Three weeks after pressing our cider and with fermentation coming to a halt we were ready to rack off our first two (five gallon) tubs. It was a bit of a nervy process, especially as we were also going to be tasting it for the first time.
Hey, surprise surprise, it tasted fairly good, perhaps lacking in a little depth but not at all offensive. We were actually rather pleased with ourselves. We knew we had a good blend of apples and a good reading of around 1080.
We decided to take a sample down to Roger Wilkins cider farm in Somerset so that we could let an experienced cider maker taste our brew. It took a while to attract his attention ( it was really busy in the barn as it was Bridgwater Carnival day and everybody was stocking up for a lively weekend) so we had the usual generous taster from the barrel labelled ‘dry’. This made us very nervous as it tasted fantastic, mature, rounded, with a lovely deep lasting flavor. In comparison our cider was watery and fairly tasteless. When the time came I passed our sample to Roger fearing the worst but he was very kind and said in a few months it would be great. Thanks Roger. This perked us up, after all the cider is pretty young.
Now I’m no expert, but the thing about Roger’s cider and other traditional cider makers in the west country, is you not only get the taste of the blended apples in the brew but also the inherent flavour from the oak barrels where the cider has been maturing, probably for the past 10 months or so. The barrels look as old as the barn (see pics below including Frank Naish’s oak barrels) and have obviously been effecting and sealing in the flavor of the cider for years. Therefore what hope do we have of producing a complex and mature cider using only our sterile plastic tubs and plastic barrels ?
Will it ever taste as good ?
Maybe next year we should invest in oak sherry barrels imported from portugal or Spain. Now that would be an adventure. !
But for now we will wait for our cider to mature and hope for the best.