What better way to remember Australia than to drink a bottle of vintage cider that we had been kindly given by Shaun and Tessa at Hillbilly Cider in the Blue Mountains.
Having had a FaceTime conversation with our son and family in Sydney we were missing our January visit and this seemed the ideal way to raise our spirits on a cold, wet day in Covid lockdown.
Made from the Julie apple, a new variety discovered in the neighbouring orchard, it’s a light, refreshing cider that belies Shaun’s background as a winemaker.
The apple was discovered by the owner Bill Shields who named it after his wife Julie. He explained the rigmarole and cost of getting a new variety registered and he was pleased that Shaun was using it as the basis for his cider.
Bilpin is surrounded by trees and the video that Shaun posted on Facebook showed how close a bushfire had come to engulfing their cidery in 2019. The only gap between them and the fire was the main road and Shaun and his friend kept the buildings doused in water. With true Aussie resilience they were open again for business within a couple of weeks.
On a visit to Tasmania we discovered Willie Smith’s cider in the Huon Valley. The climate is conducive to growing the varieties of cider apple familiar to Herefordshire and Somerset. The Yarlington Mill and Kingston Black single varieties that we brought back have helped us keep our sanity through 2020.
You can’t visit Australia without sampling the wines and at Tyrells in the Hunter Valley we heard that they pick by hand and rely on wild yeast for fermentation. Very much our philosophy and practice as craft cidermakers. We’ve just drunk the last bottle of their Verdelho and as soon as we’re allowed to visit again we’ll be on the aeroplane.