The Dark Arts Of Blending Our Latest Triple Variety Fine Cider
Y.D.B. Three Is The Magic Number
Principle Cidermaker Andy May explains the art of blending our new triple variety fine cider.
Harvest is just wrapping up here. You have no idea how satisfying that is to say. Whilst all cider makers will tell you how excited they are to fire up the press and to start plotting next year’s blends, the most rewarding and relieving sight is seeing those last apples float into the mill. No more early starts. No more coming home covered in apple pulp and yeast, just full vats quietly fermenting away. The Christmas break is in sight. Happily this year we have a great reminder of why we do what we do, the launch of a new Fine Cider.
It’s all in the blending
The Fine Cider range is particularly exciting for me. It’s an opportunity for us to be totally creative; to trial different fermentation styles, single varieties and improve our understanding of our craft. Only the best are considered for bottling. So far we have released two single variety ciders: the innovative Yarlington Mill on-leaf and the mighty Tremlett’s Bitter. Single variety ciders are a fascinating way to discover what each apple brings to the table. Although still something of a novelty in cider making, this is a practice well established in wine. I suspect when buying a bottle of vino you already have in mind the grape variety and region you prefer before the producer! However, not every apple has the depth and structure to create a satisfying drink of its own – this is where the art of blending comes in.
Blending requires a real understanding of what the fruit provides, and how best to marry those flavours to create something balanced and special. The best way to do that? Tasting, lots and lots of tasting. I think I must have made about a dozen variations of Y.D.B. before we settled on the final blend. This is what we ended up with:
Y. (Yarlington Mill)
Yarlington Mill is a classic bittersweet cider apple. The juice has a beautifully deep colour, fruity aromas and soft tannins, it makes up 50% of the blend. Crucial to this drink is its subtle sweetness that comes from the Yarlington. We filtered the juice before the yeast had a chance to convert all the sugar into alcohol, this preserves some of its luscious character.
Next up, Dabinett. The most extensively planted cider apple in Britain, by a distance. A robust fruit that makes a great single variety of its own. In 2018 we allowed some to ferment naturally. An incredible year for fruit sugars, it achieved a face warming 8.3% alcohol. Having quietly matured for over a year in stainless steel, its complex tannins had a chance to soften, allowing this cider to develop notes of vanilla and toffee apple.
Finally, Brown’s apple completes the blend. Originating from Devon, Brown’s is a sharp cider apple meaning it has a naturally acidic character. When we’re pressing Brown’s at The Cider Works you can always tell by the way its zesty green apple aromas linger in the air. We wanted to capture those aromatics by using a specially selected white wine yeast. Whilst making up only 10% of the blend, it is utterly crucial to bring balance and freshness to the finish. Acidity in cider is like seasoning with a meal, you really notice when it’s missing.
The perfect winter food match
The end result is a wonderfully balanced cider, lightly sparkling and deep amber in colour. I recommend serving Y.D.B cool rather than cold, this will allow the full expression of flavour. In terms of food pairing this goes well with winter warmers and rustic dishes. Cider goes fabulously well with spice, I recently enjoyed a bottle with a spicy vegetable curry. However, a perfect match is Sunday lunch – so I wager that this will go down a treat with turkey and all the trimmings at Christmas. Share with friends if you must, but personally, I prefer to settle into a bottle for myself, with the fire glowing and in my comfiest clothes.
Cider is not just for summer
The Fine Ciders are all one-off bottle runs, so when they’re gone, they’re gone (I have banked the last case of Yarlington on-leaf for myself, wish I’d saved more!). I hope you enjoy them as much as we love making them.
I’d just like to end on a plea. As the colder nights draw in and some of you start switching to imperial stouts and full bodied reds… remember, cider is for life. These ciders provide that rich, warming and satisfying experience you desire for those cosy evenings in. Available by the case and with Tremletts and Y.D.B gift packs, why not treat yourself and loved ones this Christmas to something special!