The Great Cider Review Part 3: Beyond the Supermarket

For this instalment of my great cider review I’ve deliberately stayed clear of the supermarkets.

So, in search of some proper ciders, I’ve just tasted bottles from independent producers and shops.  There is a huge range of ciders available from small producers who are largely dotted around the traditional cider area of the West Country, but there are also those further afield.

As cider becomes more popular I hope that these ciders get to travel further afield getting into more small shops and allowing people to try them there.  Most of these ciders are made without preservatives or artificial chemicals and you could really taste the difference in the lack chemical tang.  By and large these ciders were not easy to get hold of and in most cases they cost a lot more than supermarket ciders. Despite this I’ve really enjoyed trying something a little bit different.

Duche De Longueville Cidre de Recolant Pomme Variete Antoinette – 4.5%, 750ml, £3.30 from Nicolas wine shop in Cardiff.

Cidre de recoltant

I’m a fan of rural French ciders and enjoy drinking the fruity and pleasant flavour when the opportunity presents itself.  Having spotted this cider in a French Wine Specialist shop I had high hopes and was really looking forward to trying it.  It is made with 90% Antoinette apples and had an orangey yellow hue.  Straight out of the bottle it was extremely fizzy when poured, producing a large white foamy head.  As soon as it hit the glass I could smell the apple and my tastebuds got ready for some serious flavour.

In the end, however, I was disappointed.  The head disappeared fairly quickly but the excess of fizz remained making it a little difficult to drink, and I found it very dry with very little apple flavour.  It also left a powdery taste in my mouth which was quite unpleasant.  It’s not the worst cider I’ve ever tried, but it’s certainly not something I’ll be trying again in a hurry.

4/10

Dunkertons Premium Organic Cider – 6.8%, 500ml, about £3 from a deli in Hay on Wye but £2.3

Dunkertons premium organic cider

5 online.

Dunkertons have been making organic cider in Herefordshire since 1988 using an old fashioned mill.  This example was a hay yellow, slightly cloudy sparkling cider and it smelt quite strongly of both fruit and alcohol.  Made for a mix of old and new variety apples, it was a very agreeable drink, although I think the claim of medium sweet was overstating things a bit.  Medium dry would be more like it, but it was a credible medium dry.  The aftertaste left in your mouth was much fruitier than the drink itself which left you wanting another sip; a great solid cider.  I also thought the slight cloudiness of the drink was pleasingly unusual.

8/10

Burrow Hill farm pressed Somerset Cider – 6%, 500ml, this was a present, but can be bought online for £2

Burrow Hill farm pressed Somerset cider

The somerset cider brandy company takes their cider bus to Glastonbury each year (not that I’ve ever been) and are famous for their cider brandy and hot spiced cider. This bottle was made from a mix of 11 different vintage apples varieties and it had a deep brown yellow colour from the oak barrels in which it was fermented.  When I opened it I was struck by the smell the oak, a hint of fruit but no alcohol!  I was surprised to find that this cider was only just the slightest bit carbonated, something which made it very easy to drink.  The taste was bitter without being either dry or sharp and there wasn’t a huge amount of flavour.  What flavour there was was straight fruit and I couldn’t taste the oak that I smelt.  Enjoyable at the time, but looking back a little bit forgettable.

7/10

Cornish Orchards Black and Gold Still – 5.5%, 500ml, 2.75 units, another present, but £2.15 online.

Cornish Orchard black and gold still cider

A traditional still cider, this was made from a mix of bittersharp and bittersweet apples with no added sweeteners, flavours or preservatives. It was voted one of the ten best ciders and perries in 2007 by the Independent.

The first thing that appealed to me about this cider was that it had a screw-cap lid (such novelty!), the second was that it was still.  I also liked the simple, unfussy styling.  The cider itself had a deep, almost whisky like colour and a tangy fruit aroma.  It was very sharp and dry to drink, but did not dry out your mouth in the way that some ciders seem to.  It was quite a mild cider in flavour and had very little aftertaste.  Being still, it could be glugged like water, and I’m sure a bottle could easily disappear before you know it. It wasn’t the most exciting cider and I’m not quite sure why it made the top ten list.

6/10

Gwatkins Pyder – 5%, 500ml, 2.5 units, £3.50 from the Cowbridge Food Festival

Gwatkins Pyder

The Gwatkins family hail from Herefordshire and their ciders are a familiar feature at food festivals in Cardiff.  It was the branding and the name that drew me to this cider (how could you not go and ask about pyder!) along with the tag line “the original pear cider”.

Given my feelings on the naming of perries I had to investigate and what I found was a really great drink.  Pyder is made from a blend of apple and pear juice (hence the name) and is fairly sweet.  It was orange coloured with a slight pinkish tinge (like a sunset if I was feeling romantic) and smelt quite strongly of alcohol with a mix of something indefinably rural and rough.

It didn’t fizz or produce much head when poured, but instead created an almost sherbety feeling on your tongue when consumed.  The fruit flavour was abundant and although sweet it was neither sickly nor cloying.  This is the most unusual cider I’ve tried and one I can’t wait to try again.  My only complaint would be the price!

9/10

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