Chalkdown cider 2013

Chalkdown Premium Quality Cider 2013, Hampshire

(from £10, independent stockists inc Wine Utopia, The Naked Grape, The Good Life Farm Shop, M Wines, The Cork & Cheese, Vineking)

Hampshire cider – made like champagne. Intriguing, no? ‘It’s all a learning process,’ smiles Winchester resident Piotr Nahajski, the man behind this curious brew, who moved seamlessly from former existences in flour milling and IT via wine studies at Plumpton College into ‘craft’ winemaking at Marlings in Sway and now this. Well, if classic English blanc de blancs sparkling wine has the scents and flavours of fresh apples at its core, why can’t the real apples themselves do just as good a job?

Piotr aims to make as clean and pure a cider as he can, adding complexity by re-fermenting in the bottle then ageing on the lees for 18 months. He’s also running experiments, ageing some of the 2014 for 30 months, and is open to blending with mead (or, as he did during our tasting, producing a small phial of blackberry liqueur and adding a few drops into the cider – the result being a beautiful blackberry-and-apple mash-up).

In the meantime, this first vintage has classic baked apple aromatics – but where you notice the lees ageing is on the palate, where the cider is beautifully graceful and fine, almost balletic in its lightness and harmony. It’s elegantly dry. Personally, I’d have loved a bit more tang and grip on the finish (which a pre-dosage bottling of the 2014 showed a bit more of) but it’s very easy going and bodes well for the future of what should be a fascinating project. (Peter, July 2016)