Monday 31 October 2011

Wessex Bottle Conditioned Dry Cider

This is another cider from Coombe Bissett Stores. Well, when I say another - it was the only other one I haven't already tried. I should also say that I haven't come across this cider anywhere before, so it may be a main outlet for it. I do love coming across things like this; you have to go an extra mile to find them but invariably they are traditionally made, full juice and individual to the maker.

OK, so visitng their website, they appear to be a traditional/craft cider producers based in Wiltshire and using mainly bittersweet varieties of apples. So I can expect this cider to be tannic and pretty dry in the mouth.

It pours out quick and fizzy, but dies down to a low carbonation really quickly. Typical of many bottle conditioned ciders, although it did die a little fast. However, I can attest to it being a natural sparkle as the bubbles are more moussy and smaller (but I did figure it being more persistent).

Bottle conditioning a cider is a great and natural way of promoting bubbles in a still cider. And when the cider is dry, this process can lift it from being bone dry to quite delicious. Some people refer to it as a 'second fermentation', but this would be incorrect (and leaning a little too heavily on beer making). Its only an extension of the first fermentation. You see, cider (craft cider) is a living thing. The yeasts that ferment it are not filtered out, so there will always be a few about. To bottle condition, either the cider is bottled before the fermentation has finished or else (much more controllable and I suspect widespread these days) is that the cider is left to finish fermentation, then bottled with a small amount of priming sugar. The carbon dioxide released from the fermentation within the bottle is trapped in solution and, 'voila', you have a dry, sparkling cider.

That may sound a bit basic, but in essence its a natural process. And yes, it does make me wonder why its not more common than the less carbon neutral method of force carbonation.

I digress. The cider smells light and fruity. Delicate almost. Not expecting a rough and tough cider, but something more complex - although as I am thinking there are bittersweet cider fruit in here, it is quite a fragile aroma. It is one of the more complex ciders too. Not highly tannic, but there is some. Its a little watery to the taste too - although this is almost certainly to do with the low tannin in the cider. I suspect this is due to terroir more than anything - the soil and conditions for the apples.

Acid wise, I think there is quite a lot of it... and uless I am very mistaken there is a variety in there that is very sharp... Bramley perhaps??

These things aside, its a nice light cider that is neither eastern or western in character. Its not particularly dry - but I think that could just be apple varieties (there are desert apples in here). I cannot decide if its been filtered or not - its dropped very clear. Referring back to their website, I am happy to give the benefit of the doubt. Everything that they do sounds contrary to filtering. Nicely clear cider though!

The acid does run a little wild at the end of the drink.. its the one lingering taste that comes through. I know I have said it before, but this level of acidity cannot come from bittersweet fruit. Mind you, getting acid right in a blend (unless its an eastern style of cider) can be tricky to get absolutely spot on.

Overall, I like this cider. There is an honesty about it that is pleasant - even if the tannins are restrained and the acid levels quite high. These things are not faults, and give the Wessex cider the nice character that I hoped for. It scored 73/100. So thats not bad eh!

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