The reds and golds of autumn signal harvest time for Tasmanian apples and pears, which for cider maker Mark Robertson of Lost Pippin means the beginning of months of endeavour transforming the fruit into complex cider and perry.
In the apple and pear orchards across the State, pickers are hard at work relieving the trees of their fruit. Each year there is fruit that is not suitable for the eating market, but Mark sees this as an opportunity to add to, tweak and transform into bottles of golden liquid.
Often called the Apple Isle, the Tasmanian apple industry reached peak production in 1964 with 8.9 million boxes of apples exported around the world. However after the apple boom many apple orchards were torn down. But all is not apple doom and gloom. Today, Tasmanian cider is gaining a well-deserved reputation as something special and cider makers such as Mark have joined forces to establish the Tasmanian Cider Trail, stretching from Spreyton in the North, down the Tamar Valley to the Coal River and Huon Valleys in the south.
Mark says he “fell into” the tradition of cider making. Apart from recognising a local marketing opportunity, his work at the Grove Heritage Nursery in the Huon Valley meant that he had “great access to great genetic resources, a good infrastructure”, which together with his background in wine making all coalesced to deliver delicious ciders and perry, from wild and funky, to sparkling and still.
Grove Heritage Nursery in the Huon Valley is a treasure trove of over 600 varieties of apple, pear and quince trees. Working as manager at the nursery immersed him in the world of apples and pear trees and he realised an opportunity to take advantage of excess fruit harvests.
At his farm in the Coal River Valley, Mark, who has a background in viticulture, is planting traditional heritage cider apples to complement the left-over fruit that would otherwise have little value. The base of the Lost Pippin cider making ritual is this local fruit sourced from the Huon and Tasman Peninsula. Mark then works with heritage cider fruits, natural wild yeasts and seasonal vagaries to craft complex cider varieties. There is nothing added, says Mark, just the unadulterated flavour of the fruit.
Lost Pippin produces different styles of cider and perry. The Wild Tasmanian Apple cider celebrates wild yeasts, astringent dessert apples to produce a funky, structured and off dry tasty beast, bursting with complex apple character.
The Sparkling Tasmanian Apple Cider is a refreshing expression of sweet, vibrant and perfumed apples such as the Gala, Fuji and Sundowner.
A special blend of pears together with champagne yeast produces the Sparking Pear Tasmanian Perry that is fruity, floral, soft and not crazy sweet. Each year the Cranston Perry is crafted from Cranston pears produced on trees more than 100 years old, and is a complex, traditional and unique perry. The Lost Pippin Heritage pays homage to a dry English vintage style and uses heritage apples, is aged in oak and bottle fermented.
As the last of the Autumn raspberries, strawberries and corn bid us farewell, market baskets are brimming with new season apples, pears, hazelnuts, celeriac, luscious green leafy vegetables, all a perfect accompaniment to a bottle of Tasmanian cider. Mark will be at Harvest Launceston Community Farmers Market this Saturday for a tasting and some advice on which cider goes best with what.