By James Atkinson

It's time for cider makers to embrace more extreme styles of the beverage, says top wine critic Max Allen (pictured), who has started his own small batch cider operation.

Allen told TheShout his new Melbourne-based cider label, The Caulfield Mountain Cider Company, will initially produce tiny batches of 100 or so litres to be sold in farmer's markets.

But he has intentions of ramping up the operation at some point in the future to a "semi-commercial" scale of thousands of litres.

Responding to recent debate by brewers Coopers and Little Creatures over the category's long-term growth prospects, Allen said cider is absolutely here to stay.

"As in everything trend-related we are absolutely in the middle of a boom, and the boom will not continue forever – you'd be crazy to suggest that," he said.

"But when everything settles down and when that rate of growth peters off, I think there will be room for many different players, and I'm very much in the niche."

Allen said a number of restaurants and retailers have expressed interest in his cider, which will champion the natural and organic production processes he has been advocating in his wine writing.

As such he said the resulting style will depend largely on the fruit he gets from the orchards he is working with.

"Because I'm adopting this 'no intervention' style of cider making, you can try and lead it in a certain way but it might end up in a different style to what you intended," he said.

He said consumers are ready for more "cloudy, tart, feral and dry" styles of cider, and called for producers to become more adventurous with their output.

"I see a lot of new entrants into the cider market and they seem to be catering for what they think is what the market wants, so they are going for quite fruity, simple, sparkling apple juice, basically, with alcohol in it," he said.

"Given the growth and vitality of the craft beer market, and how people are embracing in some cases really funky and out there styles of beer, I don't think enough cider producers are thinking that maybe they could be tapping into that as well."

Allen said he has long had an urge to try his hand at production, but he wouldn't have felt comfortable making wine and writing about it.

"By doing this I can scratch that itch to get into production without compromising the wine writing."

Photo by Richard Cornish: Max Allen washing apples prior to crushing.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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