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:
- Cider is made from apples; perry made from pears; Fruit wines/'English' wine is made from other fruit.
- 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
- 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.)
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:-)