It may seem strange, but cider made from traditional cider apple varieties is an extremely rare find here in Australia. Yet tucked away in Tasmania’s ‘Apple Isle’, in the Huon Valley, you’ll find an orchard of French and British cider apple varieties flourishing under the guidance of fourth generation apple farmer, Andrew Smith.
Willie Smith’s Head Cider Maker Dr. Tim Jones, who’s wife hails from the traditional cider making region of France, Brittany, and who has recently returned from a research trip around France, decided it time to unleash a more interesting and complex cider style into the market as the craft cider category soars.
“Cider drinkers are becoming more curious and treating cider much like craft beer”, Dr Jones says “We want to give them the chance to try something made authentically, using traditional techniques and real cider apples. It’s time to forget the sugar and focus on the real fruit and respect cider like we respect craft beer and wine”.
Willie Smith’s will release two ciders in the coming month, Willie Smith’s French Blend and Willie Smith’s Kingston Black. The ciders will be another one of the company’s limited releases and promises to both challenge and delight cider drinkers of all ages.
The Kingston Black is made from the classic English traditional bittersweet variety Kingston Black. To enhance complexity and structure, it has been blended with 10% Yarlington Mill, an equally famous traditional English bittersweet apple variety.
This medium dry cider displays intensely lifted Kingston Black varietal aromas combined with savoury farmyard complexity. Crisp acidity combines with concentrated tropical (lychee) and stone fruit (white peach) flavours and dry tannin to create a refreshing, complex and unique flavour profile.
In contrast, Willie Smith’s French Blend apple cider is the result of the careful selection and blending of 14 individual French Bittersweet cider apple varieties. It is a full-bodied medium sweet apple cider made in the French farmhouse style, exhibiting sweet apple complexity combined with drying bittersweet apple tannins.
It is golden in colour and displays intense apple, stone fruit and floral aromas combined with savoury spice, almond and straw notes. The palate exhibits a complex combination of deep bittersweet apple flavours and honeyed sweetness, balanced with structured drying tannins.
Willie Smith’s Co-founder Sam Reid agrees stating, “The Cider market is still very embryonic and is where wine was back in the 80’s. Back then people tended to drink sweeter, less complex styles, often made from table grapes. We’re passionate about introducing people to the wonderfully complex styles of cider that can be made from fruit grown specifically to make cider!’
These two ciders are one of many of Willie Smith’s seasonal releases, which all serve as a labor of love and commitment to growing the craft cider category and educating drinkers in Australia.
Willie Smith’s Kingston Black and Willie Smith’s French Blend will be launching at the Australian Cider Festival, this Saturday the 8th of October at the Malthouse Theatre, Southbank Melbourne. You can get your tickets at www.ciderfestival.com.au
Following the festival they will be rolled leading independent retailers and quality bars and restaurants nationally.
If you’re visiting Tasmania in the next few months be sure to stop in at Willie Smith’s famous cellar door, the Apple Shed. You can get your hands on these and many other interesting ciders at 2064 Huon Highway, Grove.
What: Willie Smith’s French Blend, 750ml bottles (6.0% ABV)
Price: $31.99 per bottle
What: Willie Smith’s Kingston Black, 750ml bottles (7.3% ABV)