It's harvest time in Australian orchards. Boughs are heavy with fruit and the promise of better times ahead. Hope dawns wherever sun-ripened apples grow, from the Huon Valley to Gippsland, Stanthorpe, Bilpin and Donnybrook – and especially in brave little Batlow, whose surviving trees are defying last year's bushfire devastation with a 2021 crop of exceptional quality.
Good apples foretell good cider, because we are talking real, Australian-grown, seed to schooner (or pip to pint, if you're old-world) juice. No imported concentrates or faux flavours. Like wine, authentic cider is about the fruit and terroir, with dedicated cider apple varieties, coaxed to full expression through all kinds of vinous techniques, from skin contact and barrel ageing to malolactic fermentation. Once you've experienced the astonishing complexity of a handcrafted methode traditionelle cider, you too will believe that anything grapes can do, our apples can do better. Wherever you live, it's likely an excellent cider maker is your close neighbour. Buying local has never been tastier. Here are three to try.
Big Red, Batlow Cider Co.
$19.99 (4x 375ml cans)
Batlow Cider Co. has been a tireless fundraiser for bushfire recovery, and its Blended range aims to boost Batlow family-grown apple consumption with some playful new creations. This one's an autumn ode to apple pie; red varieties warmed with cinnamon.
Napoleone Apple Cider
$19.99 (6 x 330ml bottles)
The Napoleone family has grown apples in the Yarra Valley since 1948 and their winemaker's touch ensures a balance of acidity, tannins and sweetness along with a whisper of oak to highlight juicy Pink Lady, Sundowner, Granny Smith and Fuji flavours.
Pomme, Small Acres Cyder
$18.50 (4 x 330ml bottles)
Small Acres has clocked up 130 awards and embraces the old-world tradition, growing more than 20 heritage cider apple varieties in cool-climate Orange orchards. Fresh-pressed apples deliver a medium-dry finish and crisp, clean taste.