Monday 30 May 2011

Gaymers Stewley Cider

Another of the Gaymers 'Premium' range of ciders from a single orchard... I guess (given the size of Gaymers) they have rather a few orchards to select from!! So far, this range of ciders has been pretty good so far - certainly better than some of their more standard offerings. This one comes from their Stewley orchard in Somerset and pitches itesf as "rich, rounded and well balanced with an intense bittersweet apple aroma, citrus zest and conserved fruit notes"

Citrus zest??? Conserved apple notes??? Clearly my reviewing language needs broadening! (though, conserved apple... which must essentially be apple sauce or jam is surely boiled... Don't you just love marketeers:-)

Well, it is certainly a nice golden colour and - what do you know - it has a full bittersweet aroma to it - lovely. The carbonation is pretty low and dies off quickly to an unintrusive bubble. So far it has not only lived up to the label, but more importantly makes me want to drink it. I must admit that, of late, I have been a little disappointed with the medium/large producers (Westons, Thatchers, Sheppy's, Gaymers and Aspalls) of late. However, they do all seem to have a premium cider or two that demonstrates what they could do (if only they wanted to!).

The Stewley isn't just a full bittersweet smell, its a full bodied, bittersweet mouthful too - there are no complex acids to balance against it and the low carbonation exposes the tannin all the more. It is very nice for it (although the idea of a balanced cider seems to be rather a subjective concept). It is a little sweet though. I know, its on the label as medium dry. In fact, the low carbonation, high tannin, low acid and sweetness make this quite a 'naked' cider - may I even call it a scrumpy? Very nice indeed (and not rough; which is the image lots of people think of as scrumpy).

The aftertaste is very light - almost too light. Having said that, the tannin does last through to the end and it gives Stewley a nice glow.

A score of 70/100 and a bronze apple for Gaymers

Friday 27 May 2011

Ecusson Grand Cidre Cuvee Speciale

When you only have a limited time to run around and try cider in a place, its amazing how many can be consumed. So, before I go on a diet to shake some of it off (there are more to write about), this is a final French review before we go back on to some English cider more likely to be found.

Another reason for reviewing this particular cidre is because it provides a good contrast to the others I have tried in France so far (yeah, as I write I already know what I thought of it!). It was bought from a supermarket and serves as a lesson in sending someone else out to 'pick up' a couple of ciders. As I have said before several times, I refuse to knock anything before I have tried it - in fact, if anyone is reading this review, I still recommend trying it!

This cider is a controlled version of the other ciders I have tried. It is a dark gold colour and has little aroma to it - this is immediately a contrast to the others. To be fair, there is a faint cidre smell to it, but not anything appley. It is also crystal clear with a carbonated style of bubble more in common with the force carbonated ciders manufactured in the UK. The final visible sign of a manufactured product is the fact that there is no sediment in the bottom.

To taste, it feel carbonated and syruppy. I tried this one before the Stella Artois cidre but I can see a similarity in its style. More over though, this has a boiled sweet taste which is unlike anything I have tried before - not an easy supping cidre (and I tried really hard with it... honest!!).

It scored 48/100, which puts in the same league as some others I was not particularly keen on. Saying that, would add that a French style cidre manufactured does seem even more alien than British ciders manufactured. Sorry Ecusson... its just my opinion.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Cru de Bruquedalle Cidre Bouche

Next in the French line of artisan produced ciders is the Cru de Bruquedalle. This was one of three ciders that I bought from a greengrocers in Neufchatel en Bray. Yup, a greengrocers! The general rule of thumb to buying cidre in France is to look for an AOC labelled cider (or similar - it measn that the contents are controlled and monitored and you can be pretty sure it is a full juice cider). However, this isn't a guarantee of finding good cidre - and indeed many cidre's don't have the label either. The other rule is to never pay less than 3 euro's for a cidre... and this rule would appear to prove true more often than not.

Something else that I have learned by trying the cider in one region is that they all seem to taste pretty similar. More than once, two different cidre's would taste almost identical to each other. This my be because my taste buds aren't developed enough, or because (under AOC etc.) varieties available are controlled and restricted by the powers that be.

This is a fizzy, golden and fairly hazy cidre with a very fruity aroma. It must be because the cidre is only partially fermented before bottling that an apple juice smell persists much more with French cidre. It has a good measure of bittersweet to it as well, and whilst there is acid in the background it doesn't interfere with the overall taste.

It is a little watery though, and the aftertaste dies out pretty quickly following the taste. The high carbonation does lift things a little though and its really a nice cidre worth trying. As mentioned before, I do feel that French cidre is not as exciting or varied as the English cider/cyder/zyder (etc.). But so far the artisans really haven't let themselves down at all.

A score of 79/100 is about as good a bronze apple as you will find:-)

Saturday 21 May 2011

Phillipe Langlois Verger de Monterolier Cidre

It seems a little strange to me that there seems to be very few artisanal cider producers reviewed so far. This hasn't been planned to be that way (and it will be rectified in the coming weeks and months) but I guess thats the down side of local produce - you have to visit the areas to get the cider.

Clearly if your pockets are deep enough, full juice artisan cider can be bought online - you have to be fairly careful with this if you want to try a broad range of cider. Many boxes available online offer a couple of each variety from a single producer, and you may have to even part with more cash to get a truly mixed box. Never the less, this is a good way of reaching across the country to buy a full juice cider.

