GROWING APPLES IN BATLOW
How do you like them apples? Why Batlow does it best
"100% fruit. 100% Batlow." Since Dave Purcell brewed his first batch of apple cider, that's been one of his golden rules. And as his passion for cider grew to become one of Australia's favourite craft ciders – the Apple Thief – it remains an essential part of the brand. So what is it about apples from Batlow? Why are they so good?
Growing for more than a century
Wherever you are in Australia, chances are you've recently enjoyed an apple grown in the Batlow region. Ever since the first orchards were planted around 1900, Batlow apples have been famed for their crispy bite and superior flavours. Each year, local growers supply around 1.6 million cases of apples to Australian markets. That's around 10% of the Australian crop. Not bad for a tiny town.
Where is Batlow?
With a population of around 1700, Batlow is located around 450 kilometres south-west of Sydney. As the crow flies, it's 94 kilometres west of Canberra, but by road, it's a 225 kilometre drive through the twists, turns and elevation of the Great Dividing Range to the Snowy Valleys that fringe the western slopes of the pristine Snowy Mountains.
Your geography lesson for today...
At an elevation of around 800 metres and rising as high as 1,000 metres in the surrounding area, the sub-alpine climate of Batlow provides near perfect growing conditions for growing apples. The Great Dividing Range blocks nearly all precipitation coming from the Tasman Sea to the east, but captures rain in weather patterns originating from the west and also from the Southern Ocean, driven up the Great Dividing Range by prevailing winds through Victoria. Average rainfall is around 1,220 millimetres each year, falling mostly in winter and sometimes as snow.
The altitude and generous rainfall combine with good quality alluvial soils rich in minerals and other trace elements that help apples thrive in the region. An extended summer season of cooler nights and warm sunny days provides perfect conditions for ripening fruit at the ideal rate, bringing them slowly to perfect crispness, juiciness, flavour and colour.
Rising from the ashes
In the Black Summer fires of 2019- 20, many orchards around Batlow were burned to the ground. Dave, like many others in the area, are determined that can they can rebuild and regrow, retaining their reputation as one of Australia's leading locations for growing apples. While Red Delicious apples are what helped put Baltlow on the map, today a wide range of varieties are grown. Apple Thief ciders are brewed with the popular Pink Lady, the evergreen Granny Smith and a just right blend of Braeburn and Gala apples, balanced with a kiss of Golden Delicious. You can also enjoy a refreshing William Pear cider, crafted from locally grown fruit of course.
As the Apple Thief develop their new cider house to bring production and bottling back to Batlow, Dave says they're looking forward to experimenting with other varieties of apples found in the area's old orchards to craft some special small batch and seasonal ciders. " I'm on the hunt for old and rare apples that could be great for cider. As well as the apples, there's so much other good produce around the area, so who knows what we'll be dreaming up" says Dave.