MICHAEL WOLSEY: Turning good cider into fine wine
What’s the difference between cider and apple wine? Well, about €30 a bottle for one thing.
But there are some other factors that make the wine a rather more subtle and decidedly more alcoholic product than the cider we like to pour from pint bottles over loads of ice.
The process for both products begins the same way, as it does for making wine from grapes. Apples are crushed and put through a fermentation process.
For the wine, the apple juice is left to ferment longer and sugar is added throughout the process. Despite this, the finished product generally has a lower sugar content than cider, because the sugar is absorbed during fermentation. That increases the alcohol content which, for most apple wines, is about the same as for grape wine and around 10% higher than for cider.
You don’t want to be drinking apple wine by the pint – not if you’re planning to stand up afterwards.
And you certainly don’t want to be lowering pints of Organic Irish Apple Wine, a new product from the Highbank Organic Orchard in Co Kilkenny. For one thing, it has a 20% alcohol content which puts it on par with ports and sherries. For another, it costs €47 a bottle.
I haven’t tried it , but I do like the sound of this luxury drink which is grown, distilled and bottled on the farm at Cuffesgrange.
Rod Calder-Potts, who says he inherited the formula from his granny, recommends the wine be served chilled with dessert, a slice of your favourite cheese, or in a cocktail. It sounds like a good addition to the Christmas menu or, indeed a good Christmas present.
Several fruit wines are made in Ireland including a very nice range I have mentioned before, from Móinéir Fine Irish Fruit Wines in Co Wicklow. They come in strawberry, raspberry and blackberry varieties and are as well balanced and subtle as any wine you will find.
Personally, I wouldn’t drink them with a main meal but they make a very nice dessert wine, to drink with cheese or pudding or just by themselves. You can order them online from the producers or from a good stockist, including Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Waterford (€22.50).
Lusca Irish Wines is a small-scale winery run by David Llewellyn in Lusk, County Dublin. It makes cider and cider vinegar and some wine from Irish-grown grapes, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
For a really traditional dessert wine you could try Bunratty Mead which is made in Co Clare by mixing the juice of imported grapes with Irish honey and herbs.
Many stores stock this product or you can buy it online from the Celtic Whiskey Shop (€17.50).