Sunday, June 23, 2013

There's more to cider than you think

From the tannic to the perfumed, there are plenty of options to suit the adventurous or discerning cider drinker.

Australia's cider boom is well underway. According to an IbisWorld report, it is estimated that growth in market share over the past five years has increased on average by 19 per cent.

Cider Apples
A gradual shift towards on-premise consumption in mainstream hotels and niche establishments has been assisted by opening the market to new consumers, who would have previously chosen beer or wine. "We have noticed real trends moving away from traditional forms of alcohol, with the upside being that cider , craft beers and alcoholic ginger beer are seeing a large following" says a spokesperson from liquor supermarket chain Dan Murphy's.

With over 150 varieties of cider available for sale on the Australian market, bottle shops are trying to cash in on the interest, dedicating entire sections to cider in order to meet growing demand.

While Dan Murphy's says multinational producers with brands like Fosters and Tooheys, with brands like Strongbow and 5 Seeds,remain the top sellers and have larger marketing budgets, there is consumer interest in boutique micro brewers. "Consumers are increasingly concerned about provenance and the history of the product" says a spokesperson from Dan Murphy's.

But with any emerging industry comes challenges. Currently manufacturers are focused on protecting the quality and reputation of traditional cider.

Several producers have started to speak out about the largely unregulated cider market in Australia, in a bid to protect the integrity of traditional cider.

Jeff Aston, winemaker at Eling Forest Winery and Cider Making Services at Sutton Forest, NSW,  in says the big budget marketing campaigns of some local and international brands “seem to be taking the focus away from premium styles and towards more of a drink to replace RTD's".

Ready to drink (RTD) varieties, are characterised by pre-mixed drinks which include alcopops – often packed full of artificial flavourings, concentrates and added sugar. 
Now there's cider and there's cider.

Steve Dorman, owner and cider maker at The Hills Cider Company in Adelaide points out is that within the cider category, there are three methods of production: cider made from imported juice concentrate, often from China; RTD style ciders made from flavours; and cider made traditionally, using 100% fresh fruit.

"What I love about making traditional cider is that I get to do a vintage every month, and I have a large range of fruit to experiment and play around with," Steve says.

The differences between traditional cider and RTD varieties can best be summarised by Charlie Ostaszewski, co-founder of The Apple Thief Cider.  " Our cider requires craft, time, effort and apples, while RTDs require water, flavourings, ethanol and a quick turnaround to keep cash flow positive," he says.

At present the Australian cider industry operates without an industry code of practice and this is of great concern to boutique producers. "Some producers could use imported concentrate and add sugar and water and flavouring to produce a drink like a soft drink, but labels itself as a cider,"  says James Kendell, President of Cider Australia and owner of Small Acres Cyder.

Cider Australia, an industry body representing Australian cider makers, promotes the production of 'real' traditional styles of cider and aims to educate consumers about cider and perry (pear cider) in Australia.

A recent proposal by the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia to tax cider at the same rate as pre-mixed RTD beverages would see the tax rate on a glass of cider quadruple. "Any adverse move in tax, particularly in line with what DSICA propose would see many small producers like us simply shut up shop" says Rich Coombes, co-founder of Batlow Premium Cider.

In 2011, a decision to extend an apple brand into the cider market resulted in a joint venture between the NSW Batlow apple growers co-operative and cider makers and brothers Rich and Sam Coombes with the launch of the Batlow Premium Cider brand. After learning their craft in the United Kingdom, the brothers aim to follow the lead of Coopers in beer brewing and establish a high quality product capable of mass distribution.

Sam Reid from Australia's first Organic Cidery in Tasmania's Huon Valley says the growth in cider has benefited the Australian agricultural industry but warns that manufacturers need to work on label integrity so people know what they are drinking.

“We need to be labelling ciders made from concentrate and ciders made from imported products to distinguish them from locally grown or produced products," he says.

“There are too many 'ciders' on the market that use concentrates and have no direct relation to the fruit on the trees. I think as soon as people taste natural, there's no going back to other types,” says Charlie Ostaszewski.

The United Kingdom is the top producer of cider with the largest per capita consumption of anywhere in world.

Established in 1880, Westons is one of the UK's most recognised brands and now exports to over 40 countries, including Australia.

Roger Jackson, Westons Commercial Director says the company’s sales in Australia have increased every year, since it began trading here in 2005. Australia is now Weston’s third largest export customer.

"Much needs to be done when it comes to educating Australian consumers, particularly with regard to the differences in quality, style, provenance and authenticity,” he says.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A weekend in the Hunter Valley

The heavy rain follows us up the highway to the Hunter Valley, just over two hours north of Sydney. For many, rain is not conducive to a relaxing weekend away, especially when there are vineyards to explore. I however, love it.  Thoughts of being curled up near a warming log fire, glass of wine in hand, delicious food and good company are simply perfect.

The sub-tropical climate of the Hunter Valley is known as one of the hottest and wettest regions in Australia. On hot days, mountains to the west and north provide relief by funnelling cool ocean breezes in to the area.

In the 1960’s the Hunter Valley produced its first commercial bottle of wine and is now home to one of Australia’s best wine regions.

