Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Olivers Traditional Cider

Back to cider from the Bristol Cider Shop.

Now, I hear all about Olivers Perries, which seem to win so many competitions that I think they must just have an honorary position. Oliver's ciders though... these are equally respected (and win competitions too) but I just haven't seen them around so much.

Oliver's as a company have a great rap. Tom Oliver is one of the key figures in the resurgence of perry as a quality, artisan product. In fact, this could be why his cider is overlooked in favour of his perry (well, thats my take on it). He is also another cracking cider bloke. Most cider people are nice enough - this should encourage consumers to meet them more. Travelling and visiting a cider company must surely be the best way to buy cider!

This cider pours with a very low sparkle - pretty much flat (but with a few bubbles) at the start. It also has a low fruity aroma, which smells slightly sharp smelling which is odd for a Herefordshire Cider (but then, am I just getting the whole county style wrong?).

Oooh - it has an extremely bittersharp taste to it. Sure there are plenty of tannins in here... but there is a very fruity acid to it too. Now, this cannot  be desert fruit, as the tannin is high and the cider is full and dry. However, its also leaning away towards the sharp side. So that must makes the fruit bittersharp.

I have to say that the acids do rule this cider a tiny bit too much. The aftertaste is all acid - the tannins fall away fairly quickly but the acid is biting to the end.

Sure its unbalanced - but it stands out from the other Herefordshire ciders really well. Do I think my trainee cider drinker would like it though? I think they may need to think about it!

It scored 79/100, so it a bronze apple. I think it really ought to have nudged just into silver. But I don't like to nudge scores just 'cos I think so. I do try to be objective!!

Oh, and apologies for the awful photo that goes with this post... I will just have to buy another bottle to photograph it properly:-)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Amazing Cider Company, May's Cider

Well, its nice to see another full juice cider donning the shelves of the local Asda. And this one supports 'Help for Hero's' too... well, a little bit of it does anyway. To be honest, I don't really care whether they use this as a gimmick or not, its just nice to see Asda making some kind of effort as far as cider goes.

I have tried cider from the Amazing Cider Company before, but it was a long while ago when I was on holiday in Ross on Wye. Mind you, there are a lot of Herefordshire ciders aren't there!!!

So, on to the drink. It pours out golden and extremely clear. It was also incredibly fizzy... it could have done with a cork and cage almost. My notes comment that it wanted to leave the bottle, so that is definitely fizzy! (the cap all but took off).

The fruity aroma is also pretty light too. I guess this could be due to filtering - it has been fairly well filtered. By that I mean very filtered. Often, this affects the flavour of a cider (to me), but I am guessing on this cider.

To taste, it is very sweet - OK, its a medium. Its an honest medium then and I do wish I could have a choice of a drier version. That aside, there is still room for the tannin to come through during the drink and it is nice and modest (probably contained due to filtering). But its the sweetness that wins through into the aftertaste.

Don't expect a whole lot of acid in Mays cider though. As a Herefordshire cider, I was expecting a balance between sharp and tannin, but I guess I am just trying to pigeon hole ciders too much. Its nice all the same though.

I think it was the sweetness that put me off of this cider a little - though its score just shows that it is a very good cider despite what I think of the sweetening. It scored 71/100, which is a bronze apple.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ross on Wye Cider and Perry Co. - Broome Farm Cyder

I now move on to a cyder with an Alpaca on the label. For those who are familiar with the Ross on Wye Cider an Perry Company it is of course the Broome Farm Cyder. This is another Cider Shop (Bristol) purchase, and I think it was probably the first one that I picked up from the shelf. Mind you, that could just be because Mike Johnson, the guy who runs Ross Cider, is just such a thoroughly nice bloke.

Well, its got it all going for it before its poured out of the bottle - its a golden, dry cider with a gentle sparkle that is almost certainly a tiny bit of finishing fermentation after bottling. Its not a deep colour though, and is surprisingly clear. I am not a cloudy cider person though - I don't mind a haze - but I am equally not a crystal clear cider drinker either.

The smell is strong and cidery. I had small concerns that there was whisky in the smell, although to be honest, its the alcoholic aroma that I am catching. Mind you. Coming back and re-smelling it a few times, I am not 100% sure that there isn't whisky in there. Maybe it was fermented in a whisky barrel. If it affects the taste I may not be so happy...

To drink, it is realy, really smooth. The taste is pretty light and my concerns about whisky seem to clearly be unfounded. There are some tangy tannins in here that bring the drink to life - and a decent measure of acid too that counters the tannins and even wins over through the aftertaste.

I think tangy is probably the best word to describe this cider. It is different from most of the other ciders I have tried so far - and it w
ill stick out as a result. I really like it, and could probably go on drinking it all night (well, I could have another one anyway).

