It’s always a worry. You put it off as long as you can, as if the delay will make everything taste that much better. Of course, it may not taste great at all! After a long winter and fermentation phase, there is always the question of whether or not the cider will taste good or not. This is even more pronounced when you decide to use natural (wild), rather than cultivated yeasts. A hundred cider producers in the UK will always say to use cultured yeasts… I’m not one of them. And maybe that’s the bit I enjoy.. will I get great cider, or will I get vinegar.
What I do enjoy is the simplicity of the process, that is the process I follow… do as little as possible!! Over Winter and Spring is the worse time, I am powerless to do anything. The juice simply ferments, slowly, very slowly. All I can do is wait, and I’m not a very patient person. I guess that’s the secret. Always keep enough of previous years to distract you from the current batch. It’s a nervous time, but I think this is part of the fun, part of what it is all about. When you go commercial, you need to make sure you don’t lose site of what it is all about. After all, it started as a hobby and a bit of fun, right?
So I’ve just taken the plunge. Ok, plunge isn’t the right word. I grew balls and went into the ‘store’ and started sampling the 2010 vintage. I can’t tell you how nervous I was, I’d been putting it off for a couple of weeks. I use a very small glass. At each vat I draw off a few drops. The sun was starting to get low on the horizon, and I held a glass up to catch the dimming rays. Nice colour: light, pale straw, and very very clear. I have 6 vats. Each one I tasted was clean, crisp, full of flavour and pleasantly dry. Phew! You don’t know the pain a cider crafter goes to in search of perfection, or even for just a half decent tasting cider.
So what next? Cider is racked and will continue to mature. At the next racking I will blend again to ensure that all of the 2010 vintage is the same across the whole vintage. It won’t taste the same though! I don’t want anyone to be under any misapprehension. Cider is a living product, what it tastes like today, it won’t taste like tomorrow. If you want consistency of taste, you should be drinking Magners, but that’s not ‘real’ cider right? The ‘Hard Core’ in your glass today will not be the ‘Hard Core’ in your glass tomorrow. The good news though is that it will tastes better. As the vintage matures, the taste refines, and no one yet has been disappointed.
So I’m now relaxing with a glass in my hand, comfortable that, for now, I have a half decent brew maturing in the background waiting to delight and challenge lovers of real cider. It’s not possible to rest easy though, and I won’t really relax until every drop is drunk… after all, that is why I’m making it in the first place. Wherever you are, whatever your poison, enjoy!