humbled and giggling like a school kid can most often be rare. So when the opportunity to taste and review cider from Herefordshire producer, Gwatkin arose, I definitely experienced one of ‘those’ moments. The thought of tasting the traditional farmhouse ciders of Gwatkin made me nervous. I couldn’t help thinking, what happens if I am disappointed? Would I get down on my knees, with my arms raised and fists clenched yelling “WHY!!!!!” towards the heavens?  But at the risk of sounding like a true cider dork, I see the Gwatkin ciders as real, custodian cider”. 

The single varietal dry farmhouse Kingston Black cider set the bench mark really high for me. I got to taste the Gwatkin's philosophy first hand. Personally, this was unbelievably special as Australian cider lovers don’t have access to this type of real cider. Along with the Kingston Black, I also recently got the opportunity to taste their Medium Farmhouse Yarlington Mill cider. Yarlington Mill you say??.....well.
The bittersweet Yarlington Mill, characterised by its yellow colour, pinkish blush and red stripes, is one of the most commonly planted cider apple across the world. The apple variety was discovered in 1898 in the wall of a water mill in Yarlington, Somerset. Outside the UK, the variety has widespread popularity with large plantings in New England and the Pacific Northwest of America, Quebec in Canada, and Victoria and Tasmania in Australia. The success of Yarlington Mill can be linked to its ability to adapt to surrounding conditions, and be a reliable and productive bearer (although fireblight is its arch enemy!). It's later ripening in the UK, with picking tending to be around late October to early November. The popularity amongst Cidermakers is due to the strong rich flavours the apple exhibits in single varietal ciders. Lower in acid and tannins are also a common Yarlington Mill trait.

The carbonation is light, and the colour is a beautiful golden tawny. The nose hits you with bucket loads of sweet candied apple, spice, honey, raisins and cedar. Some oxidised earthy, dusty old barnyard notes add an element of layering complexity. A small waft of VA lifts the nose, along with what seems to be a whisky barrel character. All in all, superior nose. Big, broad and rich singing with wild fermented Yarlington Mill fruit. Big tick!
On tasting, you can’t help go past the thick and moreish natural sweetness. Where do I start? Toffee, spice and vanillin oak all come at you, it’s like Christmas in a bottle. These flavours funnily enough mimic a Pommeau de Normandie. There’s so much weight, with a long length of flavour and rounded structure. Acid is not so pronounced, however some fine tannins added texture. A slight metallic note is evident on the back palate, most likely brettanomyces derived. Wild ferment at its glorious best! How can so much be going on in a cider??!! Unbelievable and crazy addictive.

This is some quality cider here. Beautifully made at the Gwatkin's farm, and the Yarlington Mill fruit kicks butt. Yes the cider is a little lower in acid and tannin, but that’s the variety at play. Drinking this makes me want to pack my bags and head over to England again but this time for a cider vintage/harvest! It makes you want to get your hands dirty in apple pomace, sip away at freshly pressed juice and fill old barrels. Fantastic cider, made by true Cidermakers. Here’s cheers Gwatkin's!!     

Producer: Gwatkin Cider Company Ltd
Country: England (Abbey Dore, Herefordshire)
Alcohol: 7.0%


Monday, 16 March 2015

Wilmot Hills Vineyards - 2014 Dry Cyder

When it comes to tasting new ciders, I love to go off the beaten track. I make it my mission to find ‘diamonds in the rough’, where quality boutique cider lurks in the shadows of the big mainstream spotlight. These artisan brands most often than not suffer from lower exposure, and certainly aren’t as well-known as popular commercial Australian ciders. But if you dig hard enough, what you’ll find is dedicated Cidermakers who have been producing cider back when cider was shunned and not taken seriously. We are talking the 80’s and 90’s in Australia, when the popularity dive post 70’s became apparent. However, in this time of hardship, cider apples where being planted and cider was still being produced. Fast forward to 2015, these cider producers are still perfecting their craft and now seeing the rewards. Rewards? Well people are now buying and enjoying cider! 

Wilmot Hills Orchard
One of these producers I talk about is John and Ruth Cole from Wilmot Hills Vineyards in Tasmania. They are situated in the scenic Wilmot Valley, which is just a short 40 minute drive from Cradle Mountain. Here, John and Ruth along with their cider produce wines, fruit wines and spirits including calvados (apple brandy). All the fruit is grown on their property, with over 20 years of experience. The Cole’s produce cider in their small cidery/distillery using fruit from their orchards. They hand mill the apples and press both in a rack and cloth ‘cheese’ press, and wine basket press. Although John describes the cheese method as “tedious and messy, though yielding more juice”. Their cider apples were planted in 1994, and the orchard now boasts varieties like Yarlington Mill, Somerset Red Streak, Bulmers Norman, Improved Foxwhelp, Sweet Alford and Sweet Coppin. In 1995, the Cole’s also planted other unique varieties like Claville Blanc de’Hiver, Duke of Clarence, Egleton Styre and trusty old Kingston Black. The Orchard also includes many more interesting varieties which go into their cider and calvados. John uses the neutral EC1118 yeast, most commonly known as a rigorous Champagne yeast to ferment his ciders. 

Milling in the cidery
So you can see why I was so intent on getting this cider in my possession. I was actually meant to get a bottle to review in the new Tasmania's Table book, but the cider wasn’t ready yet. Bummer! But once it was, John gladly sent me one - much to my delight. The reason I LOVE producers like this are that they are old school. They know cider. Experienced producers like John and Ruth are who I look for. People with a cider brain and a story. Who do it for the passion, and make it the right way. They are not caught up in fancy marketing, and gimmicky/quirky advertising. Just honest cider which has been made for many years.
The cider comes in a 750mL Riesling shaped bottle, with a stelvin cap closure. The presentation is beautiful, with a spectacular art work being the focal point. Now I usually review a cider, then you the reader gets the idea if I am digging it, or not. But today, I am coming straight out with it…….I LOVE THIS CIDER. 

Colour, colour, colour! What a sensational colour. A beautiful golden orange hue encases the glass, likely arising from oxidatively handled cider apples. The cider shows no activity being still. So now the fun bit. The nose is a concoction of freshness, complexity and fermented apple goodness. Lovely toasty notes and orange marmalade are intoxicating, along with fresh green apples and floral shine. Deeper down, lychees, bubble gum and hints of lemon balance well with a woody earthiness. How can a nose be so beautiful? My notes read “an absolute fruit bowl”. This is some serious gear, showing tonnes of personality and purity.
Apple pulp after pressing
On tasting, what hit me was the palate weight for a dry, still cider. Luscious and oh so generous. The mid palate juiciness was super impressive. There was not a huge amount of tannins which I was expecting, perhaps oxidised out. But the tannins and slight bitterness from the cider apples added the texture I yearn so much for in a good cider. Sweets, bittersweets and bittersharps signing together harmoniously. There was a nice lick of alcoholic heat (9%), with a rich nutty finish. I liken this to a quality apfelwein in structure and taste. Reminds me a lot of the Weidmann and Groh Trierer Weinapfel which I have reviewed on All About Cider. This is quality Australian cider! Arguably, this cider is creeping into apple wine territory with its wine like character and higher alcohol.

This is a rare gem of a cider in a sea of mainstream saturation and standardisation. The cider takes me on a cider journey (corny I know), as it tastes so traditional and you feel like you're walking through an orchard in Herefordshire. This is my type of cider. Honest, uncomplicated and unpretentious. Made for the right reasons, by real Cidermakers. Bliss.  

Producer: Wilmot Hills Vineyards
Country: Australia (Wilmot, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 8.4%

Rating: 19.5 out of 20