The winter is a fairly quiet time in the orchard and cider barn – just the winter pruning to do and the last of the cider to make. However, this year the pruning was more of a task because I missed doing it last year. That means this year’s pruning has been a little harder than usual and will probably result in a need for further pruning in the summer as there may be an excess of new growth. You can see the results in the accompanying picture. Anyway, it was all done by the end of February, which wasn’t bad. The task was made easier by the remarkably mild and dry winter we have had. For the 3 months of November to January, we had only half the amount of rain that we had in just December 2015 (but that was terrible!). Now spring seems to be launching itself quite early and with some vigour. Quite a lot of trees are reaching the “green cluster” stage of bud development at the beginning of April, which is the earliest it has been since the orchard was planted. Let’s hope we don’t get any nasty frosts or wintry weather now!
Despite the mild weather, last year’s fruit kept very well – so well in fact that the last of the cider was not made until March. That is now bubbling away merrily, whereas the early cider has finished fermenting and is now maturing. People frequently ask “when will it be ready”? The answer is that it will be ready when it is ready. Sometimes it matures quickly, but more often I find it benefits from keeping for another 6 months to 2 years. There is frequently a “malo-lactic” fermentation in the summer which reduces the acidity and introduces some new flavours. Sometimes those new flavours need a while to develop into a well-balanced cider; sometimes some further blending is needed. I won’t release a vintage for sale unless I am happy with it.