The 2011 Cider Awards, the first to take place in Orange, were a huge success thanks to the efforts of Gail and James Kendall and the rest of the organising committee. The last time everyone got together to judge the ciders of Australia and beyond was back in 2007 so this event was long overdue. The judging panel was made up of a mix of wine and beer judges (Max Allen, Willie Simpson, Neil Cameron, Kirrily Waldhorn & Lucy Maddox) who combined their wealth of knowledge to pick the best cider in each category.
We arrived at the Old Convent in Borenore and got busy tasting the large range of ciders that were part of the competition. The ciders were placed in groups moving from dry to sweet and sparkling with the same done for the perrys (pear cider). This was the best bit of the night, although as the room got busy, it was harder and harder to get to the tasting table or to a spittoon, so we just had to keep drinking everything in our glass! There was the full gammit of commercial main stream ciders by the big producers combined with boutique ciders that offered something a little more unusual.
My personal favourites were the Lobo ciders, French sparkling cider and I liked all of the perrys! To accompany the cider tasting some divine pork belly canapés came around that were the best we have tasted, pure melt in the mouth deliciousness.
We sat down to long trestle tables adorned with candelabras, home baked bread and lots more cider. In between courses the winners of each section were announced some of the most highly awarded include:
Phoenix Beers – Henney’s Cider
Carlton & United – Dirty Granny
(Phoenix Beers) Domaine Dupont – Etienne Dupont Normandy Cider
The Hills Cider Company – Perry
Josie Chapman produced a tasty starter of cheese soufflé accompanied by a pear and rocket salad. The main course was duck with a beetroot sauce accompanied by roast pumpkin, asparagus and a crunchy cabbage salad. This was the biggest piece of duck I’d ever eaten and again it was cooked to perfection and presented beautifully (no mean feat for a crowd of eighty). Dessert was poached pear and vanilla panna cotta which despite my dislike of panna cotta was actually very nice.
The setting was lovely and rustic in the Old Convent and the food was faultless, the company on one side of us was excellent, we were chatting away with the owners of Annandale Cellars. However, the neighbours on our other side were cider producers who were so upset they hadn’t won an award that they just complained all evening and drank their own cider!
All in all, we had a really good night and enjoyed trying something different and improving our cider knowledge.