Our unique soils and climate produce hops unlike any others on the planet. Now our cider apples are turning out to be just as distinctive.
With New Zealand’s largest cider apple orchard, Peckham’s Cider in Upper Moutere is the 2015 Champion Cider maker.
Caroline Peckham says there’s no textbook on growing cider apples in New Zealand. Like our hops, pines and people, cider apples do strange things when they’re imported here.
“Growing cider apples is quite different to growing commercial apples. We are mostly dealing with varieties that came from the UK, France and Spain, but the growing conditions in New Zealand are just so different we’ve been on a massive learning curve.”
Caroline and Alex Peckham bought an eating-apple orchard about ten years ago, and they have been converting it over to 7000 cider apple tees. It’s a slow process.
“We started grafting about eight, nine years ago. Once you graft you are picking off the flowers and any fruit for the first three years as the graft grows, then it’s into year five or six before you get a substantial crop.”
So it’s only now that the orchard is producing enough apples to make single-variety cider. In the past the Peckhams have blended different types of cider apples together. They still do – it’s important to juggle the different flavours to produce a balanced drink – but now they can also produce ciders made with a single apple variety.
“What is exciting for us is that as our orchard develops and those 30-odd different cider varieties start coming into production, we can start making not just apple cider but all these different types of cider with different characteristics, just like craft beer now.
“It’s really exciting and its great if people appreciate the fact that you are going to be making different ciders each year, because the cider is so closely related to the fruit. We’re not interested in consistency or making the same product year in and year out.
“What’s happening on the cider front is that you’re seeing the development of serious cider makers who are really interested in the fruit and what it’s giving them to work with. They’re really interested in making a good product, very often at the expense of making good profit margins, and to me that’s the essence of craft. That link to the land, where that juice and cider is coming from, is really important.
“I think we will see a time in New Zealand when people are talking in terms of terroir in the fruit. It’s already happening in the UK and America, and that’s when it gets really interesting, when you start seeing what different ciders are coming from different areas of the country.”
Peckham’s Knotted Kernel single-variety cider is available now, but you better be quick because it’s a rare one. If you’re in Wellington try it on tap at Little Beer Quarter. Say hi from Beertown.