De Grendel toasts the arrival of autumn with the release of Three Spades Cider, acknowledging the Graaff family’s close connection to apple farming. The premium cider is made in limited quantities with freshly pressed apples from Elgin, one of South Africa’s foremost apple growing regions.
“Apples have been part of our country’s agricultural heritage for as long as growing grapes and wine-making,” says Sir De Villiers Graaff, owner of De Grendel wine farm. “It holds special significance for the Graaff family to honour both traditions.”
With four generations rooted in apples, it is a natural progression for the wine farm to produce a premium cider with the same dedication. The inspiration for the name and logo of the Three Spades cider comes from the family crest, a spade for each son of Sir De Villiers Graaff, first baronet of De Grendel.
Cider-making with its storied history is experiencing a new golden era, reckons Graaff. “The growing interest in small batch, carefully crafted cider reflects an appreciation for age-old traditions and artisan methods. This is spurred on by consumers seeking out products with provenance and integrity.”
The creation of Three Spades Cider gave De Grendel cellar master Charles Hopkins the chance to combine his expert knowledge of winemaking’s scientific side with the art of cider-making. “I enjoyed my first foray into cider immensely. Initially, I wasn’t aware of how similar the process would be to winemaking.”
According to Hopkins, the key to a top class cider is the composition of the apple juices. “Our main focus was to capture the purity of the apple, expressing it through a blend of different varieties picked at peak ripeness before being pressed to highlight the unique characteristics of each. The five varieties, each playing its part, are 30% Golden Delicious, 30% Granny Smith, 20% Pink Lady, 10% Braeburn and 10% Fuji.
Cider-making versus wine-making: The ethos of making wine and cider are the same and for both, quality starts with the basic ingredient. Hopkins explains: “When making cider, we would receive the blend of freshly pressed apple juice, whereas with winemaking we would receive the grape and crush it ourselves. From there it follows a similar process of settling, racking the clean juice from the fresh solid sediments, then the fermentation.
The big difference is that grape sugar is double that of the sugar in apple juice. Grape juice also has higher acidity, so fermentation is much more rapid in apple cider making. From there, wine and cider go through the same stabilization process and bottling. The fun part is that you can drink it straight away, so we get to taste the fruit of our labour much sooner than wine.”
The result is a cider that’s light, crisp and effervescent, with an exquisite, almost champagne-like flavour. The fresh, lighter style is a natural fit for our thirsty climate, still maintaining the desirable crisp apple flavour, delicately delivered to the palate through the bubbles. While drinkable directly after bottling, Three Spades cider is microbiologically stable enough to age for up to 3 years in the bottle for a richer, more complex drink.
Juice quality: In a sea of apple concentrate and mainstream standardisation, premium ciders produced on a small scale offer more freshness and flavour. “With apple concentrate, you are limited to what’s available – you can’t put blends together”, Hopkins explains. “Small batch cider production from more varieties is much more interesting than the more homogenous commercial product”.
Ways to enjoy Three Spades Cider:
The elegant packaging echoes the celebratory nature of cider. The petite 330ml size and curvy champagne shape of the bottle, the luxurious black glass and gold finishes are classy and cute, you would want to drink it from the bottle.
An anytime-drink, it’s the new darling on the brunch scene and a refreshing alternative to a bloody Mary or mimosa. Enjoy it on a summer’s day, at the sunset hour as an imaginative cocktail or to toast the arrival of autumn. Naturally gluten-free, it’s a refreshing alternative to beer.
Its an exceptionally food-friendly drink, complementing roast pork and pork belly – barbequed or grilled – creamy sauces and chicken. It also pairs well with salads, soft cheese, and seafood. It’s a surprising partner for fresh oysters with a cider-ginger mignonette dressing. It also matches well with Asian flavours and is not intimidated by spices. It brings style to a homely apple crumble, and a celebratory touch to a modern deconstructed apple Tarte Tatin.
Three Spades Cider is available in limited quantities.
Production: 12 000 litres, 35 800 bottles (2 237 cases of 16 x 330ml bottles).
Retail price: R35 per 330ml bottle.
Box of 16: R530
Available from De Grendel Tasting Room, De Grendel Restaurant or shop online at the De Grendel Online Shop www.degrendel.co.za and have your order delivered. Also available from specialty liquor shops in Cape Town, including Norman Goodfellows.