Whole fruit cider: ‘It’s the wine of Ireland’

Craft cider is a year-round drink and there are many excellent Irish examples

Cockagee cider

Cockagee cider

 

We are lucky to have some great apple growers in this country. I hesitate to call them cider makers because Highbank, David Llewellyn, Killahora, Longueville and Stonewell are responsible for a range of fascinating apple-based drinks, including cider.

Cockagee, from the Cider Mill, has always been one of my favourites. It is one of a series of ciders made by Mark Jenkinson in Co Meath. Jenkinson has more than 120 varieties of apple, many rare – “way too many, I am a serial apple collector” – in his uncertified biodynamic orchard.

Cockagee is keeved, given a long, slow fermentation and bottled without filtration, pasteurisation, sweetening or carbonation. One of my lockdown treats has been a takeaway savoury pancake from La Crêperie in Greystones washed down with a bottle of Cockagee.

Other Irish ciders to look out for include the refreshing lower-alcohol (4%) Ciderkin; Lámhóg, a delicious aged reserve; and Hiberno (8.5%) aged in Atlantic Irish single malt whiskey casks. All of these are well worth seeking out. 

“There is a much greater awareness of cider,” Jenkinson says. “There has been a huge upsurge of interest in the US and UK that we hope will filter through. Bulmers is so integrated into the Irish psyche, but once people taste my ciders they are blown away. I want people to realise what whole-fruit cider is a forgotten part of Irish history, the wine of Ireland.”

Craft cider is a year-round drink, a great partner with pork dishes, or simply to be enjoyed on its own. In recent months I worked my way through a bottle of Highbank’s excellent organic Irish apple wine, as well as Llewellyn’s Double L cider, and Cockagee.

The Cider Mill is distributed by Wicklow Wolf through independent off-licences and will be available in SuperValu shortly.

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