Tuesday 13 November 2012

Gwatkins Norman Cider

The idea of a 'Norman' apple is a little vague. Yes, it is a variety that originates from Normandy - and they know how to produce a good cider in Normandy. However, there isn't simply one 'Norman' apple; in fact, the information on the label attests to this and says "The Norman Cider apple was imported from Normandy in France. There are half a dozen varieties of the same name, which vary in size and shape, but many of them share the same flavour."

I will be interested to see if this cider shares a similar flavour profile to the French cidre's I have tried. As a bittersweet variety, Bulmers Norman (the variety or 'Norman' that appears to be the most readily available in the UK) was - as the name suggests - developed by HP Bulmer... probably back in the day when Bulmers were producing more traditional ciders. This is undoubtedly because the trees are high yielding more than any vintage quality... I have heard they are fairly tough to process (although never tried them myself).

OK, lets get on to the cider - for the first time with a UK cider the bottle is corked. This is common for French cidre but crown caps and ROPP plastic screwtops are very much the common currency in this country. OK, not exactly worth any points for the cider, but I find this kind of stuff interesting!

Its appearance is slightly a slightly orangey golden cider (amber may best describe it). It is flat and clear and, boy, it smells sweet. There is a little fruit behind the sweetness, but bear in mind this is a medium - and its all of its medium monika!

The taste is curious. It is very gentle but with a moderate tannin running through it. When I say gentle, I mean that you need to pay attention to get the most out of it. To be honest, the sweetening gets in the way a bit too much - although it really is a pleasant cider and worth trying (one thing about single varieties is that each type is different - as each variety of apple is different... mostly:-)

The aftertaste is long but quite low key.

Norman apples are more often used as an 'also ran' fruit - making a contribution to a blend rather than being used as a stand out personality. Its not a bold or brash cider apple, its much more delicate than that (and really doesn't deserve all the sweetening!). I liked this cider though; its nice to have to sit and think about a cider every now and again... and that says a lot for the Norman apple.

This cider scored 70/100, so another bronze apple awarded.


  1. When you say 'does'nt deserve the sweetening' has the bottle been sweetened with non-fermentable sugars (unlikely if you're testing it) or has the yeast been killed off and then the cider sweetened?

    Just curious...

    Laurie -

  2. Hmmm, that is always a hard one to call. My notes say that the cider was 'bright' - usually means filtered. So it could be either case. I didn't get any aftertaste particularly - so its probably either sucralose or pasteurised/sweetened.

    Either way, I feel that its been a little heavy handed on this one

  3. I would'nt have thought that the addition of adjunct sweeteners would make it qualify as a 'proper' cider, in the CAMRA sense of the word? As a fellow cider maker (with a mate) we do not sweeten at all as it would be likely to start working again. Some of our bottling involves a small amount of priming sugar for a bit of carbonaton and a protective layer of C02.

    Laurie -

  4. Oddly, CAMRA do allow artificial sweeteners, and I would have no doubt that they would allow sugar/juice too if it wasn't followed by pasteurisation (which is necessary).

    Unfortunately, they think cider is beer - so things like cold, sterile filtration seem to be OK whilst pasteurisation isn't (I think their reasoning is because it 'kills' the yeast... sterile filtration removes it - so where is the difference??)

    I am not a sweet cider fan, although a little can be good (med-dry at most really). Bottling with a touch of priming sugar is just bottle conditioning - its following the process so CAMRA would be fine with that.