It's made from Hampshire apples that are hand-picked and sorted and then gently pressed to ensure the purest expression of fruit. The cider is made slowly using the same 'traditional method' that is used to make fine sparkling wine. On the palate Chalkdown has a delicate apple flavour that combines with a brioche character from the long ageing to create an graceful and refreshing drink that’s perfect as an aperitif or to celebrate any occasion. Chalkdown cider is best served chilled in a flute glass.
Founder, Piotr Nahajski, was nearing the end of his degree course in Wine Production and had just completed a study tour of the Champagne region when he came across an English cider that had undergone secondary bottle fermentation. Putting the two together he envisaged a delicate English cider, low in tannins and phenolics, made from juice that resembled more closely the juice used for fine sparkling wine than for traditional cider. It would be allowed extra long bottle ageing before its release. The result is Chalkdown cider: A cider that has taken 24 months to create from the harvesting of the apples to its release for sale.
The Chalkhill Blue butterfly was chosen for the label of Chalkdown cider for its association with the southern down lands of England where the apples for Chalkdown cider are grown. The butterfly can be found on chalk and limestone hillsides in the summer. In bright sunshine the ground can shimmer with the pale blue of hundreds of Chalkhill Blues, flying inches above the ground, looking for a mate. We hope that its delicate beauty is reflected in our cider.
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.
Specially selected apples are sorted to remove any damaged fruit; 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.