A historic collection of cider apples is being duplicated to support the booming beverage industry

David Pickering learned many apple cider lessons while living in England during the 1970s.

Upon his return to New South Wales, he was surprised to learn that few growers used specific apple varieties for cider, relying instead on the popular Pink Lady, Granny Smith or Gala apples, which were not best suited for cider. process.

The Australian cider industry has long relied on table apples or imported juice concentrate to create its popular products, but there is a push to change that.

Pickering has been on a decades-long quest to find European apple species that aren’t particularly appetizing to eat, but, due to their balance of acidity and sugar, are perfect for creating the spirit.

As a hobbyist, Pickering is now home to 34 types of apple trees that he found all over Australia on his property in west central New South Wales, outside Orange.

About half of them originate from England and the other half are from France.

Keep DNA safe

But, worried that his collection might one day be lost when he finally passes away, Pickering teamed up with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to duplicate it at their nearby research station.

“There is no one stop shop to go and get the cider varieties,” he said.

Apple block for cider at Orange in NSW DPI land
The NSW Department of Primay Industries planted 35 varieties of cider on its block in Orange in 2019.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

The DPI Temperate Fruits team started growing apple trees in 2019 and is now ready to start a breeding program.

Budwood cuttings are available for those who wish to establish them in a bid to get more cider makers to use locally grown produce.

A changing market

Cider sales have skyrocketed in Australia in recent years.

But Pickering says that as little as 8 percent of the product bottled here comes from cider-specific trees.

Cider apple variety poster with David Pickering in the foreground
Cider apple varieties are classified from bitter to sweet and sharp, depending on the characteristics of acidity, sugar and tannin.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

He would like to see that number down to around 30 percent.

“It’s not going to happen quickly, but it’s going to happen gradually,” Pickering said.

“Nowadays there is much more interest in cider varieties because it is a point of difference.”

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