Once Upon A Tree is one of Herefordshire’s newer cider producers with a history dating back a decade. Founded in 2008, Once Upon A Tree combines the orchard talents of Ann & Norman Stanier with the wine making talents of Simon Day and his wife Hannah. The Stanier family farm has been producing apples and other fruit for over 90 years from their Dragon Orchard. Norman and Ann have been running the family orchard since 1993. Their orchards are ideally situated to produce apples of full ripeness and interesting character. Simon Day saw the potential of their apples to produce unique characterful ciders and juice and decided to leave the wine world to join England’s heritage cider community.
English ciders are quite different than typical American ciders. While American ciders are made mostly from dessert fruit, English cider is made from cider apples. Dessert fruit features a mix of sweet and acidity which makes it enjoyable for eating, unfortunately, this translates to a cider that’s lower in character. Cider fruit is often inedible but has a better mix of characteristics for making cider. The key is tannins.
Tannins are the third leg of the stool when it comes to a proper cider with character. If you drink red wine, you’ll be familiar with the bitter dryness in the finish. This can be amplified if the wine is aged in newer oak. Oak, especially American varieties, is high in tannin which is leached into the liquid via the aging process. Cider apples are high in tannins. This creates a cider that balances the sweet/tart dichotomy of the apple. The final piece of the cider apple puzzle comes in its complex aromatics.
European cider, like wine, is often a blend of varieties. Each variety has certain characteristics the cider maker wants to impart into the final product. To make it even more interesting, the individual characteristics of a certain variety vary somewhat year to year depending on growing conditions. Few apples can completely form a complex enough character to made into a single varietal cider. There are definitely some that are more consistently complex, but even those may not be up to snuff in certain years. That’s why blending is used: to create a balanced and characterful cider.
Marcle Ridge is a blend of four different cider apples. Dabinett, Ellis Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, and Brown’s are all typically English varieties. Like many English ciders, Once Upon A Tree’s Marcle ridge is a still (non-carbonated) cider.
Appearance: Bright gold.
Aroma: bandaid, overripe apples, brown sugar, apple blossoms.
Taste: Strong- tannins, mild+ acidity, Medium, Medium+ astringency.
Overall Impression: Marcle Ridge starts with typical English aromas in the phenolic range and goes into big apple aromas. It’s assertively tannic bitter without going over top. It may definitely be more tannic than American cider drinkers are used to, but is a fun journey if you’re game to discover what real cider apples taste like in a “proper cider,” as the English would call it.
CO2 Levels: Still
Geography: Herefordshire, England
Apples: Dabinett, Ellis Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, Brown’s
Availability: Imported by Shacksbury Ciders, look for it in states where Shacksbury is sold.