Success, right out of the gates. I’m pleased. It’s probably worth mentioning that I wouldn’t call myself a big cider lover. I haven’t minded the stuff, but it’s taken a while to take a shine to it. So why bother then? I’ve been making apple wines, and although I enjoy them, some variety in the form of carbonation would be appreciated, especially on hot summer days. I also wanted to make a product with fewer inputs. Apple wines requires chaptilization, which means adding sugar to get the 12% or so alcohol content vs the 5-8% that the juice would naturally ferment to. I was using sulphites, pectic enzyme, acid products in some cases, oak. Then my recent visit to France inspired me to shed it all. To simply take juice, let the yeasts present in the juice and air ferment it, and leave it at that.
At bottling, it wasn’t terribly exciting. No carbonation at that point, just a semi-dry flat cider. But then, as it was supposed to, it gradually picked up carbonation from the remaining sugar in the fermenting must. Although not evident in the photos, it now gets a 2-3″ head of foam on it when decanted – which is sensible to keep the lees out of the glass. As the bottle fermentation continues, it keeps getting foamier, which is pretty darn cool if you ask me. No CO2 products. No priming bottles with sugar. Just plain old juice fermenting in bottle. Neat.
It now tastes lovely – far better than I’d expected, as cider can be pretty funky from fermentation smells that aren’t always pleasant. Since discovering that the austere acidity of apple wines benefited from back-sweetening with elderflower syrup – which softens the texture and gives it gewurztraminer/ehrenfelser type notes on the nose – we’ve been doing the same to the cider at times, and it’s damn good. Highly recommended. Ends up coming across like a nice white wine aromatically, with the refreshing carbonation of a light beer or bubbly wine. I find I prefer it as-is, dry, with food – and picked up with the elderflower as aperitif. At this stage, it’s not just me that likes it – others who don’t normally dig cider are also loving it. Success. Here’s hoping that bursting bottles don’t burst my bubble.