In a world of sickly sweet fruit drinks made with too many additives, or, from concentrated old fruit, it’s a real pleasure to twist open a bottle from Alpine Gold and taste the real thing – fresh fruit picked and pressed like you made it yourself. It’s so good, you’d think every juice manufacturer would be taking local and abundant fruit and pressing them straight into fresh juice. For many companies, the need to bulk out their product or make it last forever on the grocery store shelf, means they have to use extra ingredients that dilute the whole experience. For boutique producers like Alpine Gold however, keeping it simple, fresh and local is an artisanal and natural approach.
The company started when Bruce McGregor, an apple farmer in Ettrick (near Dumbarton, which is near Roxburgh, which is near Alexandra… which is near Queenstown) noticed how many of his apples were being wasted when they didn’t match the beauty grades required for the supermarket. He decided to start pressing his own juice but needed a good supply of water for the process. Bruce got in contact Tony Butson who had the natural spring water he required and they formed a company together. Tony later bought the company and moved it up to Cromwell – surrounded by fruit orchards – where Wayne Noble now runs the day to day juice creation. Tony also introduced Alpine Gold to Angela and Nathan at Raeward Fresh.
Wayne works with local farmers in the Cromwell region to get fruit straight from their harvest into his juices. Loads of tasty apricots, nectarines, raspberries, boysenberries and feijoas all make their way into the special blends Alpine is known for. Along with a great range of fruit juices, Wayne has also created a lovely cider made in the more traditional English style – which really stands out amongst the sweeter commercial ciders presently flooding back into popularity. Amongst his other innovations, he’s also come up with a unique bottling process which Alpine’s web site describes as follows:
The bottling process utilises a plate heat exchanger that pasteurises the juice prior to filling. The juice is filtered and then heated to 90° Celsius before bottling. The bottles are then filled with the hot juice, which in turn sterilises the bottle and cap. It is the heating of the juice and “hot-bottling” that allows us to produce quality juices with no preservatives and a shelf life of 18 months.
Another thing worth mentioning about Alpine’s local plant is that all of the pomace left over from their fruits go to a local worm farm (Wormworx) where they are recycled back into the region’s agriculture. There’s a redemptive cycle going on at Alpine and it’s encouraging to see. Wayne likes to talk about his products as “nature made it” and instead of calling the drinks ‘fruit juices’, Alpine thinks of them more as juiced fruits. This distinction is a nice nod to the straightforward approach resulting in a distinct experience for each purchaser. Each bottle kinda hits you with how pure and, well, fruity the juices are. To describe this better, I’m going to take a sip of each one and try and tell you what my palate tells me:
A cloudy juice with lovely suspended bits of apple floating like stars in the bottle. The taste – a sweet smooth flavour of summer apples sans the crunch, like when you visited your grandma’s and sat under her tree sucking the juices off an apple that just fell next to you. The sweetness hits you but has a crisp note to finish. A top quality apple juice, outstanding and pure.
Benger Apple & Feijoa
The creamy look of this blend has an opaque promise of the pulpy feijoa about to surprise you. Feijoa’s can be a strong, almost sour flavour but this blend is just right. The apple balancing the unique feijoa tang. A kiwi twist on apple juice, with that surprising and unusual nature.
A lovely cloudy golden yellow color like the inside flesh the nectarine itself. More like a nectar in mouth feel, it’s just fruit and mineral water. Silky but not sickly sweet. The back of your throat get’s that nectarine punch as it goes down.
A beautiful light orange color, rich but smooth. A puree & mineral water, a perfect mix of texture. More flavour dimensions than the other juices (so far) with notes of the stonefruit coming through strongly but mixed with a light hint of grape, bright.
The pick of the bunch, a real find among juices.
Benger Apple & Raspberry
A magical pinky red potion with an initial slight sour bite as a fresh raspberry is likely to give you, quickly followed with sweet bursts of the fruit. More like a juice than a nectar and really refreshing. The most revitalizing of the bunch.
Benger Apple & Boysenberry
A dark red claret, a blend of boysenberries and fresh apples, a fuller taste (than the raspberry) which is gentle and well rounded. Plump fruit, ripe and sumptuous, the kind of drink you want to linger over to ponder those rich notes of cherry and oak and autumn.
Clear and slightly golden in colour, a crispy, almost cider vinegar hit followed by the subtle alcohol (5.5% or 1.2 standard drinks). The apple packs a punch, wild as it says. You know you’re drinking this one, not like the sweeter versions that may go well with a meat pie, this one will wake you up and put you back to work sheering sheep or building houses or some manly endeavor..
So those are my experiences. I suggest you pop into the Raeward Fresh and take a sip for yourself.