There is a new player in the craft cider scene in Nelson and they will be launching their Capital Cider Co. treats on the unsuspecting public at the New Zealand Cider Festival this weekend.
Capital Cider Co. is owned by talented winemaker Trudy Sheild, marketing man Ryan O’Connell and their respective partners so they bring plenty of experience to this cider project.
As cider is really just an apple wine, the principles of cider making aren’t too different to winemaking, just like grape wines the flavours in cider vary based on the varieties of apples used to make the cider and the various techniques cider makers use, things like wild fermentations and barrel fermentations and aging are common in producing both products.
I had a chat with Ryan last week and had lots of questions for him, to start with – why? And then what makes their product different to other premium ciders in the marketplace.
“I have been selling wine for a number of years and when you are selling something you tend to keep your finger on the pulse of changing consumer habits, I realised cider is a growing market and noticed a buzz around cider with more appearing on the shelves but also noticed much of it isn’t real and we figured we could do this better.
“Of course there are already some fantastic ciders on the market and we think there is a place for every style, if consumers want cheap then they will probably choose a mass-market cider but if they want a quality cider they can choose a real hand-crafted cider and that is the part of the market we are going to focus on.”
“We have all tried many ciders but we wanted more from it as a drink, we wanted a bit more interest in the glass, locally there are some outstanding ciders but around the world cider is a term that is often abused.
“Many are manufactured to be in the style of cider, ours are real ciders, no concentrate, no added sugars, no flavour additives, nothing fake, for example our cider with a berry blend is made using real Nelson berries. We have a cider infused with kafir lime, lemon and juniper and these fresh ingredients are steeped to create the intensity of flavour we want.”
Trudy was busy getting cider ready for the festival so she couldn’t join Ryan and I for a chat so I phoned her to find out about how Capital Cider Co. ciders will be different to others in the cider sector, “As new world cider makers we want to showcase the apples that are bountiful here in Nelson, making the most of their individual characteristics as we do in varietal wines. I’m having a lot of fun transferring and adapting techniques I have learnt over my years of winemaking, and decades of being interested in cuisine, to cider”.
Capital Cider will have a core range of ciders available year round. “They will be what we call everyday ciders. We will also have limited release ciders on and off during the year. Lots of exciting things to come.”
Ryan told me they want to break the mould of the old world with modern, bold and innovative new world ciders, they won’t be produced in a lab for the mass-market, we are a craft producer using Nelson apple varieties that have been grown in the region for many decades as well as some of the newer varieties, each variety brings something interesting to the table and we want to explore what happens when we use different cider making techniques with these apple varieties.”
Capital Cider Co. are also installing a state-of-the-art canning line so all of their ciders will hit the shelves in cans and each cider will have its own identity, “just like craft beers have names associated with them our ciders will have names and the name might be related to the cider or just something that is important to us, like reflecting our background or people and places that mean something to us” says Ryan.
My next question to Ryan was why Capital Cider Co.? “We simply feel Nelson is the capital of New Zealand Cider so it seemed an obvious name; Rochdale are New Zealand’s oldest cider makers still operating, Old Mout has put Nelson out there to the world, Peckham’s with their heritage apple ciders, Abel with Méthode cider to name a few.
“Nelson is also the oldest apple growing region in the country and there is more cider coming out of Nelson than anywhere else in New Zealand so we reckon it can justifiably be called the NZ Cider Capital.”
Of course, I wanted to know why cans and not bottles “We are a small local business but modern, bold and innovative, we want to make real ciders that bridge the gap between wine and beer and bring the fruit to the fore so cans fit that part of the consumer market really well.
“There are lots of other benefits too, things like assuring the quality of product, they cool down nice and quickly, take up less space, are easier and lighter to freight and for people to carry, they are fully recyclable, sustainability and waste reduction is a big thing for us.
“Great for tramping because you need to carry out everything you carry in so you can crush the can taking up less space on the way back, cans are great for boats, festivals and so many other outdoor activities.”
Local collaboration is also important to Capital Cider Co., “it is really being driven by Trudes, she has made lots of fantastic local connections. Working with all these great people and businesses is really important to us, we have a real circle of friendships, there are so many locals who produce great products and have really helped us out and want to keep working with them.”
In the future there will be some collaborative ciders, some seasonal ciders will come and go as limited editions and each one will have an individually designed brand and can design to ensure the Capital Cider Co. brand stays fresh on the shelves and in people’s minds.
Because the canning line is still on its way to New Zealand they are launching their products at the NZ Cider Festival, on tap which will also be an important part of their business. You can already find one of their ciders on tap at a few local spots.
So get your ticket to the NZ Cider Festival at Founders Park on the 3rd November and be among the first in the world to try a new range of ciders from people with a very strong and reputable wine making background, as well as ciders from other producers of course.