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Getting to know your heritage cider apples

Discover which heritage apples are used to make your favourite ciders.

You would be amazed to find out what goes into making your favourite ciders. The art of selecting and growing apple varieties can be just as challenging as picking grapes for wine. Every apple variety has its own unique flavour characteristics. 

Small and boutique cider producers tend to use heritage apple varieties for their rich flavour. Heritage apples have been used to make cider for centuries now. Many heritage apple varieties originate from France and England where cider making continues to be popular. 

When producers start experimenting with different apple varieties and flavour ingredients that you get something unique. Developing a cider starts with picking the right apples and understanding the flavour profiles they have. Every heritage apple has its own unique flavour profile that’s influenced by three compound groups: acids, sugars, and tannins. 

Flavour characteristics

The apples you get in supermarkets today tend to be high in sugar, low in acidity, and have a low tannin content. The apples you buy for cooking like granny smith apples tend to be low in tannins and sugar but have a higher acidity. This high level of acidity helps to impart flavour as the apple is cooked.

The apples that most cider producers use are high in tannins. This high tannin content is what gives ciders a richness and complex taste. At the same time, you’ll find this high tannin content doesn’t make the apple tasty enough to eat on its own. To add sweetness to a cider batch, a cider maker will often blend with apples that have a high sugar content. 

Heritage apple varieties used in Australia

Aussie cider makers continue to use heritage apple varieties to produce complex and flavourful ciders. Here are just some of the most popular apple varieties used today. Many of these cider apples are grown right here at our Orchard in the Macedon Ranges.

Kingston Black

Originating from Britain, the Kingston Black is one of the most well-known heritage varieties used today. Kingston apples produce a bitter-sharp taste thanks to their high range of tannins and acid. 

Michelin

Originating from Normandy, France, the Michelin produces a sweet juice. Use the Michelin apple to produce cider and you’ll get a bittersweet flavour that’s perfect for blending with other cider apple varieties.

Yarlington Mill

The Yarlington Mill originates from a quaint little village in Somerset, England. It produces a sweet yet slightly astringent flavour along with an appetising aroma. 

Improved Foxwhelp

The Improved Foxwhelp is one of the most sought after cider apple varieties available today. With a rough acid flavour, this apple produces an extremely sharp cider that’s usually blended with sweeter apple varieties that need a bit of a kick. 

Bulmer’s Norman

Originating from France, the Bulmer’s Norman is instantly recognisable by its large size and light green skin. It holds high tannin levels and produces a bittersweet flavour that’s best complemented by blending with sweeter cider apple varieties.

How flavours develop during production

Fermentation

When it comes to making alcohol from fruit, the sugar content is crucial. During the fermentation process, yeast converts sugar to alcohol while apples impart their unique flavour into the mix. Picking the right type of yeast is also very important for developing flavours early on. The yeast needs to thrive in apple juice and produce the right flavour molecules that a cider maker is looking for. 

When the apples used in the cider-making process have high amounts of tannins, they produce a complex and rich flavour. If cider is produced with your standard eating apples you end up with a cider that can taste bland. 

Ageing

After the fermentation process is complete, the cider is aged. This ageing process can be done in a wooden barrel or stainless steel tank. Most craft cider makers prefer to use barrels for ageing because they contain flavour molecules from the wood and the drink that was in them from before. 

It’s during the ageing process for cider that extra flavours are added in. Some craft producers add traditional craft beer ingredients like hops. Aside from adding flavour, hops can also help the cider preserve. Additional fruits and ciders are usually added at this point to give the batch of cider its unique flavour. 

How we do cider a little differently

Here at Darraweit Valley Cider House we like to do things a little differently. We grow and harvest our own heritage apple varieties right here at our orchard. With an abundance of heritage apples to choose from we have the freedom to mix and match our favourite cider varieties to achieve the perfect balance of flavours. 

But we don’t just settle for tradition when it comes to cider making. We love experimenting with new flavours during the ageing process for our ciders. We dabble with real flavour ingredients like, hops, molasses and evern coffee until we find that special little something that makes a truly unique cider experience. 

Eager to try one of our new cider flavours? Head to our online shop and see what’s brewing today. You can also sample our ciders at our next farmers market stall. Don’t be shy. Come say hi! We love talking about our cider just as much as you love sampling it. 

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