Thursday 17 May 2012

Sampford Courtenay Sloe and Elderberry Fruit Cider

No, I am not going insane or against my principles - you must bear in mind that my principle is not to knock something without first trying said thing. OK, I don't cut a lot of slack for fruit based rubbish that positions itself on the shoulders of 'cider'. Cider has enough of a personality problem without adding apple 'based' fruit drinks. I can justify this thinking:

  1. Cider is made from apples; perry made from pears; Fruit wines/'English' wine is made from other fruit.
  2. There is no tradition or heritage of cider with fruit other than by and large to fix poor cider - and often the fruit was added at the point of serving
  3. HMRC guidelines call cider with other fruit 'made wines' - that is why the duty payable is greater (and this also includes those ciders where some of the flavour, alcoholic content and marketing comes out of a whisky or rum barrel.)
Now, please don't get me wrong. There is a place for fruit and apple wine/small wine/cider - but to equate it to cider is misleading and also does cider a disservice. Good cider should not need other things adding to it, and I object to silly things trading off of ciders good name. Oh, and: I have heard the argument that it is cider because that is the base of the drink. Sorry. It becomes one of the ingredients. It is not cider. Call it what it is, not what you would like it to be!

So, all things taken, why am I trying this one? Its because it is probably at the top end of cider with fruit adulteration, that is why. I don't think they have produced it to cover up bad cider and, well, its worth trying it to see where it fits in. I have heard good things about the Sampford Courtenay. I love the way that they call themselves a 'cider and English wines company' - as in all honesty this is an English wine. OK, so its called a fruit cider - I am not entirely sure this is OK... I think it is supposed to be called 'cider with fruit' - but that may be a strict application of Trading Standards requirements.

I do like the flip-top bottle and the classy labelling going on here too. At 5.5% its around cider levels, although you can see through the clear bottle to the purple-ish liquid inside. Now, do I drink it in a wine glass or a cider glass (sorry, I can sense some blood vessels popping at that:-)

OK. So I don't need to pour this out to see that it looks like red wine, although this becomes more obvious in the glass. There is a cidery smell too. I suspect that is because it has cider as a base (see my argument above:-) In fact, its almost all cidery so far except for the colour. The taste is interesting though. It works - as an English wine it works well. If I was judging this against the cider I generally try alone, then probably not so much. There are plum'y' notes in the background but the apple is definitely there.

As expected the elderberry is delivering a mass of tannin which is actually quite drying on the tongue. It is to be expected though, elderberries have lots of tannins on the skin which can take up to 2 years to mellow in a full elderberry wine. I have to say that its no more than a heavy West Country cider though.

Most of the fruit flavour is held in the aftertaste - so you get cider and then the rest following. Moving on through the glass (once the other flavours have been detected) there is more of it creeping in - especially the sloe, although my guess is that the elderberry is always there with such big tannins.

Its not bad as a cider. I am not sure how much more the other fruit adds to it, so it is still a bit of a novelty to me. Mind you, at least its a grown up drink and not an alcopop version. I think I have to say I would go for a proper cider over this drink on the most part however.

Its hard to score as it is unlike anything else I have tried so far. I have tried to mark it by going on what I expect something like this to taste like.. though that is not so easy in itself. The score of 69/100 is not quite a medal - I agree with that in so much as it can't really be gauged against the best of the ciders, although it just misses it which again I agree with as it is very well done and presented.

Don't think I will be doing many more of these though (unless I run out of cider and perry to try:-)


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  2. Thanks for the comment - I am glad that people find this useful:-)