Chalkdown cider is made in Hampshire from apples grown in the South Downs.  Volumes are small: just 9,000 bottles per year.  The entire process – from selection and sorting of apples to the application of labels on the finished cider- is overseen by the cider maker. 

 

The cider is made in one batch each year, starting with the pressing of the apples in the Autumn.  Each vintage has its own unique character that reflects the fruit that has gone into the cider.  The skill of the cider maker is to adapt to this natural variability – using science and the senses – to create a product that has balance, refinement and elegance.

Our apples are grown for us in the South Downs by Will Dobson.  The apples are carefully hand-picked. and then we sort them again by hand (all 250,000 of them!) to remove any damaged fruit that might have been missed.   The apples are then washed, milled and pressed using a traditional-style frame press.  The apple juice is left to clarify then racked off and inoculated with yeast and left to ferment in stainless steel tanks.    After fermentation the cider is left to rest on its lees before being bottled in the Spring.  At bottling a yeast culture and some sugar are added to enable the secondary bottle fermentation. 

The secondary fermentation generates CO2 which is dissolved in the cider and which is responsible for the fine bubbles of the finished product.  After the secondary fermentation is complete the bottles are laid down for 18 months to allow contact between the spent yeast and the cider.  The yeast cells go through a process of autophagy and then autolysis, which add new flavour components to the cider and enhance its mouth feel.  This is part of what makes Chalkdown special and different.

After the bottle ageing the bottles are riddled to move the expended yeast into the neck of the bottle.  The bottle neck is then frozen and the yeast is disgorged from the bottle locked in a plug of ice to leave a clear cider.  A small ‘dosage’ is added to create the optimal balance of sweetness and acidity.  The bottle is corked and then left again to rest for a few weeks to allow for integration of the dosage.  Finally, it’s labeled and packed and ready to ship.