The pressing of our local apples is done, and our focus has now shifted to the Three Counties area, famous for it's cider and perry making tradition. This weekend was spent ferrying almost 2 ton of assorted cider apples from growers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, in readiness for the main pressing next week. The clear, sunny weather meant this was a great weekend to be in the Wye Valley, and particularly the foothills of the spectacular Malverns Hills. I managed to call in on a (very busy) cidermaking friend for a chat and a sample, and also visited a small farmers market where I was pleased to discover a cider and perry maker I hadn't heard of before (Newtowns Wines of Gloucestershire). All this, and I still managed to make it back to Leicester in time for the kick off of the Rugby World Cup final, accompanied by a few pints in The Vaults with friends and family.
We came back with quite a wide range of cider apples, including the 'vintage' bittersweet varieties Dabinett, Tremlett's Bitter, and Yarlington Mill; plus a few precious bags of the sharp, aromatic Brown's Apple (pictured above) which will help give the cider a good balance of tannin and acidity. Some of the apples came from a batch of mixed cider fruit, amongst which we recognised the scabby green/yellow of Bulmer's Norman, and some Sweet Coppin's which should help to moderate the hard tannin of the Norman's. We're very pleased with the varieties we got, and the quality of the fruit seems to be better than last years batch, which needed a lot of hard work to weed out the rotten and heavily bruised specimens.
When dealing with known varieties of high quality cider apples, it's often tempting to press and ferment the different varieties separately, with the potential to give you a more interesting range of 'Single Variety' ciders. I've always believed that the very best ciders are made from a good blend of apple varieties, and though single variety ciders can be quite interesting (and also make good commercial sense), they often taste a bit one-dimensional to me. We'll be blending the different varieties as we press, with the aim of achieving a single batch of well balanced cider. This is why we take great care in selecting as good a range of apple varieties as possible, though the vagaries of apple growing and supply, mean that the blend is always likely to change slightly from one season to the next.
Looking at the bags of apples now, the task in hand does look a little daunting for a hobby-size mill and press, but we've given ourselves the whole week to get this lot pressed, and the only thing we can do now is clean and sterilise everything in sight, and pray for the good weather to continue into next week.