First week of April 2013, silver tip.
Our ciders are still in oak barrels or they are in large glass containers in the cave. But as the cellar temperatures inch above 50 degrees I expect the cider to awaken, mirroring the activity seen on the tips of the trees. The two are not unrelated, in fact, cider blending and the apple blossom usually correspond because they are both the result of ground temperatures warming in early Spring. The warmth causes renewed activity in the cider (sometimes referred to as the malolactic fermentation, although that only partly explains it) and for us it’s only after this change that we know the true character of each batch.
We agree with the Colonial practice of cider making which expects cider to reach it’s full potential only after a full winter in cold temperatures. Just as the trees go dormant, and the energy falls beneath the ground over winter, so too, that happens in the barrel. Cider clears as the air clears, and the flavors come together, for better or for worse. If you have trapped SO2, it is now infused. If you have tannin, it too is infused with other flavors. (On a related note: This is why we age half our ciders in large glass containers, because we like to infuse fruit character which is usually the first quality to dissipate when aging, especially in oak.)
And Winter slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring (Phil Connors.) We like to think of Spring as a new beginning, and it is, but it’s really the awakening of the same earth, the same linear time line, the same living being. We are cranky but we are rejuvenated by winter. We have more energy. And like the birds, the bees and all the flowering trees, we are ready to procreate. I’d like to think that that’s what is happening in the cider too- that it is opening up to the world, it is ready to be consumed and it is ready to overtake our sober minds. Intoxication has two meanings.
We give flowers to one another as a show of affection, that’s not far from what nature intends. As I look at the tree buds swelling and showing green they are still weeks from blossom, but after the tree is fully awake it will be ready for procreation. That’s when we blend our cider, when it is fully emerged from the cocoon. It’s now at it’s adult stage, and ready to find the right mate.