Driving through the Hunter, we stopped for lunch at Peterson House. Peterson’s have made their name in sparkling wines. Along side the restaurant is a cellar door. Hiding in the corner I saw a cider: Pokolbin Cider House 2012 Vintage Cider. So I thought I’d have a look.

I’m running on the logic that if your success at running a business based on sparkling wine, you probable have a sound understanding of how to ferment fruit. So my expectations are rather high on this cider.

A small sip at the cellar door told me that this cider was good. Good enough to buy a bottle for closer inspection. After the transaction, Emily, the helpful sales assist gave me a copy of her tasting notes.  These notes have mentioned a juice liqueur that was added to the cider to kick-start the secondary fermentation in the bottle and again to sweeten the final product. I thought to myself “What on earth is a juice liqueur? Sounds like concentrate. 9 times out of 10 concentrate is bad, I need to find out more”.

I got in touch with Shane Henwood from Peterson’s to find out what juice liqueur is.

The base cider is all from fresh juice. The juice liqueur is apple concentrate. It is added to the base cider after primary fermentation and prior to secondary fermentation where it provides the sugars for the secondary bottle fermentation. It is then used again in the dosage liqueur as the sweetening agent of the final cider – ala the traditional method sparkling but using apple concentrate rather than sugar.

Concentrate is commonly used in the UK by mid to large-scale producers, who wish to have a consistent product in production all round. An apples flavour will fade and distort if it’s stored too long. So juicing and concentrating preserves an analogue of the apples flavour for a uniform flavour all year round.  In this case the concentrate is added to sweeten and add complexity to the cider. I guess this is better than adding anonymous sugar with no flavour story to tell, but I can’t help but wonder, could the complexity be achieved thought the choice of apple varieties especially in a “vintage” cider? On the other hand you could argue that this concentrate  is 100% apple juice cider, but with some H2O removed.

It worth noting that Peterson’s other 2 ciders, the Draught and Raspberry Cranberry have fresh juice (not concentrate) additions at the end of fermentation to achieve the final product profile and sweetness.



The Nose

As you would expect from a cider made from eating apples like this, to the nose it smells like a green grocers. Lovely and fresh. The tasting notes claim there is a toasty yeast aroma and while it is there, it is quiet subtle.

The Taste

Vigorously bubbly but with a smaller bubble than the Small Acres Sparkling Traditional Dry. The best way to describe this is to take a big bite out of a juicy Granny Smith, the up front taste is that acidic hit you know so well, the finish is also like a Granny Smith a lingering sweetness that’s cut short by that acidity. Pokolbin Cider House 2012 is slightly sweeter than most bottle conditioned ciders. This sweetness does allow more fruitiness and even floral notes to come to the fore.

Final Thoughts on Pokolbin Cider House

I’m a big fan of the 750ml bottle.  (For my American readers 750ml is about this big) People are used to a bottle of this size being shared with friends. Hopefully with less of the “drink to get drunk” mentality and more slow it down and enjoy the hard work that has gone into making this cider. I think this subcategory of cider (bottle conditioned) will be the fastest growing in the next few years. Coming in around half the alcoholic strength of sparkling wine it perfect for the girls who, borrowing a line from Carlton Mid want to “Stay a little  bit longer”  And that’s exactly where this cider falls.  As sweet as the Yarra Valley Jazz Apple but not as elegant as Small Acres Sparkling Traditional Dry.

I can only hope that the “juice liqueur” is made where the apple a processed, in Orange, NSW and are not imported from like many of the big commercial brands.

Ladies if you’re in this Hunter Winery and after a sunny afternoon cider, the Pokolbin Cider House is not a bad option, its worth a try if you want a fun, appley, uncomplicated cider for sharing with friends. Proper cider nerds would wish a product called Pokolbin was made in Pokolbin and was made from more fresh juice.

Product Pokolbin Cider House 2012 Vintage Cider
Company Petersons Wines
Sweetness Medium Sweet
Alc/Vol 7.8%
Website petersonswines.com.au
Country of Origin Australia
Region Hunter Valley, NSW. Apples processed and maybe grown in Orange NSW

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