What is made from whole delicious Elgin apples – strictly according to old centry-old traditions, with no preservatives, chemicals or artificial additives? Homemade apple jam? Marmalade? Apple pie? No, think of a unique, refreshing, golden apple liquid…. WINDERMERE CIDER!!!
Windermere Cider is neither a “flavoured alcoholic fruit beverage” nor sporty, processed concoction “with an apple taste” – but the real thing: pure, fermented cider from fresh Cape apples. Windermere Cider is made off-dry to deliver an enjoyable cider experience that doesn’t just taste like a sip or two because it’s so sweet, but a whole bottle at the very least!
For the growing army of people who refuse to contaminate their bodies with processed foods and drinks’ artificial preservatives, the newest Cape nectar is the perfect tonic. It has just half the alcohol content of wine at 7.5%. But even those who have one too many are extremely unlikely to be left with a sore head because of the “apfelwein’s” purity and lack of chemicals.
WINDERMERE CIDER comes from some of the Cape’s most famous vineyards – in the Elgin Valley, near the town of Grabouw. It bears the name of the farm where it was born (in 1994) and is the proud work of the farm’s owner Mark Stanford, cider expert Andre Le Roux and new comer Tamsin Stephens. “People say they’ve tasted cider, but if they’re talking about South African cider, they’ve probably only tasted processed products” says Hemel en Aarde Valley apple farmer (and founding partner) Charlie Crowther.
“The average South African still has to taste cider, but people who are well travelled know” says Le Roux, and he would know. After training as a wine-cellar master in Germany for four years, the ancient tradition of cider making caught his attention while in France. He spent the time in Normandy, in the French north-west and, years later, at the heart of cider-making – Hereford in England. After returning to South Africa he worked at Neederburg (a famous wine farm in South Africa) followed by seventeen years studying apples as Appletiser’s production manager. In 1989, the cider bug having bitten (again), Le Roux imported bitter sweet cider apple tree varieties from Europe. It took almost a decade for the buds to produce orchards ready for cider production, and it was from these buds that WINDERMERE CIDER was commercially made back in 1998.
Despite a non-existent cider tradition, South Africa has the same strict laws as Britain and Windermere was the first producer in the country to register as pure cider makers back in 1994. Mark Stanford says that “water and chemicals are cheap. Once again this is the REAL thing.” WINDERMERE CIDER is not a manufacturer, it’s more like an estate wine. Tamsin Stephens endorses this thinking as she explains that the “cider matures with French Oak for 6 months, and not simply made with concentrate.”
At Windermere Cider apples are picked from our orchards, washed and then crushed to a pulp which is pressed to extract the juice. The next morning, the top juice from the settling tanks is pumped into fermentation tanks. Specially selected yeasts are later added and fermentation begins. From apple to ready-to-drink, the apple nectar takes eight months to produce.
So what happened to Windermere Cider between 1998 and 2012? Tamsin explains that “the market wasn’t ready a decade ago for cider, but it is now. Windermere Cider has consistently been made every four years or so over the 14 year period but in varying quantities, some for commercial sales while others for private consumption. While we are loath to admit it, big brand “ciders” in the market have paved the way for us craft producers to have a shot in really producing sustainable quantities. Intensive education was needed to curb the macho-drinking culture that cider isn’t just a ‘girls drink’ but it’s an ‘everybody’s drink.’ As a craft brewer, we just didn’t have the time or resources to get the message out there. So in some regard we owe Distel and SAB a debt of gratitude, but that’s where it ends. Windermere Cider is back to deliver a premium real apple cider”.
(Adapted from Murray Williams article for the Argus Editorial in April 2000).