In conclusion, I am still not 100% convinced that whisky hasn't entered the process somewhere, but I cannot place it in the taste. And if it is whisky, then it is perfection. I say that because so many ciders that have seen rum, whisky or other type of cask are tainted through the process. And often its not pleasant. To do it and to retain the ciders integrity is no mean feat. Next time I see him, I shall ask Mr Johnson about this:-)

A score of 93 and a big fat gold apple for Ross Cider.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Thatchers 2011 Vintage Cider

I found this cider gracing the shelves of Sainsbury's the other day and have since found that it is a new addition to the Thatchers family of ciders... as in very recent indeed.

Now, I have to say this bottle confuses me to the extreme. You see, typically a vintage cider is one that is of vintage quality, which the producer has left to properly mature and refine - say, maybe 12 months+ old. This one appears to have been pressed, fermented, matured and bottled in the 2011 pressing season.

OK, lets be a realist - marketing people have taken over the cider industry and what most people think of as vintage is up for grabs to be interpreted by some marketing bod. And I can only think this is what Thatchers have done - I wasn't expecting to see 2011 vintage cider until late next year... in fact, I am not expecting to see any 2011 cider until April/May next year. So I guess this means its their vintage for 2011... not a vintage made in the 2011 season.

Read the label - "... using the pick of the apples from the 2011 crop..." Hang on. The 2011 crop isn't finished yet! I am still pressing apples and am pretty sure most others are too (and am told that the best cider apples are the late ones). Add to this paradox the fact that nothing but the earliest cider will have had the chance to finish fermentation yet?! I am sure it is quite possible to force fermentation speeds, but then what about maturation? Not specifically thinking about vintage cider, but about 2011 cider generally - this is something of a major anomoly!

I hope this is just a mistake and what they meant was that its the 2010 apples pressed in 2010 for a 2011 vintage (which, although still a little confusing would at leasr make sence). In truth, my bet goes on it being the Thatchers marketing machine trying to be clever and/or trying to be 'on trend' with some kind of vintage cider fad going on. Either that or else they have some serious fermentation and ageing kit at Thatchers that I have never heard of before. If I am wrong about this, please someone tell me!

Maybe I had better get on to reviewing the cider eh!

The aroma fine (as in faint) but a nice cider smell... coupled with a whiff of sulphite too. Its a lovely golden colour with a moderate but persistent carbonation.

To taste, there is a sense of the 'Green Goblins' about this cider, albeit that I think its a deeper taste - its certainly stronger in terms of alcohol content, but it does still feel a little engineered. It is filtered and bright with a carbonation that I would have thought was forced at bottling. Its quite a juicy cider too, so maybe its sweetened with apple juice - more common than you might think and one of the more natural ways of sweetening a cider.

Aftertaste is juicy and moderate - not real tannic kick or acidic bite to it.

The drink is pleasant and I actually rather like the juicy, deep flavour (although the sweetness is a little on the high side. I must admit that having tried many other 'vintages' this one is a little light. That may be why I am a touch disappointed with it... other than the whole thing just confuses the hell out of me! As a cider, I would say it is as good as the 2010 Vintage.

A score of 74 sees it with a bronze medal. However, that bronze is not for their marketing team!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Perry's Farm Pressed Medium Cider

Now here is one of the medium/big producers that I feel I have missed so far... and a trip down to Dorset soon sorted that out:-)

Perry's are on the cusp of being a Sheppy's/Thatchers sized business - they are certainly all over the place (although they are not actually from Dorset - they are based near to Taunton in Somerset). Their farm is worth a visit too, and if you time it right (i.e. you just about missed it now) you can see the milling and pressing of apples from the comfort of the cafe just across the yard. Now, a farm with a cafe... very modern!!

So, why start with the medium? Well, I confess its not the only one I have (I actually think I bought just about all of their current range bar the Perry... though thinking about it I should have done!) But its the one that I fished out first, so there you go.

Pouring it out, it positively glows - golden and even a little reddy amber coming out too. All too often I put that down to Yarlington Mill, though I suspect its not the only variety to have this effect. At first the carbonation is quite large but this soon settles down to a gentle bubble - so the description on the bottle is bang on.

The smell is all cidery and lovely too. Its a little on the light side - its also a bright cider so I suspect a touch of filtering has removed some of the rawness of it. And to taste; bittersharp and bittersweet apples in roughly equal measure. It has a fantastic tannin that is just a little hidden behind the sweetness. Mind you, don't think that its going to ba a strong sweetness, as there is an awful lot going on in this blend - and the sweetness by no means has it all its own way!

The aftertaste is just more of the same loveliness. Its a really good cider and makes me want to go straight on to the dry version!!

