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Friday 1 September 2017

Back to the future as new cider uses traditional apples

If you've ever been lucky enough to sit in a pub in Somerset or Devon in England and sup on a pint of their local cider then you'll know what Willie Smith's in Tasmania were aiming for with their new Traditional release. 

The Traditional is the first large-scale release from the Huon Valley company featuring traditional cider apples - and it sold heaps on tap at the recent Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival. 

"We feel that this is the next major development in the Australian Cider category as we start to take people on a cider journey from imported concentrate to Australian culinary fruit and now to Australian purpose-grown cider fruit," says Willie Smith's co-founder Sam Reid. 

The new release, available on tap in capital cities amd currently being released in bottles, uses old-world crafting techniques and rare heritage cider apple varieties.

Reid said Traditional was giving new life to often-forgotten cider apple varieties, which in-turn has potential to increase employment and skill development opportunities in the Huon Valley.

"Some trees in the William Smith and Son's orchard are unused and had no future," Reid said. "With demand for specific cider apples we have been able to repurpose them by grafting heritage varieties onto them to ensure long-term sustainability of the orchard and the dozens of jobs that go with that. 

"We have also planted new trees which require more management and different techniques and so we are growing the number of jobs and broadening the skill set required for the orcharding industry."

The Traditional Blend will only be available in limited quantities - but it will become part of the core range in the long-term as supply of specialty cider apples increases.

"We just need a few more seasons of planting and grafting cider apples to achieve that," Reid said.

Willie Smith's cider maker Dr Tim Jones said it had been extremely rewarding to craft the cider in the traditional old-world style but in a way, that fits in with the new-world context.

"In the same way that traditional French cider is made, we let our heirloom cider apples, which have very high tannins, oxidise before pressing," Dr Jones explained.

"This produces a deeply golden juice and alters the flavour and texture of the final blended cider.  

"Careful blending with culinary apples has created a softly structured and aromatic unfiltered cider that introduces the traditional cider apple influence in a balanced way to a broader market."

Reid believes the Traditional has the potential to open up export markets across the globe.

"Using cider apples means that Australian cider can legitimately compete on a global level against the best ciders from France and the UK as well as the US and continental Europe," he said. 

It tastes darn good - and offers a different gift option for Father's Day.

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