Forecast Cider’s Fine About the Ranges is a strong, bitter-sharp, English-style cider using apples from an old Wairarapa orchard.
Forecast’s Brian Belluomini knows his apples – his day job is running Mela Juice, an apple processor near Greytown in Wairarapa.
Fine About the Ranges 2015 vintage (out now) is Brian’s first commercial cider, but the vintage has some heritage.
It comes from a cider orchard that’s unusually old for New Zealand. Brian estimates the trees are at least 20 years old, and they’ve been left untended for a few seasons. Several years ago Crooked Cider used this orchard, and fermented at Mela’s site.
“Some of the trees are eight metres tall and it was sort of forgotten about and just left in disrepair. Then the new owner called us and said, ‘Hey, I’ve just bought this property and there’s apples falling on the ground. Do you want them?’ We’ve been wanting to make cider for years, and we had a couple of spare tanks, so it was the right thing to do.”
The 2014 crop produced a bitter-sharp (high tannin & acidity) cider. All the fruit was combined into a single batch: “Probably 75% Kingston Black apples, a few Mettais, a few Sweet Coppin and some Cox’s Orange to round it out.”
The cider was left to fully ferment out, then sweetened with a small proportion of apple juice. The result is a robust 7.5% cider in a traditional English style.
The old orchard's 2016 crop has just been picked. “This year’s crop of Kingston Black was way down, maybe half what we had last year, so the flavour profile will be leaning toward bitter-sweet (high tannin/low acidity). That’s something I like, because ciders in general would vary from year to year. They shouldn’t be perfectly consistent.”
The next plan is to do some serious pruning over winter. “We’re going to work with the orchardists to get in there and get these trees more manageable. The biggest problem is that the fruit’s out of reach. You’ll get in there with the highest ladder and the apples are still three metres above your head! I’m in the trees and I’m climbing as high as I can. You get obsessed – you see this gorgeous purple apple sitting eight metres in the air and you have to get it!”