Monday 12 July 2010

The soul of 146 Cider (Part 1 - Egremont Russet)

Apples! Not just apples, but high quality heritage apples! Hampshire apples too no less... Southampton apples even!

I know I keep doing this to death, but really that is what its about – I cannot claim to be the ultimate apple nut (that honour is reserved for Rambling Steve Appleseed) but I do like my apples! This is why I list the varieties that go into the cider... I am proud of them.

What I want to try and do is to document the main varieties that go into 146... give ‘em a write up (so to speak). There are a few regulars that will always appear in a fairly healthy quantity; they determine the baseline taste of the cider. More than once, I have sat with a particular variety of apple in one hand and a glass of 146 in the other. Its not all that helpful (after all, there are over 25 varieties) but I can point you towards the ones you should be able to taste.

Rather than do the whole thing in one go, I thought I would start with my main desert apple (and one of my top 3 apples to eat too...) Egremont Russet.

It is said that you cannot make a bad cider from a russet. I happen to know from experience that you can make a bad cider from any apple! I have also tried making single variety cider from an Egremont Russet too, with interesting results. It is probably marketable but not for me though. I am not particularly an ‘S.V.’ person. However, the Egremont is a singular apple and very under rated. If you are going to do a taste test though, please use a quality Egremont and not one bought from one of the supermarket chains which have more in common with cardboard. You will find it has a rich, almost 'nutty' flavour, with plenty of sweetness and a bit of acid.

The Egremont is an early flowering tree, which is a good annual cropper. Depending on how much the fruit is thinned, they can be absolute whoppers; full of character – both sweet and sharp. They tend to be available in early October too, so right at the point the main cider fruit start to fall. The trees also have the peculiar tendency to flower a second time once the fruit has been picked, which is a nice sight in an all but green orchard.

The Egremont is a Victorian apple, first noted in the early 1870's. Commonly it is used as a desert apple, although in this day and age (where people go for smooth apple skin) its rough skin may put some people off. Just goes to show that appearance is definitely no indicator of character!

Within 146 Cider, you will get sharpness as well as the tannin ‘dryness’, and a residual sweetness (even though the cider is fully fermented). This is, in part, due to the amount of Egremont that goes into the blend.

Next time I get a chance to do this, I shall bang on about one of the main cider varieties, the one that gives almost total tannin/bittersweet bang – Tremletts Bitter.

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