Mark and Sophie McGill both grew up in and around the wine industry, so it’s no wonder that when cider began to boom a few years ago, they thought they would try their hand at it. Fast forward 8 years, and now two kids, one international move, and thousands of experiments later, the McGill’s have released their first lot of Abel Methode Cider.
“We first got into it when cider started to increase in popularity, and we thought ‘ooo yum cider’. But everything we tried was really sweet, there was no dry cider,” recalls Sophie.
As wine lovers the McGill’s were aware of their more “mature” palate and set out to replicate the dry taste often found in wine, in a cider. With their experience, and with Mark’s degree from Lincoln in Viticulture and Oenology, the couple were in a perfect position to make this happen.
“It started off as home brew really, just experimenting and now after 8 years of work it’s all paid off. We actually lived in Melbourne for ten years and only moved back in March last year to start this business,” says Mark. “We really wanted to do it in New Zealand so we could use New Zealand apples and pears because they are so much better.”
“The apples that we wanted were quite hard to come by, as they are old fashioned styles, the kind our parents grew up eating, full flavoured and more acidic. We’ve really had to go searching for these as most have been pulled out and replaced with new, sweeter flavours because they look nicer and sell better in supermarkets. Luckily we work closely with our growers, some have even allowed us to hand pick our fruit.”
The McGill’s really enjoy their relationships with growers as it gives them a chance to include them in the entire process, from “grower to glass”. Being able to tell the entire back-story of the product really helps to enhance the Abel experience.
“There is a desire from consumers now to know where their food comes from and this is a story growers and suppliers can tell.”
So where can you try the delicious Abel Methode Cider? Well, you won’t find it in any ordinary supermarket.
“We knew when we started that what we are making wouldn’t be for everyone, but that’s not the point and with the process and size of the company, we decided our place in the market was at the premium end. The sale model of the standard supermarket is too cut throat for our product and we need it to be in places where the staff are interested to try new things and talk about the product.”
That’s why Abel Cider is available at a variety of top restaurants and bars around the country.
Dry cider is food friendly, more so than sweet ones generally, and the restaurants are excited at the opportunity to be able to offer cider as a food match.
“We enjoy working with restaurants, as they like to talk about the product. They happily tell the story and heritage of the cider to their diners, as it really is something they haven’t come across before – it gets their brain ticking.”
The future of Abel Cider is looking fruitful and although the company is small enough at the moment that Mark and Sophie can do the bulk of the work, this may change if they realise their dream of owning their own orchard.
“Ideally we would love to have our own trees and grow our own apples. People often separate wine from the agri industry but wine is actually an agricultural product as it comes from the earth, and we will feel more a part of the industry when we get our hands on a piece of land of our own.”
For now though, Sophie and Mark are just like any other start-up company working hard everyday with general “busy-ness” with hopes to go international very shortly.