My only comment has to be the 5% level. To my mind a touch light but I guess there is no problem in this. It doesn't matter in any case as it scored 81/100 which grants it a silver apple!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider

I did wonder for a while whether this was the same stuff that I drank at the Great British Beer Festival [link], however, its a dry and also I have reckoned on the GBBF being supplied the sweeter 'Old Fashioned Cider'.

Anyway, it came from the Bristol Cider Shop (again)... I am sure I must be persuading someone to go and visit them!

The one chink in Dunkerton's armour for me is their insistence on making everything 'organic'. Whilst I accept that it is a good thing to do, I am not convinced of the motivation behind the 'organic lobby'... and in any case a lot of cider orchards are organic by the virtue of noone bothering to spray. So I think their argument is a little thin (unless you are persuaded that having a certificate or a 'number' somehow makes it more acceptable.

Anyway. That is a trifling thing. The fact and truth is that they make great cider. Traditional, full juice and true to their location in Herefordshire. I am sure this is not going to let that down. Now - do I mark them down for slapping 'Organic' over the front of the bottle???

It pours a golden colour which doesn't look filtered. It has a sparkle to it, but I would suggest that it is more likely to be bottle conditioned as opposed to carbonated. Very appetising!

The smell is all bittersweet and tannic. and whilst it has a low fizz, it is very persistent. And then there is that awesome taste of the cider; not too dry, but with a explosion of bittersweet/sharp fruit that is truly a joy. At the end of the mouthful, its all bittersharp, and that is what is left in the mouth until the next gulp.

Whilst it is full of tannins, they don't rule the drink too much. The acid from the bittersharps reigns it back nicely - and it must be thing that is combating the tannins dryness. Well, that and these persistent bubbles that seem to rumble on in the background all the way until the last drop.

Now, this is what I call a worthy cider. And indeed, it gets a gold apple with 93 points. My list of golds is growing into a very nice bunch indeed!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Gwatkins Original Dry Cider

Back to cider from The Cider Shop in Bristol, and another one that I am really looking forward to. I do like clear bottles - you can see the liquid inside and this is a deep golden colour that just screams 'tannin' and 'dryness'.

I would comment on the strength though. I am a little surprised that a full juice cider comes out at 5%. OK, I ought to qualify that. 2010 was not an exceptional year for making cider; it was not a bad year either. I don't recall seeing any reports of low or uber-high gravities being achieved too. So I would expect a craft cider to turn out at about 6-8%. Not that 5% is ridiculous though - and with the UK law stating that alcohol content can be as far as 1% out in either direction I think there is room for debate here.

So, on to the cider (lets face it, if you really appreciate a drink then you only notice alcohol content if it is absurdly high or pitifully weak). Its all about the taste, right? (I do wish I could get that through to many of the cider drinkers at festivals though).

So, the first thing I should say is that I reckon its been filtered and force carbonated. Not a crime, but noteworthy. The smell though - huge whiff of what I can only describe as caramelised apples. fruity and tannic but its all incredibly deep. The sparkle is moderate though - which I find a little over fizzy.

And so on to the taste. Wow, now that is a rounded cider. Tannins, acid and apple - all burst in the mouth. Its a bit watery in the mouth however (though I am not saying its been watered down). The aftertaste dies a little too quickly too.  And when you stick your mouth out for the next sip, you get the smell again - toffee apples? I can't quite place it, but its quite strong.

I was expecting big flavours from this cider. They are there. But they seem to have been tamed quite a lot and its a more delicate flavour than I had expected. Its also not exactly bone dry either. Now I don't think its been sweetened, just that the fruit that is in this cider is not all tannin and punch.

A note on the aftertaste; there is a pleasant acid kick at the end which is good. I would say that a useful bittersharp or two are in the cider.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Waitrose Cox's Apple Cider (2010 Vintage)

Another single variety cider then. And a supermarket own brand (and indeed, from their own orchards too). Unless it says on the label, it is always difficult to figure out who made it for them, or whether Waitrose own their own press as well as their own orchard... oh well.

I ought to have started this review with 'Another Cox's cider' to try. I have to confess I was disappointed with the Thatchers version as being a balanced up cider. Cox, being a desert apple, must offer fairly thin, acidic cider with little tannin to counter it. So, I will be bearing this all in mind when thinking about the Waitrose cider.

Sure enough, it is a straw coloured drink with a light and acidic smell. So far so good then. I do also catch a touch of sulphite too (though this surely can vary from batch to batch).

And to drink. For all my limited knowledge, this is a fairly thin, lightly acidic cider but with an interesting character. Very definitely eastern in style there is very little (i.e. no) tannin getting in the way of an actually reasonably pleasant drink.

It has a lingering acid that goes on well after you have swallowed too. So, could this be what a Cox's cider ought to taste like?

