We'll drink to that

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 17 Maret 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S reputation as the apple isle has been re-ignited with a coterie of new local cider makers working to make this state the nation's cider capital.

Cider is now the fastest-growing alcohol category in Australia and is turning up on the drinks list of high-end restaurants.

Cider Australia says cider already represents 4 per cent of all alcoholic beverages sold. Five years ago, it held just 1.5 per cent of the market.

In the UK, cider comprises 15 per cent of the alcohol market and Cider Australia says there is room left to build the market domestically. Tasmania's cider revival is giving the local food and beverage industry a new niche marketing platform and the apple-growing industry an extra market for factory-grade fruit.

The cider industry and themarket it is targeting have changed considerably since Tasmania's oldest cider, Mercury, was first crafted in 1911 by Frenchman Auguste Bonamy in Hobart's old convict malthouse.

To keep up with the demand for new ciders, Carlton United Breweries has introduced Mercury Artisan made from 100 per cent Tasmanian apples. There are now 11 boutique cider makers in the state and a few more are almost ready to launch their product on to the market.

Most are in the state's traditional apple-growing areas the Huon, Channel and Spreyton area in the North-West.

From organic cider maker Willie Smith to Small Players, Spreyton Cider, Pagan, Inn Cider and Dickens, the new brew of boutique, niche apple and pear ciders are seriously back in vogue.

Lost Pippin cider maker and Tasmania's Cider Australia representative Mark Robertson said the market had not reached saturation point yet and demand was still growing.

Local producers met in Campbell Town recently to discuss plans to form an association to represent the state's cider-makers.

"We are certainly in the grip of a cider revival and it is nothing but positive," Mr Robertson said.

"There are now plans to launch a new cider festival in November this year as part of our push to make Tasmania the No.1 cider destination in Australia."

Mr Robertson said the cider industry's growth was also providing apple growers with new prospects after fierce rationalisation and a drop in production.

"We hope this will stop trees being pulled out," he said.

"Growers have told us this is the most exciting thing to happen in the industry in 20 years."

Lucy Gregg from Fruit Growers Tasmania said while many cider makers were producing from established apple orchards, it was pleasing to see an expanding market for factory and waste fruit.

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