Lobby - Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
We check in to our accommodation at the Crowne Plaza, a deluxe resort situated amongst the picturesque vineyards in the suburb of Lovedale. 
Deluxe Room

After a brief tour of the hotel we relax for a while in our room before lunch at Redsalt - the hotel’s signature restaurant. Each year Redsalt plays host to the Lovedale Long Lunch, a progressive food and wine trail event around seven Lovedale vineyards held in late May.

Hosted by Scottish Chef Gavin Robertson and Lindsay Whaling the owner of Sandalyn Wines, we begin with alternate seared Atlantic salmon with Thai noodle salad, chilli lime reduction and char-grilled white Pyrenees lamb cutlets with ratatouille, potatoes and caramelised balsamic onions. The salmon is matched by a glass of Sandalyn Estate Verdelho and the lamb, a bold Shiraz. Both are really good.

Dessert is a white and dark chocolate cheesecake with berry compote and a cheese plate of Hunter Valley Brie and smoked cheddar with fruit chutney and lavosh.

After lunch, we explore some of the local vineyards and a during a visit to the Hunter Valley Cheese Shop, I literally bump into my high school English teacher who I was only talking about the night before with a close friend from school. A lovely surprise after all these years.

After stumbling across a cute little café called Enzo’s in nearby Pokolbin we share a plate of fresh hot scones with jam and cream for afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea @ Enzo's Cafe
Scones @ Enzo's
Later that evening we relax next to the fire at the hotel’s lobby bar, home to an extensive whisky collection. After two delicious whisky cocktails we enjoy a hearty grilled steak in the restaurant.

Amuse Bouche - Mushroom Soup
Lobster Salad Entree
Delicious Steak - served with roast roma tomato, a choice of potato purée, potato gratin or hand cut chips & a choice of condiment

The next morning we indulge in spa treatments at the Tea Tree Spa. Pete opts for a relaxing massage and I choose an Eminence Organic facial which is heavenly.

Tea Tree Spa

Golf Course - Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
From extensive conference facilities, an on site golf course, relaxing day spa, and complimentary kids club, the hotel holds wide appeal.  Also, very exciting are plans to develop an on site brewery by owner of Sydney Brewery and maker of Sydney Cider - Which will make the perfect spot to enjoy Cider Sunday.


Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
430 Wine Country Drive
Lovedale NSW 2325
Tel: (02) 4991 0900

Sandalyn Wilderness Estate
162 Wilderness Road, Rothbury
Hunter Valley, NSW, 2321 
Tel:(02) 4930 7611

To find out more and plan your visit to the next Lovedale Long Lunch click here

The Food Mentalist and Pete stayed as guests of Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cider Sunday - Ripe Apple Cider

Ripe Cider is bottled by Mountain Cider in the upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales, and produced by cider maker Ian Long. At this stage little is known about Ian Long, although the website tells us all will be revealed soon. 

A clear, refreshing drinkable cider with a strong yet balanced acidic structure, medium sweetness and a very fine almost non existent carbonation. With no complex structures or flavour profiles this one is a good standard, entry level cider that will appeal to most, particularly those new to drinking cider.

Made using 100% pure Australian crushed apples with no added sugar or concentrates, this cider also boasts a low carb profile with only 6.5 grams of carbohydrate per 330ml bottle.

Having recently changed their packaging the team at Ripe also appear to have engaged a brand ambassador - burlesque dancer and barmaid Aspen D Mayers which makes this cider marketing campaign different to most and brings with it a little vintage. According to the team at Ripe, you can follow Aspen's cider 'adventures' via social media. 

At 4.5 % a 330ml will provide you with 1.2 standard drinks.

A good cider to drink on the weekend and for those who are trying to watch their carb intake.

Available at most bottle shops.

The Food Mentalist purchased Ripe cider at Camperdown Cellars for $3.20 ( 330ml).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cider Sunday - Sitting Ducks Apple Cider

Happy Cider Sunday, its been two weeks since my last Cider post. I hope you have all been enjoying some great ciders. There are now so many to choose from.

One of the newest ciders to hit the Australian market is Sitting Ducks Cider from the Adelaide Hills. 

I recently asked Nick Penprase from Sitting Ducks Cider about the history behind the brand name.

"Essentially the sitting ducks brand evolved around competing & dealing with multi nationals as they keep putting pricing pressure on small family owned business’s.
Hence, we are sitting ducks ! " he said.

Starting out with a pear cider aptly titled Peary the team at Sitting Ducks Cider have only recently added an apple variety to their range.

Both ciders are made using 100% fresh juice sourced from the Ashton fruit Co-op in the Adelaide Hills. The fruit is handpicked in the cooler climate of the Adelaide Hills which gives this cider a natural straw like colour and earthy taste.

This cider is more of a traditional style well balanced cider. With light apple aromas, it has a fine carbonation and is not very sweet. A medium acidic profile creates a very refreshing cider. This is definitely a cider that beer drinkers will enjoy as it is somewhat yeasty and has minimal sweetness.

At 6% alcohol this is one of the stronger ciders on the market. A 330ml bottle will provide you with 1.6 standard drinks.

This cider is great served with or without ice.  It will pair well with spicy Asian flavours and/or roast barbecued meats.

Single 330ml bottle $4.99
Four Pack $15.49
Carton (24) $79.99

At selected liquor stores. To find out your nearest stockist call (08) 8562-2142
Their website will be up and running in the next week here:

For those of you in Australia, I hope you are enjoying the long weekend.