But before I wax lyrical, hang on. It is not exactly full of flavour. I have tasted much better eastern style cider made with a blend of a number of varieties. I have tasted one or two single variety desert apple ciders that would give the Cox a run for its money too.

But, its a good representation of Cox. And it is absolutely drinkable - and will go on my list of very nearly's with a score of 69.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Aspall Lady Jennifer's Cyder

This was a bit of a find in a local Waitrose in Cardiff - an Aspall's I haven't tried before. Is it new? I have no idea and their website isn't much help in finding out. Not sure I like that label as much as the other cyders. Its all wishy washy where the others have made good use of powerful designs and strong colours. Could it be that this cyder isn't aimed at someone like me???

Its also very weak for a cyder, and much weaker than the rest of the Aspall range. At 4% its almost as if its a re-press (a second pressing of pomace once the majority of juice has been extracted). However, knowing that Aspall are a large, rather automated business, I doubt that they will be too bothered about repressing. Plus, I suspect that the presses they use are sufficiently serious that repressing just isn't viable. Anyway, its weak... speculation isn't going to work out why.

Lady Jennifer's cyder is described as being "A crisp light cyder". From pouring, it is a straw coloured cyder with a moderate fizz that persists throughout the drink. It has a light enough aroma which on par with other Aspall's.

A bit about the scoring on here - and of which this cyder is a good example. Although there are scores for tannin and acidity, this has to sit with the style of drink - western, eastern, cidre or sidra (or other). Now, I am not an expert on any of these drinks, but I reckon its unfair to score (say) an eastern style cyder down for having too little tannin. Its not suppost to have much tannin.  I hope to have read the various style correctly (i.e. its not simply 'western style' - there is Herefordshire, Somerset, Devon etc.). So, if you are a little confused by a cyder like this scoring 7 for tannin, it means that it is appropriate for its style.

Oh, its not that simple though. Cider makers generally don't work to 'styles' - they do what they like. So you are left to guess.

Back to Lady Jennifer. I reckon this cyder is a little odd for Aspall's. Not just for its marketing, but also it tastes weak. It has a light enough flavour with a decent fruit base, but its just a bit like watered down cyder.

Mind you, it is what it says it is on the label, so for that Aspall get credit. I am sure that if I were to find myself on a Victorian picnic and needing to be proper and charming it would suit the occasion very well. I have never been on a Victorian picnic and can think of other cyders... other Aspall's cyders... that I would take along.

In all honesty, it does everything competently. I just doesn't work very well for me. Could it be that its not aimed at people like me??

The taste is pretty weak, the aftertaste fades quickly although has an acidic bite to it. And I guess, as a fairly competent cyder, it scored 65/100.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Burrow Hill Somerset Cider

I seem to be spoiling myself with cider at the moment. Partly this is thanks to having a client in Avonmouth - which means that I can get to The Cider Shop in Bristol easily. If you haven't visited, this is a treasure trove of West Country cider makers from both Herefordshire and Somerset. The radius of suppliers is 50 miles in each direction, but even so there is a huge range to choose from.

Buying 10 bottles that I hadn't tried before still left easily another 10 to go (well, I have to go back sometime eh!). I have to say that these guys aren't on their own though - if you can get to Ross, try Truffles Deli (I know, its a deli... it sells a lot of cider too).

Anyway, the next bottle I come to is the unmistakable Burrow Hill. These guys are surely some of the leading cider brains in the UK, if not the world. It ought to be a winner all the way. Well, as I have already opened it, I guess there is only one way of finding out!

Its, as expected, a nice golden colour and (I am pleased to say) with little carbonation to it. The aroma is fruity and tannic. Pretty heavy tannins too. Basically, very good if rather heavy.

As anticipated, this cider is all bittersweet cider apple with little sharpness to counter the huge tannins and fruit in the mouth. Its not bone dry though, so the sweetening is serving a purpose. Talking of sweetening, this is sensibly done. The drink isn't about the sweetness - its about the flavour. And I really do appreciate that. Why would I expect anything else eh!

This is a really good cider. Heavy, west country (Somerset) style with little time for frills and faffs like bubbles and sweetness. I do reckon its filtered though... but then who said filtering was always a bad thing?!

A couple of comments. Burrow Hill have over 40 varieties of cider apple that go into their blends. This is a big number of varieties to blend with, and it comes through on the balance of the cider. I doubt all 40 are in this one bottle as Burrow Hill do make several types of cider. However, this is a good blended cider - and I think the best ones are.

My only other comment is to Burrow Hill really. Why on earth does it say "Can be served over ice" on the bottle? I can only assume this is either ironic or simply taking the wotsit out of those who know no better. I doubt ice would have added anything to this cider!

Anyway, a great silver apple with a score of 86/100