Waitrose has given a listing to a sparkling apple cider made in the traditional Champagne method by a producer in Hampshire.

Piotr Nahajski has a degree in wine production from Plumpton College in Sussex and he has transferred his expertise into the world of cider.

Each bottle of his Chalkdown cider takes two and a half years to produce and is made in a single batch each year.

Nahajski said: “Everything that we do is designed to create the purest and most perfect expression of English apples in a cider, from hand-sorting over 250,000 apples to hand-polishing each bottle before it leaves the cider barn.’

“For me the cider has a terrific complexity despite being quite fine and delicate.  There are layers of flavour – fresh, tangy English apples, followed by baked apples and on the finish a suggestion of baked pastry – almost like an apple pie just ready to come out of the oven.”

Chalkdown cider is served in a Champagne flute and is said to pair well with tangy cheeses and cured meats.

Sarah Hammond, Waitrose beer and cider buyer, said: “I was really pleased to find something as special as Chalkdown cider, which is a truly innovative and delicious drink. The care and attention Piotr and his team put into each bottle is exceptional and the result is a fantastically unique cider, which we are proud to stock at Waitrose.”

How is Chalkdown Cider made?

The apples that make Chalkdown cider are grown in the South Downs by family farmer Will Dobson. All 250,000 apples are carefully hand-picked and sorted. They 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.