2015 L’Orpheline ‘Sauvage’ sparkling cider now available

It is with some pride that we are now ‘officially’ releasing our 2015 L’Orpheline Sauvage sparkling cider. It is without doubt our best cider yet, with a little dance of bubbles on the palette, a clean taste and dry finish. I like to explain to people that it is best appreciated as ‘champagne’ made from apples, because it is probably the apéro most similar to that famous bubbly wine from France.

This year’s Sauvage is made from two apple varieties — red Jonathan & granny smith — and it is about 7% alcohol by volume (a little stronger, but smoother, than the 2014 vintage).

I also tried something a little different this year, but you need a little Cider-Making 101 to understand why this change was important.

Unlike in the juice from grapes, wild yeasts (and we only ever use wild-yeast fermentation in the barrel) tend to have a little trouble surviving on apple juice alone, which means that ciders fermented this natural way tend to finish fermenting well before all the sugars are consumed. This results in ciders that tend to be on the sweet side, and also why completely dry ciders like L’Orpheline are exceedingly rare (especially in Australia; think of the ciders you typically get on tap in the pub).


Beautiful apples!

Apples, apples, apples! Wow, what a year we have had!

Northern Spy

A Northern Spy apple, a variety discovered around 1800 in Upstate New York and happily growing on Tansley Farm.

On Tansley farm, we have five heirloom varieties of apples. The trees are a remnant of an orchard probably planted in the 1950s or ‘60s. Thirteen trees are left to their beautiful, gnarled and twisted ways, allowed to grow how they want with no irrigation, pruning or spraying. The only fertilisers they get are the packages left by our sheep and chickens.

Due in part to our hands-off approach, our yield varies wildly from year to year, and that is okay with us. Some years the fruit set is minimal but the individual fruits are large (and then the parrots come visiting and it is all over, red rover), other years the fruit set is great but the apples are tiny. This year, we had the best of both – great-sized fruit and lots of it.

We tasted the apples day by day, waiting until they were ripe. And then one evening just before sunset, a massive flock of sulphur crested cockatoos, 50 or more birds, descended on our trees. Oh no! We watched in helpless horror as they snacked their way through the branches, dropping those deemed not worthy. In a matter of minutes, we watched a quarter of the crop fall to the ground.

So we got Hamish and Siri – Go GO run RUN! We sent the dogs, yelping and barking, up the hill thundering like a pair of racehorses. They were intent on a running game, not seeing the birds, but our encouragement had them worked up into a joyous frenzy as they raced through the trees, spooking the flock off to some other hapless farmer.

The parrots always let you know when your fruit is ready, and if you are lucky you are there to get the message. Typically, you will wait and taste and wait and taste and then you wait one more day… and when you go out in happy anticipation with your basket you arrive at the tree and they are all gone. Sigh.

So we were fortunate to witness the onslaught and trooped out bright and early the next morning to harvest. All day long we picked apples, hauling them up and down the hill to the shed at the bottom and the ute at the top. In the end, we collected a tonne from our beloved trees, filling every picking bin we had, despite the losses from the previous day AND leaving plenty for the parrots in the branches too high for us to pick. What a glorious harvest.

So the L’Orpheline 2015 is now pressed and in barrel and will develop for a bit and then will be bottled. Look out for her in spring!

L’Orpheline cider on sale now

2014 L'Orpheline Brut ciderIt’s finally ready – our long-awaited 2014 L’Orpheline Brut cider goes on sale today.

We’re particularly pleased with how this Normandy-style cider turned out in the end. It is has a light, crisp and completely dry lilt off the tongue, with the full apple flavour preserved. We added something special as well this year – a soupçon (hint) of quince, which gives a delicate floral nose and tart finish.

We crushed and pressed the spray-free fruit during the same day, and then fermented the juice in old French oak barrels using entirely wild yeast. We added nothing during the process. We picked the fruit a tad early to preserve that crispness typical of the Normandy-style ciders, and so the alcohol content is at a respectable 5%.

We find that L’Orpheline goes particularly well with foods that traditionally do not tend to match wines that well, such as spicy Asian or Mexican dishes. That said, it is a really food-friendly beverage, from cheese (the Farmer-in-Chief’s Outlaw brie, bien sûr) to chops straight off the barbecue. Of course, L’Orpheline chilled to about 5 degrees is the perfect summer drink by itself.

You probably won’t be seeing L’Orpheline in the local shops because we only have about 35 cases to sell, so orders can be made by contacting us directly at contact@tansleyfarm.com. If you’re within the vicinity of Adelaide, we can arrange personal delivery.

Prices are AU$20/750 ml bottle.  Get in quick before we drink it all! (were there really 3 empties after dinner last night?) Santé!


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