STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD CORNISH
The winery at Bress is busy. The grapes are off the vine and vintage is well underway. The fermenting juice is being pumped over the skins and, when necessary the crew strip down to their jocks and press the grapes by foot. The aroma is complex mix of red and white grape juice and wild yeast - the beginnings of this vintage’s wine. Owner Adam Marks is busier ‘than a blue arsed fly’. His words. He is also Francophile and named his property just outside of Harcourt ‘Bress’ after the commune in Eastern France famous for its fat meat chickens.
Cider has been part of Adam’s business since inception. He planted 1400 apple trees of nine different old cider varieties to make the cider that compliments his wine production. Bress Cider is a pleasant and pleasing drop that doesn’t have the cheesy funk of the French Ciders from Normandy. It is a delightfully clean cider that can sit alongside wine and be enjoyed throughout the meal. Although very proud of his Bress Cider, Adam wanted to make a more French version. So, in 2010 he travelled to France to meet one of the firebrands of French cider-making Eric Bordelet. “It was a weekend and I was quite well-dressed,” remembers Adam. “It was also raining. Eric insisted we tour the orchard and there’s me in my casual slip-ons.” They walked around the orchard in Normandy examining the old gnarled trees Eric inherited from his father. “It was like a rite of passage,” says Adam with a laugh. “It was only when I was quite damp that he invited me into the derelict chateau for a tasting.” Eric took Adam down to the cellar and opened a bottle of cider. A bottle of cider that had been aged for 12 years! “It was a truly humbling experience. He showed me what could be achieved with cider apples when you treated them in a similar way of making wine from grapes,” says Adam. “Despite its age, that cider was as fresh as a daisy. And delicious.”
After following a few new techniques he gleaned and insinuated from the wily Frenchman, the following autumn, Adam made a cider that was to be made and aged like champagne. This involved harvesting the varieties and milling, pressing and fermenting each one separately in old oak barrels. The premium cider from each batch was selected and blended and placed in a sparkling wine bottle with a crown seal and cellared for six years.
That was six years ago. Like sparkling wines, the bottles have been riddled and disgorged to remove the spent yeast and given a top up of more liquid and a little sugar to ferment and create bubbles under the new crown seal. Adam pulls a bottle from the chiller and takes off the top. He pours out a glass of the nut-brown liquid that foams a little. It has a delicate aroma, not of apples, but of very ripe tropical fruit. The texture is delicately moussant – fine bubbles that turn to a velvety foam in the mouth. The aroma on the back palate is reminiscent of an aged Hunter Semillon and it finishes with a very clean tannic finish. It is a truly delicious drop. Adam wears a pleased smile. “Get in quick if you want some,” he says. “I only made 105 cases and when they’re gone, that’s it.”
2011 Bress Reserve Cider, $50 per bottle
Bress Wine Cider and Produce,
3894 Harmony Way, Harcourt,
Open 11am-4pm Fri-Sun, (03) 5474 2262,