It was a good night for Peckham’s Cider.
The Upper Moutere cidermakers collected the 2016 Champion Cider Trophy at the New Zealand Cider Awards.
The Trophy went to the 2015 vintage Major Tom cider, which also collected a gold medal in the traditional cider category. Peckham's claimed the Champion Trophy last year too.
Alex Peckham is very pleased with his wins. “The competition is getting tougher, which I think is a good thing.”
Alex says New Zealand’s ciders are distinctly different from northern hemisphere ciders, and would like to see local judging criteria recognise local cider evolution.
“We need to look at the judging criteria because we are not necessarily making a traditional cider in the English sense of the word. I have yet to find a cider in New Zealand that would fit the criteria of a really good West Country English cider. It doesn’t mean they’re not as good, they’re just different. The criteria we use here, and also in America and Australia, tend to be drawn from English experience, and they don’t take enough notice of French and Spanish heritage either. I don’t think adding a New World category has dealt with the issue.”
New Zealand’s cider apples are grown much closer to the Equator than their UK origins. At 41⁰S, Upper Moutere is the antipodes of northern Portugal, so English apple varieties perform differently to the way they grow in England’s cider regions.
“We’ve grow a few Spanish and French varieties here but they don’t necessarily perform any better than the English ones. Orchards in Auckland are getting cider fruit from varieties that are grown in the West Country, so they are obviously quite tolerant, but even so, the whole growing environment for any European apple is totally different in New Zealand’s maritime environment.
“We’re harvesting a good month earlier than the equivalent apples would be harvested in Britain. Not necessarily much more sugar, but harvesting earlier. And so when we go into fermentation, unless you have temperature control (which we do), then your whole fermentation profile is different, because your temperatures are different.
“Certainly our cider is a different thing to drink than an English cider. The cidermaking practices we’re employing are similar to a cider operation in the UK, so I can only put the flavour differences predominantly down to the different environment.”
The Cider Awards were judged on the same weekend as the Brewers Guild Awards, which includes two cider categories. Zeffer Cider cleaned up at the Guild Awards, and collected a trophy, two golds, one silver and a bronze at the Cider Awards.
Peckham’s doesn’t enter the Guild Awards, and Alex questions the value of running two competitions. “I know there’s room for lots of different awards but I think the Brewers Guild should hand the cider section to the Cider Makers Association and let them get on with it. Take cider out of the Guild Awards. I know they’re served side-by-side on taps, but they are such different drinks, from the way they’re manufactured, right through to the nature of the drink.”
Just as the Guild is building a group of experienced beer judges, Alex says the availability of informed cider judges is improving in New Zealand. “The cider judging talent and experience is growing. The Cider Awards has a good judging panel, moving in the right direction and getting more cider judging experience.”