The drinks world has a new liquid on the block. Or, perhaps more accurately, an old one.
Spotted at the RAW Wine Fair in London, co-ferments, or cross-pollinated drinks, are mixed fermented fruit beverages. Imagine cider or perry being made in the same barrel, at the same time, as wine.
According to the fair’s organiser, Isabelle Legeron MW, it’s a trend that began in North America, though it’s starting to gain ground over here as well. It’s definitely a trend to watch.
‘Grapes are not the only fermentable foodstuffs capable of complex, long-lived drinks,’ she points out. ‘In fact, quite a few wine producers who attend our fairs around the world have been experimenting with cider, perry, mead and beer for a while, so crosses are inevitable. And exciting!’
Over the past two or three years, Legeron says she has seen a surge in co-fermentations that have been made available commercially – all created with much the same philosophy as natural wine (i.e. grown organically and made with low-intervention). Many even use foraged, wild ingredients.
The main trendsetters at RAW London were Côme Isambert, a winemaker from France, and Karl Sjöström, a cidermaker from Sweden.
The friends don’t like waste and often use fruit abandoned in orchards, farms, and gardens for their unique cuvées, which blend grapes with apples and pears. They also use many of the techniques associated with natural winemaking – native yeasts and no additives.
Isambert, a négociant-winemaker from the Loire, produces about 6,000 bottles of organic wine a year under his Clos Cristal/Cristal Closed label. He makes wines from the classic Loire wine grapes – from Cabernet Franc to Grolleau Gris – and mixes Chenin Blanc with apples and pears.
‘I work only with gravity and give the wines time to finish their natural processes without adding any additives,’ he says.
His key hybrid drink is Tour de Fruit, an apple-Chenin pet nat. Wondering what to do with some botrytised Chenin Blanc from the Loire, he added the grapes to cider apples from Normandy that he was pressing and bottled it before the fermentation had finished (while there was still 20g/L of residual sugar). No sulphites were added and it tastes dry, with a salty finish. He classifies it as a rich cider.
‘RAW London was really a success for our wines and ciders/hybrids,' he told Imbibe. 'People went crazy about those drinks because it’s so different and attractive.’
At the forthcoming RAW Berlin in May, he will also be showing a still pear cider and Chenin mix. The quantities are small at the moment, but he has big plans for this year’s harvests. ‘I talked to my suppliers in Normandy and there is a lot to do and even more ideas to try in September and October,’ he teases.
Karl Sjöström helped with the production of Tour de Fruit. He’s a sommelier who makes ciders and hybrids under the Fruktstereo brand in Sweden with fellow sommelier Mikael Nypelius. They also have a seasonal restaurant in the secluded island of Furillen, on the north-east coast of Gotland, where they serve their drinks as part of the seven-course tasting menu.
Their latest drink is Plumenian Rhapsody, which mixes Cortland apples and Victoria plums with Pinot Noir. It wasn’t ready for RAW, which is a shame because there were plenty of people asking to try it.
We also found beers straddling the wine world. Italian producer Siemàn has a grapehouse ale made by adding Tai Rosso grape must to beer wort while London’s Beavertown Brewery has a beer that tastes a bit like a Bacchus wine.
Their Be Excellent to Each Other is an IPA made with wine yeast in white wine barrels in association with Land and Labour of Galway. The hops are Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc, which have white wine aromas anyway.
Sam Millard, brand and communications manager at Beavertown Brewery, told Imbibe that the brew went down well at the fair.
‘The reaction to the beer was great, possibly the best received of all our beers,’ he said. ‘Tasters could pick out the wine influence from the yeast both in the flavour and in the palate texture. We’re finding more and more people wanting to explore the world of beer and the flavours it has to offer, beyond traditional bitters and lagers initially through hoppy New World IPA and pale styles, and now into genres and styles of beers that are being revived from long past.’
Co-Fermenters to look out for
A French winemaker who wants to show the richness of the terroirs of the Loire Valley and Normandy through grapes, apples and pears. His star drink, made in conjunction with Fruktstereo, is Tour de Fruit, a refreshing apple-Chenin pet nat.
T: +33 659 776 615
Swedes Karl Sjöström and Mikael Nypelius make cider, perry, wine, mixed fermented-fruit beverages and everything in between. Their new drink, Plumenian Rhapsody, is a Pinot Noir with plenty of fruit on the nose and palate – because it’s made from 50% Cortland apples and 40% Victoria plums.
T: +46 709 312 960
This Vermont-based wine, vinegar and cidermaker plays with a host of fermentables including red currants, wild grapes, apples and honey.
T: +1 802 2345667
Working from farmsteads in the Hudson Valley and Brooklyn, USA, this producer makes all sorts of mead mixes – including apple and cherry.
Quebec-based beekeepers-cum-fine-mead-makers, who create exciting blends using various honeys, hops, and fruit. Its BEEZZ Rosé is made by macerating organic raspberries in raw summer honey.
T: +1 819 5873471