A bottle-fermented pear cider has crushed the competition to be named the best cider in the country.
Perfect Pear 2018 produced by The Cider Factorie in Tauranga was crowned Champion Cider at a pared-back version of the New Zealand Fruit Wine & Cider Awards in Hawke’s Bay on November 15. The event had been planned to coincide with The NZ Cider Festival, due to be held in Hastings this weekend. The festival is postponed to February next year, but the awards continued, with a small crowd gathered with most cider makers joining by Zoom.
Judges said Perfect Pear, crafted in the methode traditionelle style, was well-crafted and “simply delicious”.
“We just kept coming back to it,” said head judge Merophy Hyslop. “It had a really nice texture, lovely bubbles, good complexity and length. It’s not easy to create pear cider – you need some real skill to be able to make a cider like that.”
It is the first time a pear cider – or perry, as it is also known – has scooped the top honour since the inception of the awards in 1984. Hyslop said across the board the ciders and fruit wine had impressed.
“It was nice to see people implementing different techniques and stepping outside of their comfort zone and more thought going to the different flavour categories, too.”
Meanwhile, the top fruit wine in the country comes from Upper Hutt.
Excaliber 2018 by Wildfern NZ is a mead wine, a category judges and industry insiders said had been making a comeback both here and overseas. Rich and sweet, the dessert-style honey wine is made from a blend of mānuka and other native honeys giving it a vanilla and soft caramel flavour.
“Mead as a category was much bigger this year and Excaliber really stood out,” said Hyslop. “It’s an excellent example of a traditional, classic-style mead and really refined.”
Jody Scott, chairman of the Fruit Wine & Cider Makers Association which runs the awards each year, said while it was a shame the biggest night of the year for New Zealand cider and fruit wine makers had been scaled back, there was still much reason to celebrate.
“The cider market in New Zealand has really flourished in the past few years and we received a record number of entries this year. We also saw a good number of producers entering for the first time, which was great and reinforces that as an industry we are strengthening and growing.”
This year, there were 138 entries, a significant 29 per cent increase on the 107 last year. In total, there were 12 trophies awarded, 18 gold medals, 47 silver medals and 54 bronze medals. Reflecting the burgeoning seltzer market, the awards this year also included a seltzer category for the first time.
“These results are fantastic and are a testament to the quality of New Zealand fruit wine and cider; we wholeheartedly congratulate all the winners.”