Several factors have slowed things down in the ciderhouse, chief of which is that we didn't start our cidermaking until well into October, which is several weeks later than the early season dessert apples we pressed in 2008. A minor difference maybe, but compounded by the significant change in temperature from warm and sunny September, through to the chill of November. Colder weather means a slower, steadier fermentation, generally considered a good thing for overall quality, but not so good if speedy results are required.
Another factor is that all of this seasons ciders contain a high percentage of tannic bittersweet cider apples. I've previously found that ciders made with a high proportion of cider apples tend to take longer to clear and mature than those made from dessert and culinary fruit. This year we have very little early 'Eastern-Counties' style cider to fill the gap until the 'West-Country' stuff is ready!
This season we're relying on the natural yeasts on the fruit to ferment all of our ciders. Whilst most cultured yeasts have been selected to ferment in the most efficient way possible, often measured in weeks rather than months, wild yeast ferments tend to be much slower, sometimes continuing right through to the warmer Spring months. It's quite possible that some of our later pressings may continue to ferment right through until early Summer, and therefore may not be properly mature and ready to drink until Autumn comes round again! Such is the unpredictability of cidermaking.
So, bearing all this in mind, here's an early-early tasting of this years very young ciders. I've named them after the highest proportion of apples in each batch, which usually constitutes around 60-80% of the blend:
Yarlington Mill - Pick of the bunch, though nowhere near ready. Tastes great. Rich, mellow tannins, some sweetness, lovely deep golden colour. Still very cloudy though (see pic). Promises to be our best cider yet when fully mature.
Bulmers Norman - Sharp and very fruity. Some tannin, slight peardrops. Still cloudy and definately one for blending.
Vilberie - Clean, balanced flavour, with some hard tannin. Light golden in colour and slightly cloudy. Sharper than the Yarlington Mill, should mature into a very drinkable cider.
Welland Valley Special (Dessert/Culinary) - Fresh, fruity and very well balanced. Slight peardrops. This has almost cleared and is tasting very good already, but should be even better by the time this years Welland Valley Beer Festival comes around.