We travel down the M5 onto the Hume Highway to meet Jeff Aston, creator of an exciting new alcoholic apple cider using fresh apples, not concentrate. Here’s the story of how Dcider is catching on due to a potent combination of taste, labelling and social media …
While cider has been produced in Australia since settlement, in the past few years it’s seen a massive increase in popularity so that it’s fast becoming the drink of choice across the board, with local producers barely able to keep up.
One innovative new cider maker is Jeff Aston of Dcider. Jeff is a winemaker so he makes his cider with a vigneron’s methodology, not a beer-brewer’s technique – the results are so refreshing that Jeff has rapidly become the man behind a most flamboyant new cider – the mouth-watering pink-labelled Dcider.
Hailing from a Southern Highlands New South Wales sheep farming background, Jeff’s life direction was influenced by two things: his dad, an agricultural scientist, and his mum, a wine aficionado from Lithuania. “There was always wine on the table at dinner,” Jeff tells me when I visit him at Eling Forest winery near Bowral. Together they ensured Jeff was well versed in the art of the drop, with a combined family interest in working the land, agricultural sciences and the European tradition of wine as a daily part of celebrating life.
Dciding to pursue a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University, Jeff developed a talent for creating the precious party-starting liquids all Australians enjoy. Upon finishing his degree, his career in winemaking kicked off in earnest at the Clonikilla winery.
After honing his skills, Jeff had a unique opportunity to expand his horizons by travelling to Eastern Europe’s Georgia to consult to the family of Tbilvino Wines, now the biggest wine company in the country. He continues his relationship with Tbilvino to this day, visiting them to consult for at least a fortnight each year.
Jeff recalls his first visit to Georgia as a uniquely memorable experience.
“When I arrived the driver was waiting at the airport with a small sign bearing my name, but also with a machine gun slung over one shoulder and a handgun holstered to his hip.
“The entire country was still farming in a medieval way, with horse-drawn carts and many people earning next to no money in a sort-of indentured labour environment.
“I quickly grew a very thick, long beard so I could blend in.
“But the people there are extremely welcoming. All the farmers want to invite visitors to feast with them, sharing their fresh and organic local foods.
“Every year I go I live on a diet of sheep cheese, tomatoes and schotti, a kind of bread – it’s delicious with very natural, earthy flavours.”
Nowadays Jeff is behind a large number of wines and ciders Australians are drinking on a daily basis. Names such as Eling Forest, Banjos Run, Bousada, May Tree, Wollumbi and Rosedale – an array of boutique wines carving names for themselves as some of the finest new brands in the country. He also produces cider for Pigs Fly, The Apple Man and of course his signature creation, the newest kid on the block, Dcider.
A local Bowral entrepreneur, Graeme Doyle, loved the taste of Jeff’s Dcider and so backed the business as well as working with Jeff to conceive the shocking pink, or shiapelliari pink label, a savvy dcision which has seen Dcider move a lot of stock during the Sydney Mardi Gras as well as at trendy inner-city venues and bottle shops.
Their success so far achieved off a launch that only happened in Dcember 2012 and a dcision to run a guerilla social media campaign using instagram, pinterest, twitter and facebook as the lines of communication.
With its fresh, crisp clean taste, Dcider started its awareness campaign by sponsoring a number of art gallery exhibition launches and the drink went down a treat – as ultimately taste is crucial to getting tongues wagging.
The word-of-mouth strategy continued when Jeff and Graeme took the bold move of having a double-stand at Taste of Sydney. It was another opportunity to gather instagram photos of people enjoying Dcider for the first time, while also enabling Jeff and Graeme to network with possible distributors and venues.
At a grassroots level Jeff also takes a stall at the Bowral Farmers Markets which are run monthly, as a way to win over local community support – and this has resulted in Dcider being available in local Southern Highlands venues such as The Imperial Hotel and Banjo’s Run Cellar Door while also offering free cider tastings at the Eling Forest Winery Cafe every weekend.
In Sydney itself, Dcider has absolutely taken off at the Newtown Hotel, beginning as part of a promotion on their Snapback Wednesday nights and then finding that the enthusiasm for its taste has spilled over onto other days of the week.
“One thing I love about instagram is that pretty well every weekend we have people taking photos of themselves drinking Dcider at the Newtown Hotel and hashtagging #Dcider – this is the great value of social media,” Jeff reveals.
Dcider has also been running an opening special of a 6-pack for just $19.99 which has seen it sell very well at The Strand Cellars in Croydon, The Oaks Bottle Shop in Neutral Bay and Vic On The Park’s Enmore Bottle Shop in Enmore.
The latter came out of Jeff having a stall at the Vic On The Park’s recent cider festival, where response to Dcider was so positive that the venue immediately started stocking Dcider in its ‘bottlo’.
Dcider has now been taken on by Euroconcepts, one of the largest distributors in Sydney, meaning it will soon be available much more widely, making it a lot easier to pick up. Everyone likes picking up after all.
Finally Dcider has also created a social media only online special where people can order a case of Dcider (24 bottles) for their parties and when they use the code ‘intro’ in the shopping cart the price is just $72.20 to anywhere in Australia.
This has seen cases of Dcider flying off around the country to be enjoyed in not just Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide but many rural areas.
Indeed thanks to rural food bloggers such as The Farmer Has a Wife giving Dcider a review, the areas where such folk are based have quickly taken Dcider to their hearts – another handy aspect of online media.
Distributors have now been sourced in Melbourne and Adelaide so there will be a lot more venues available soon in a lot more Australian cities. To keep up with developments you can check out their venues page.
As for the venues who take Dcider on board, they benefit from the social media publicity which is generated on their behalf.
“Social media enables us to promote our stockists anytime day and night to our fans as places to enjoy Dcider while having a meal or just passing by,” Jeff says. “This is an exciting time to stock Dcider,” he says with a grin.
To find out more about Dcider or to order a case to make your next party go off, simply go to www.dcider.com.au