Autumn had just started to bite here in Melbourne, and it seemed like the perfect time to settle in and learn a lot more about cider, and eat some delicious food at Libertine in North Melbourne.
Our hosts, Zoe and Nick, packed their restaurant with cider makers, cider lovers and food-folk; offered us 12 ciders over four courses with plenty of cider making and tasting chat.
What’s not to love?
We started with a glass of Henry of Harcourt Original Cider – served as an aperitif like a champagne. This is made from Pink lady eating apples, a practice that is quite common in Australia, but very unlikely in France or the UK where cider apples are grown especially for cider and brandy making. I found the Cider to be very dry, short and quite acidic.
Then we settled in for:
Fromage du Tete, crackling and radish salad
Henry of Harcourt Perry – made from eating pears – tasted thin and very acidic.
Napoleon & Co Pear Cider – Sweet and inoffensive
Le Père Jules Poire Pay D’Auge – Complex, full and aromatic. Also organic.
Seared trotter (with truffles), gribiche & beans
Henry of Harcourt 2010 Yarlington Mill – this is made from a single variety of cider apple. I found it terribly dry, tannic, bitter and pretty much undrinkable.
Napoleon & Co Apple Cider – Apple blossom fragrance and pleasant drinking.
Cidre d’Anneville Cidre Traditionnel, Pays de Caux – a typical pasteurised cider – sweet smelling, but a dry finish little bit tannic behind your front teeth…
Confit pork belly, bourdin noir and Calvados Jus
Henry of Harcourt Duck & Bull draft cider – this had a distinct smell of pineapple lollies and was quite astringent.
Henry of Harcourt Kingston Black ’10 – another single apple cider and again I found it bitter. The apple variety hails from Sommerset, and it was hoppy and almost “beer-like”.
Cidre de Cornouailles Manoir du Kinkiz, Brittany – AOC cider, slightly sweeter than the previous two, orange in colour and effervescent. Had aroma notes of .. wait for it … manure, urine and asphalt.
Henry of Harcourt Last Apple 2008 – made from some Pink Lady apples that they forgot to harvest.
Cider Doux Binet Rouge, Pays de Caux – made from a single apple variety – the Binet Rouge.
Overall on the evening the attendees voted Napolean & Co Apple Cider their favourite, followed by a tie for second between Henry of Harcourt Kingston Black and Cider Doux Binet Rouge, with Cidre Cournouailles coming 4th.
I didn’t agree with them :-) I put all the French ones before the local ones.
I learnt that Cider in Brittany is made with indigenous yeast, can be pasteurised or unpastrieurised, and comes from hundreds of years of tradition, often from small producers who think that no-one else will like their cider as it’s “rustic”.
Our local “artisinal” ciders are made with champagne yeast and most often table apples. Only very special makers have access to cider apples, Henry of Harcourt being one, and Bress Wine and Cider being the other that I know of. There may well be more.
Cider apples are juicy, and very tannic and astringent.
Making Perry is a difficult proposition as the natural process produces naturally occurring sorbitol, also used as a sugar substitute.
Industrial ciders are made from apple concentrate and spring water and are nasty!
I also learned that 13 tasting glasses makes you a wee bit squiffy!