Meet the Maker – Alice Houel from Napoleone Cider

Written by
Vintage Cellars
February 16, 2017
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Learn how Alice and the Napoleone team apply winemaking skills to the craft of cider making.

Do you have a certain philosophy or style to your craft?

Alice: At Napoleone it’s about purity of fruit and elegance within a range of ciders that can be enjoyed by all. Using a combination of winemaking techniques and fruit grown on the Napoleone family property, we believe that we have developed one of the most unique styles of cider in Australia and on the world stage. 

How did Napoleone Cider get started?

Alice: The Napoleone family are third generation fruit growers who originally began as orchardists back in the 1940s. Now run by brothers Joe and Michael Jr Napoleone, their fruit-growing business has blossomed into one of the biggest producers in Victoria growing several varieties of apples, pears and stone fruits and shipping out to markets all across Australia. In the 1983 they planted their first vineyards and since then have become highly regarded for their Punt Road range of wines.

All fruit for Napoleone ciders is estate grown and the aim is to create ciders that share the same DNA with their wines; purity of fruit, intensity of flavour and a Yarra Valley quality worth sharing.

What is the inspiration behind what you make?

Alice: It’s hard not to love and be inspired by the classic traditional ciders of Europe and the UK, but a lot of what we do and know has been self-taught through trial and error and a lot of experimentation. But most importantly it’s been how we’ve applied our winemaking skills to the craft of cider.

What do you think makes a good cider?

Alice: Quality fruit, passionate staff and an understanding of what our consumer needs! Our dedicated and passionate staff are always looking to push the envelope, exploring the many permutation and combinations of cider making. Whether it is with use of different yeast strains, new apple and pear varieties or fermentation temperatures – the possibilities are endless.

How does your personality show through in what you produce?

Alice: Mother Nature has a lot to say from vintage to vintage but generally this property has good bones - it’s a very solid site. Much like the philosophy of many winemakers, it’s the personality that best reflects the dirt and fruit in which our ciders comes from.

What are the most enjoyable parts of what you do?

Alice: As a member of a relatively small and young team, we feel a great scene of achievement and satisfaction in the ciders we make. The fact is that Napoleone are one of very few cider producers that grow, pick, press, ferment, condition and bottle all ciders on their own family property results in a cider that is uniquely Napoleone.

We were awarded Best Australian Cider in 2011 and again in 2014 for our Pear Methode Traditionalle Cider. Apart from the bling we took home- it's was nice feeling to know what we were doing was working! 

What are the most difficult parts of what you do?

Alice: Pressing pears on our small hydraulic basket press- it’s a little like fireworks but in the form of pear pulp!

Where do you see the cider industry headed in the next few years?

Alice: The cider boom of recent years has seen many players enter the market with varying expectations and goals. As a result cider drinkers have been served up a real mixed bag - some exceptional ciders of course but many not so good. Cider production in Australia is still very much in its infancy, but in the years ahead I see a positive consolidation of styles and techniques and realignment back to what cider is really about- apples and pears.

Is there something you’re looking to achieve in the future that you haven’t already?

Alice: The family shows no signs of slowing with Joe’s sons now working in the family business; manning the cider house on weekends and getting their hands dirty out in the winery. 

We have a strong connection between what is grown out in the orchards and what comes across to the winery, giving ourselves every chance of producing a range of ciders that best reflect the dirt and fruit in which it comes from. Napoleone will continue to build on its strong reputation as a market leader and a champion for the Australian cider industry.