Tardive de la Sarthe is the latest (May 2009) cider variety to be confirmed as being true-to-type and takes the total of cider varieties in Australia to 31.
In France it also has the synonym Frequin Tardif de la Sarthe but this name has not been used in Australia.
This variety was privately imported into Australia in 1985 at the same time as Tremletts Bitter. Despite Tardive de la Sarthe being French in origin it came to Australia via the famous Long Ashton Research Station at Bristol. Following importation it “sort-of” disappeared and it has only recently been tracked down. Fruit from the tree growing in Australia has been examined and found to conform to the description published in “Pommiers a Cidre”, Bore and Fleckinger, INRA 1997. Images of fruit produced in Australia have been examined by staff of INRA and the variety identification confirmed.
Tardive de la Sarthe was put onto some of the approved variety lists in France in 1949 but was removed in 1991 because of it’s sensitivity to fireblight. This is not a consideration in Australia since we don’t presently have this disease in the country.
Published data from France places Tardive de la Sarthe in the “amere” class – relatively high tannin levels and relatively low acidity. See the NSW DPI website for a chart of other “amere” types. Under the English system of four classes, Tardive de la Sarthe would be classified as a bitter-sweet but it’s tannin level is on the high side for this class.
There is virtually no Australian information about Tardive de la Sarthe – yet. The likelihood is that the Australian climate will suit this French variety as most of Australia has more in common with French conditions than the conditions prevailing in the British cider growing areas. It remains however to gain experience about the performance of this variety in the orchard and it’s reactions to the diseases that we do have in Australia.