News 2023 12 04
Greetings to all, it took a while, but finally the first part of 2023 cider season, autumnal harvest and transformation of apples into moût, juice, is done. Before we go through the numbers a bit, lets share some general impressions. First of all, it was wet. Most likely this was the worst season which I did since 2016 when I started helping Christophe Bouvet from Ferme du Vastel. It is not just about the "colour of your mood" when it is raining virtually every day except the lovely opening of ten days at the beginning of the season. It made me realize among other things that it is time to renew my waterproof gear which, after four seasons of heavy usage, is finished (close to 300€ to replace it). It is also not only about coming back to our caravans and the party tent through the "valley of mud". Neither is it about having to take most of the breaks inside of the car, or bringing to a perfection changing the cloths under the car trunk door. All these things are kind of part of a bigger mosaic. What I've found personally really stressful and challenging were the logistic issues, especially the access to the orchards. If you have good weather and the orchard is dry, then you can pick up your apples, put them in the bags, leave them all around the orchard and when you want to bring them for pressing, you just drive in with car and trailer and load it all in. However, when the weather is bad like this year, then you need to harvest already in a manner that many bags are clustered all together so when loading you stop just once. This means you have to bring the baskets all the way to that spot from all around. Naturally, facing downhill with the front of the car is highly recommended. You also have to prepare yourself that you are likely not to be able to enter the orchard with the trailer at all. In some cases, you can not make it even with the car. If lucky, it means bringing the bags by ten with the car to the edge of the orchard to the harder ground, which is a must and extra work because you have to load it in, unload it and load it again to the trailer later on. If the orchard is too steep, car option doesn't work and you have to get all the apples out on your back. In some cases, I got help from my friend Hugo and his four wheel drive, but even that one did not work for some orchards this year. For the most difficult one, I had to get help from the owner and his tractor, but even that was on the edge. All these things add to the workload and are decreasing the efficiency of harvesting.
But enough lamenting about the negatives and lets share some positive moments and happenings. It was very nice to spend the beginning of the season with Leon, who helped a lot with preparing the orchards. When he had left, my girlfriend came and we have done most of the season together, which was very nice, with occasional help from friends living in the region. Due to the fact that this season was very rich on apples, it helped enormously with keeping up with harvesting the fallen apples on time so they don't get bad. It is kind of a paradox that even when I personally consider this season executed best from the perspective of preparation of the orchards and harvesting, it was the worst one considering the losses. We were harvesting the crop on time, so it is in optimal condition for processing and pressing. We pressed in shorter intervals, having minimal waste during the process. Still, as said, by overall percentage of losses, it was the highest one, reaching close to 30% compared to our usual around 10% average. Why? Well, several reasons. First and most important was a combination of a very rich year on apples, as mentioned before, and very bad weather. Just to give an idea, one of the orchards gave around one tonne during the season 2022 but this year the total amount of apples was around 10 tonnes. Not easy to prepare for tenfold increase. Secondly, even with help, physical strain by the end of the season was getting really high, the issues with logistics were definitely playing a role. Third, very important, limited budget. I've expected a big year and I tried to prepare funds to cover it. However, the change from paid labour to working for myself which I did in February, resulted in a decent increase of funds from sales of Cidrerie/Kvasírna Jara products, but overall the amount of cash flow decreased. Last but not least, there was no place really left in the cave for the cider. All the cuves/ fermentation vessels except one were full and I did not have time and money to invest in more cuvery. I could also have cider for distillation outside as in previous years, but then the cuves get partly damaged by the sun, and working on the cider when the weather is bad is really not fun.
Concerning the numbers, we have harvested and processed bit over 24 tonnes of apples, resulting in 173 hl (17 300 l) of apple juice, average pressing efficiency was around 72%. Average specific gravity was 1046, none of the ciders had over 1048, which I would say is rather standard for the region.
Last but not least, cidrerie is not just about making cider but about also about selling it. I've managed to complete the whole process of certification of Cidrerie Jara as a production and exportation entity in France. Also, for Kvasírna Jara, business which imports, sells and in the future also produces cider in Czech Republic, the opening is done, papers are finished. It took quite some time but it was worth of it, it is really important for me that all the aspects of the project are legal and done by the book.
If any of you know about an interesting event which we could participate at with our products, please let us know, it may be next summer for example, long term planning is now becoming a norm.
Sincerely for Cidrerie, Kvasírna Jara,
František Algoldor Apfelbeck