Continuing the major brands theme (well, they are the ciders that most people will find sat in their local supermarket) its time to try out a Sheppy’s.
Sheppy’s are one of the four or five medium to large cider makers in the UK currently – not at the level of Gaymers, C&C (Magners) and Bulmers, but one that can still make something of its ongoing heritage and family based structure. Like Weston’s, its worth visiting them if you are ever near Tauntons to see what is made of cider and apples – there is a museum and you can take a tour of the business (as well as buy cider).
The Vintage Reserve (or 'Oak Matured’ Vintage Reserve as its called on their website) has even won an award. So no pressure there then – before I have even opened the bottle I am expecting something good from it.
Now, its worth bearing in mind that pretty much all of the major cider producers are run more like manufacturing plants than the traditional businesses they once were. This includes filtration, pasteurisation and back sweetening to appeal to a wide audience with a consistent (but often safe) product. This blog is not in judgement of this. There are many sides to the cider industry and the more traditional producers cannot produce the same volume of cider as the larger concerns. Each cider should be taken as just that – a cider. Whatever people think of the processes, surely its the drink that matters (at the end of the day).
So, onto the cider itself... Its a nice colour - somewhere in between amber and golden. The bubbles are a bit of a bother though - this carbonation in this cider is very moussy and almost leaves a head on the cider! Once its drunk though, its a nice smooth (creamy?) mouthful that is distinctive and very full of bittersweet fruit.
As far as oak goes (the Vintage Reserve is descirbed as a Somerset Cider matured in oak), there is a taste of it - nicely, it isn't too much. Mind you, it would take a lot to overcome the cider apples in here. One thing I would say though is that I thought Somerset ciders should have more sharp to them than this - its more of a Hereford style... although this is much of a muchness.
At 7.4%, you can taste the alcohol in it - which lasts through to the aftertaste. It is sweet though... yes, I know, its a medium.
On the whole, this is a carefully put together cider and is nice - my imaginary friend who I am leading to cider would definitely try this on their journey. But the moussy carbonation, which never fades. I fear detracts from it, plus the sweetness which just isn't my taste... is it just me, or does carbonation increase the sweetness? On the verge (but not quite) a heritage cider.
I thought the overall score of 74 looked a bit tight, but its the first cider to win an 'apple'. Double checking the individual scores, I am happy with each and therefore its right (for me). A nice cider that deserves a look in.