Tuesday 16 January 2018

Cider - more Sauvignon than Scrumpy

Cockagee cider producer Mark Jenkinson in Stackallen, Slane Photo: Justin Farrelly
Cockagee cider producer Mark Jenkinson in Stackallen, Slane Photo: Justin Farrelly
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

It's fair to say that cider is in drastic need of an image overhaul.

The much-maligned drink has a terrible reputation - associated with teenage binge-drinking, and two-litre bottles of Devil's Bit.

Author Kristin Jenson
Author Kristin Jenson

But contrary to widely held opinion, cider is a very sophisticated drink with tannins, tones, and a variety of tastes.

In fact, with its flower-filled orchards, annual harvest, pressing and fermentation process, a bottle of artisan Irish cider shares more similarities with Sauvignon than Scrumpy Jack.

"Cider is apple wine," says Kristin Jenson, the co-author of 'Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider'.

"It is based on a similar fermentation process, the types of apples used differ region to region, and there is huge variety from crisp and refreshing cider, to sweeter and stronger-tasting stuff."

The comparison may seem a little far fetched if you're only used to drinking big brand cider - some of which can contain as little as 35pc apple juice. (The rest is water, and, you guessed it, sugar.)

But proper cider is made from nothing but tart, and crunchy Bramley's Seedlings, Kerry Pippins, Elstars and Dabinett apples.

"Those sugary drinks are more like alcopops than cider," Ms Jenson says.

"Cider made of 100pc apples is something completely different."

As it turns out, many Irish cider producers come from wine-producing backgrounds; Orpens Cider was crafted by award-winning South African wine producer Bruce Jack, while Simon Tyrell of Craigies Cider produces wine in France.

It also has a rich history and heritage; Slane-based cider producer Mark Jenkinson has been making pure keeved cider Cockagee for several years.

He says is reviving an Irish cider that was first mentioned in 1664. The name Cockagee originates from the Gaelic 'Cac a gheidh' which (loosely) translates as 'green goose turds'.

Thankfully, Cockagee has also been dubbed 'Champagne cider' which sounds a little more appetising.

"Cider should be Ireland's national drink," Mr Jenkinson says. "All the ingredients are around us, it has a history, and it's made from natural ingredients. We need to appreciate it more."

Outside of Ireland, the cider industry is booming.

Globally, the consumption of cider rose by an estimated 50pc between 2004 and 2013. In that same period, however, cider production in Ireland fell by more than 20pc.

This is partially because, while Irish microbreweries producing less than 30,000 hectolitres benefit from an excise tax rebate of 50pc, there is no such helping hand when it comes to small-scale Irish cider production.

Rebirth

This makes things tricky, especially when you're competing with the likes of Bulmers which holds an 86pc share of Ireland's on-trade market and 47 pc of the off-trade market.

"It makes a big difference," Olan McNeece of Dan Kelly's Cider says. "It adds an additional 50c to €1 at the bar. So there's a clear discrepancy between the craft beer and the Irish cider markets."

Cider producers are hopeful this could be rectified in the coming years and with a little TLC and marketing the fuzzy, tangy drink will gain more traction.

"We're on the cusp of a rebirth," Mr Jenkinson says. "Cider is extremely popular in America, and usually when America sneezes, we catch a flu soon after."

Irish Independent

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