What makes a premium wine? Quantifiable uniqueness. By that, I mean Region: Does the region promote desired qualities in the fruit? Vintage: Were the grapes grown in a good season with good weather? Then there is the fruit itself. There are other factors in the production techniques. Get all of these factors correct and it will be generally excepted that you will have a quality wine.

The same is true for cider. The Kingston Black ’15 by Henry of Harcourt has regionality, vintage and highlights the classic cider apple, Kingston Black. We should be in for a good one.

Drew Henry, the owner and cidermaker of Henry of Harcourt, bought himself an apple orchard about 20 years ago. He had the option to bulldoze the lot and plant grapes, but the trees were productive and the grapes would take a year or two to start producing real crops. Many of his apples were not pretty enough for the supermarket shelves and ended up being juiced at a fraction of the value of the supermarket apples. Henry realised that to be profitable he needed to add value to the juice by turning it into cider. The early experiments in Royal Gala based cider weren’t up to Henry’s high standards. He realised he needed cider apples to make cider.

Even the world’s best winemaker can’t make Grange with sultanas

Henry went about grafting over the established trees, to old French and English cider apple varieties. Today he has 42 different types of apples. In his words “some are dogs… they’re hard to grow.” It turns out that the Kingston Black is hard to grow in this area but he persists because of the results.

Some single variety ciders are made with about 40% base of the cideries standard blend with 60% of the named apple variety. This is done to thicken out the cider and it’s rare to have enough juice from 1 variety. Henry of Harcourt make a series of single variety ciders that exclusively use the named apple.

The juice coming out of the Kingston Black is very sweet, 26% sugar this year. All the sugar will be fermented out. As Henry said:  “we haven’t killed a diabetic in 17 years”. It is also incredibly tannic. Tannins are antioxidants, as the juice flows off the press this oxidises quickly turning a toffee amber.   A cultured cider yeast is added to the juice. Henry has been using the same yeast for so long it has now worked its way into the very fabric of his cider house. If he wanted to use a different yeast this one would still find its way in and take over the ferment. It’s a good thing he likes the results of this yeast.

The Kingston Black ’15 is tank fermented and spends some time on lees while the most of the particles settle out. Without going through a filter the cider is siphoned off into the bottle. This results in a nearly clear, dark amber, still cider.

 

The Nose

For a single variety cider, this is very complex. The nose is full of thick and rich toffee even some ripe apricot and some lavender flower maybe even talcum powder.

The Taste

The play between the tannins and alcohol is interesting. The tannin is trying to pull your cheeks in while the alcohol, 11.2%, releases everything and provide a little heat.  The Kingston Black has a near chewy mouth feel. It is completely still, allowing every drop of flavour to hit your tongue. Waves of caramel into toffee, finishing in some lavender and Harcourt granite minerals. That finish is incredibly long compared pretty much with anything else out there at moment, 5 minutes later it still as a spicy hum. It’s thick and full, definitely one for drinking with food.

Final Thoughts on the Kingston Black ’15

As complex as a good red wine, as shareable as white wine.  It’s rare and elusive and should only be enjoyed with food. Which makes me wonder why isn’t this on the menu at some fancy restaurants. But if this was in a restaurant it would probably be upwards $80 a bottle. So let’s keep this 20-something dollar bottle of cider as our little secret.  

Product Kingston Black ’15
Company Henry Of Harcourt
Sweetness Dry
Alc/Vol 11.2%
Website henrycider.com
Country of Origin Australia
Region Harcourt, Victoria