In recent years cider has been the fastest growing category among alcoholic beverages and according to industry commentators this trend will continue. Perry, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pear juice (incorrectly called pear cider) is also deservedly gaining popularity.

Much of the cider and perry sold in consumer liquor retail outlets might be better called glucose wine! Based on reconstituted juice, lots of water, colouring, flavouring and added sugar these mass market beverages bear little resemblance to traditionally fermented beverages made with little more than fresh apple or pear juice, a little yeast and the cider-maker's craft.

Just as the growth in sales of cask wine some decades ago foreshadowed the emergence of just the opposite - passionate, small-scale wine-makers proudly offering their crafted products at the cellar door, the last decade has seen the emergence of dedicated craft cider and perry makers. Many are producing award winning varietals and blends and winning legions of fans.

At Heritage Fruit Trees we see this trend in growing demand for orchard level numbers of cider and perry varieties and strong demand for our workshops.

Any apple or pear variety can be used to make an alcoholic beverage. Cider is produced when yeast, wild or cultivated, converts the natural sugars in juice into alcohol through fermentation.

But not all varieties are the same when it comes to making quality cider and perry. The taste is a combination of sweetness, acidity and tannins combined with the unique flavours embodied in each variety.

Some varieties, called vintage cider varieties, combine the principle taste components in a balanced way.

Other cider varieties may be stronger in some taste components than others and are used in blends to create ciders with just the right balance of sweetness, acid and tannin. Many of these deserve a place in a well-rounded cider orchard.

These varieties are the ones most often used to make single variety, or varietal, ciders. They contain a balance of sugars, acid and tannins along with distinctive and often complex flavours specific to each variety. Vintage qualities are said to improve with the age of the tree.

KINGSTON BLACK

  • One of the best.
  • Bittersharp, late mid-season.
  • Difficult to grow, biennial, a shy bearer.
  • Fruit is small, dark red over yellow-green base.
  • Excellent tasting juice, unlike most cider varieties.

YARLINGTON MILL

  • Medium bittersweet, late mid-season
  • Large fruit, pinkish-red flush over yellow base.
  • Good commercial cropping habit, can tend to be biennial without skilled pruning.
  • Stores reasonably well, excellent all round performer.

DABINETT

  • Outstanding vintage quality
  • Bittersweet, late mid-season
  • Medium sized fruit, dark red stripe over greenish yellow base.
  • The tree is of low vigour, part self-fertile and crops well.

BROWN SNOUT

  • ALERT - limited range in Australia
  • Dessert wine-like qualities
  • Bittersweet, late
  • Yellow-green coloured fruit, russeted, rarely slight pink-orange flush
  • Combination of very high chill requirement and late flowering results in few useful crops except in areas with cold, long winters.

STOKE RED

  • ALERT - limited range in Australia
  • One of the best.
  • Bittersharp, late season.
  • Very high chill requirement 2500 hours.
  • Fruit small, striped dark red over yellow to greenish-yellow skin.
  • Only suitable for higher elevations with cold and long winters. Very late to flower, there are few reliable pollination partners.

The Perry varieties, with the exception of Beurre Bosc, are probably the result of crosses between the domesticated European pear and closely related wild species. They are far too astringent for eating, but the presence of high levels of tannins results in nuanced flavour profiles when fermented.

Unlike apples pears contain sorbitol, a natural sweetener not readily converted to alcohol by yeast, which means that after fermentation the resulting beverage is still sweet. Sorbitol also contributes a softer mouthfeel and increased body.

Unfortunately many perry pear varieties have been lost and, in any event, very few have made it to Australia. These are the major varieties currently available in Australia:

  • Gin
  • Yellow-Huffcap
  • Moorcroft
  • Green Horse
  • Beurre Bosc

There are dozens of cider apples including both pure cider varieties and multi-purpose varieties also good for eating, cooking or juicing. Both types have a place in a well-rounded cider orchard.

Along with the vintage varieties already mentioned, here are some others that we consider mainstays of any cider operation.

BULMER'S NORMAN

  • Very useful blender
  • Bittersweet, early season
  • Yellow to green fruit colour, slight orange flush
  • Vigorous trees, tending biennial, triploid
  • Ideal to add tannic notes in blends with other varieties

MICHELIN

  • Good quality varietal, ideal blender
  • Bittersweet, mid-season.
  • Fruit small; conical, sometimes pointed, yellowish-green, only slight blush; stem basin russet
  • Generally reliable yields.
  • Stores reasonably well, excellent all round performer.

IMPROVED FOXWHELP

  • Good quality cider
  • Mild bittersharp, early
  • Striped bright red over pale yellow base.
  • Ideal blender, can be biennial.

Others to consider:

Bittersweet varieties

  • ANTOINETTE
  • SOMERSET REDSTREAK
  • CIMETIERE DE BLANGY
  • CLOZZETTE
  • TREMLETT'S BITTER

Sweet varieties

  • SWEET ALFORD
  • CHATAINGNER
  • BELLE CAUCHUSE
  • SWEET COPPIN
  • SUGAR-LOAF PIPPIN
  • EGGLETON STYRE
  • REINE DES HATIVES

Bitter varieties

  • FREQUIN ROUGE
  • DE BOUTTEVILLE

Sharp varieties

  • BROWN'S APPLE
  • BLANCHET
  • FRENCH CRAB
  • VERITE

Bittersharp varieties

  • BREAKWELL'S SEEDLING
  • FOXWHELP

If your aim is to grow cider apples on a commercial scale, either to provide apples or juice to specialist cider makers or go the whole hog and produce cider as well, unless you have a background in commercial orchards, it pays to proceed with caution.

Many of our customers have started by attending our Orchard Establishment Workshop first followed by the Traditional Cider-making Workshop before making a larger investment in establishing an orchard.

We have also had commercial orchardists and established winemakers attend the Cider-making Workshop to assist in adding cider-making to their existing operations.

We always encourage new entrants to start by buying a few trees initially to get some experience in growing while preparing their land over one or several seasons focusing on a range of measures to build fertility, control difficult weeds and plan and establish necessary infrastructure.

A little preparation in the early years will inevitably result in a much better long term outcome.

We can offer significant discounts for forward orders of larger large quantities of trees.