A venture started a decade ago by the last commercial apple orchard in the Illawarra can now lay claim to producing the world's best cider.
Darkes Cider, at Glenbernie Orchard, not only took out three medals at the World Cider Awards in London on Friday, it was recognised for producing the best overall product.
The World's Best Sparkling Perry Award and a gold medal for best sparking perry went to Darkes Cider Perry, a gold medal for best sparkling cider was awarded to Darkes Cider Howler, and a silver medal for best sparkling cider was taken out by Darkes Cider Dry.
Glenbernie Orchard is a sixth generation family farm at Darkes Forest and owner Jo-Anne Fahey said the ciders had come a long way since she was encouraged to make them by her children Casey and Brandon Fahey in 2012 during a challenging time for the fruit industry.
Ms Fahey said to win the overall award for the world's best sparkling perry was as good as it gets. The recognition comes just weeks after Darkes Cider won the Best Perry Award at the Red Hill Cider Show in Victoria.
Ms Fahey said it was all a huge boost for a business that was forced to change the way it sells its products by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Darkes Cider used to be sold directly to consumers from its cellar door and retail space at Glenbernie Orchard but now delivers its ciders, fruit and honey to Wollongong, Shellharbour and Sutherland after taking orders online. It uses couriers for the rest of Australia.
A growing number of local bottle shops are stocking Darkes Cider and Ms Fahey expects international demand to grow so much that the family business will now need to gear up for global distribution.
"This is a terrific opportunity for export. We have already sent some of our perry overseas and are trying to break into the Japanese market."
Ms Fahey said the popularity of cider was growing everywhere during the COVID pandemic.
"Cider is only made with fresh juice, we're not adding water or sugar to it. Fruit is the hero of the product, it's very natural and pure," she said.
"We are the last commercial apple orchard in the Illawarra and were the first to make cider and we want to be here for a lot longer. We are trying to find ways to make our business thrive and we are getting a lot of support locally."
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said the global recognition was wonderful news for the Illawarra at a time the region needed it.
"Wollongong has another world champion to celebrate. This is a product of their labour and love," he said.