At some unrecorded time in the past a number of French (cidre) cider apple varieties were imported into Australia. It’s not known who arranged the importation – or when – but fortunately these varieties became part of the apple germplasm collection which currently resides in Tasmania. In the event they slumbered in the Tasmanian collection for a long time because – having French names in an English speaking country – their significance was not recognised.
On the plus side the varieties which are considered to be true-to-type and which are consequently being publicised are likely to make a major contribution to cider apple growing in Australia. As well as expanding the range of bittersweet varieties there are also varieties with higher levels of tannins and malic acid than the more familiar English varieties.
Sad to say it hasn’t been all good news. Some of the French cider varieties in that collection appear to be incorrect (ie not true-to-type) in that they don’t obviously match the descriptions as outlined in the French reference publication “Pommiers a Cidre”, by Bore and Fleckinger. ‘Appear’ is the operative word as classifying them as incorrect is based on an assessment of various physical and botanical characteristics. It’s certainly possible that the characteristics can be different when growing and fruiting in Australia compared to when they are grown in their home climate and terroir of Normandy and Brittany. Until such time as they can be confirmed as correct they are not being given any publicity.
Hopefully both the confirmed and the doubtful varieties will eventually be able to be tested at a DNA level bringing a higher degree of confidence to their identity. Ideally this will also apply to the English cider varieties we have in Australia.
In an attempt to increase familiarity with the French cider varieties the names of the varieties have been traced back to what is believed to be the correct spellings and accents added to vowels where appropriate. These accents are important in determining the correct pronunciation of the names although they do not change the spelling when the names are written.
Thanks to Camille Chopineaux, masters student at The National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga for the spoken names and to Aphrika Gregson and Kevin Dodds of the NSW Department of Primary Industries for making the sound files available.