Better still is to actually visit the area and see, try and buy. Many producers are not equipped to handle visitors (and the licencing involved in being able to do so is cumbersome and requires all sorts of silliness!) There are shops that sell cider too - although these are often not off licences and more often deli's and specialist food/drink shops. This doesn't just apply within the UK either. In France, cidre artisanal is available in markets, greengroces, specialist shops (and generally not in the 'marche' or 'intermarche'. It may come as a surprise to some that there is as much muck available in France as in the UK!!

This one was bought from a market from Phillipe himself. A nice guy considering he spoke no English and my French is pretty shameful! This market was in the town of Buchy (in reality, this is just to the east of the route de cidre... but its all cider country around there!!).

Its a sparkling cider - champagne style or cidre bouche. Almost exclusively the French make cider like this. 5% is about as strong as you will find, as fermentation is stopped and the cider is bottled before it has finished. To my mind, there are very few (if any) still ciders available in France - in fact, the guy that owned the cottage we were staying in described the UK cider as 'muck'! We agreed to disagree.

I have to say that this was a really nice cidre though. I would describe the colour and flavour as almost English; a light gold with a good mild tannin but with little acid to it. It does taste a tiny bit watery, although this is not overbearing, and the flavours last nicely beyond the nouthful. It is a little sweet for my taste however. Unfortunately (for me), the vast majority of French cider makers stop fermentation early to make the sparkling stuff and it often ends up rather sweet. This is a good bittersweet based cider though.

I fully recommend this to anyone wishing to explore French ciders beyond what you can get in Tesco's or Sainsbury's!! The only problem is you have to actually go to France to get it. Shame!

It scored 82/100, so a silver apple and deservedly so! If anything, I am more critical of French cidre's as they usually aren't my thing.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Domaine De Lieu Gosset - Cidre Fermier de Normandie

This cidre was bought in a... well, a place that sold chocolates, coffee granules, cidre and wine, in Eu. Its probably not of interest, but it was on a blazing hot day in the middle of a market near to a pitch selling horse meat. Those who have spent time in Northern France will probably know exactly what I mean and where I am with it. A very French experience.

'Domaine' doesn't carry AOC or PGI (or whatever), but is designated 'Veritable Cidre Artisanal'. I quite like that, and like the idea that in the controlling French industry there are alternative 'statuses' (should that be 'stati'?) for cider makers. I also like the 'Pur Jus' on the side too - a sign that it isn't just us British that care about (and possibly have to fight for) 100% juice cider/cidre.

Now, this one didn't get off to a great start. In fact, as soon as I removed the wire, it decided to open itself with a bang - and then empty a little of its contents (rather too much of its contents) onto the floor. Hmph. I am not stingy, but I am not going back all that way to buy another bottle anytime soon! It also smells a little yeasty too... which is a good sign as well as bad - I doubt this has been filtered! Underneath though there is a delicious appley aroma, which is quite a sweet smell.

Once left to settle down, this is a smooth, lovely bittersweet taste - gentle bittersweets. There has been a sensitivity with the sweetness too, which complements the tannin perfectly... this is clearly a crafted and skillful cider and I think its initial poor start is more than made up for by the quality of the drink itself.

The tannins are almost sweet in themselves - it is mellow and actually made me stop what I was doing in order to enjoy it without being destracted. They do say that the French like to sit and watch life go by with a beer or a cider and however much this is a stereotype it is exactly what this cidre has achieved with me.

The aftertaste is just a continuation of mellowness - gently tannic and sweet.  Do I have a criticism of it??? I could say that the acid suffers a little and is lost to the tannin and sweet of the cider... but its not so much a loss really as this is without doubt one of two Normandy cidres that are my current favourites

Fully recommended... my friend developing their cider taste will definitely have to try this - they will fall in love with it. A gold apple with a score of 91/100

Stella Artois Cidre

This is a new cider out... and I won't bang on about the various press releases I have been reading from the company - yes, there is room for new good cider... though I think that a lager producer has a bit of a job to convince the hardened cider drinkers in the UK (I wonder which market the drink is aimed at though??)

A very curious thing to note though is that they state that there is a 50% apple juice content in the bottle... a huge leap forward for many producers, though I suspect its not so much throwing down a gauntlet. However, I would love to see juice content displayed on a bottle with a bit more honesty.

Generally these days if I read that something is made from 100% apples/pears (etc.) I take it to mean that, althugh its only 35, 40, 50, 60% juice content in total, 100% of that content is apple/pear etc. juice. The caviat to that is if I know that the producer is an artisan or known to make full juice cider (though normally if a cider is 100% juice it says 'full juice' or 100% juice as opposed to 100% apples!

Anyway. Digressing. So, Stella Cidre is new, its Belgian and its been marketed heavily. Its also on special at many branches of Tesco around the UK. What is it.

Well, its a very deep golden colour with very little smell and quite a lot of fizz. The fizz dies fairly quickly though and it settles down well. How I wish I could be surprised by a big producer though. I am not by this Cidre. Its very syruppy and actually quite hard to drink easily. Think of Magners or Bulmers but concentrated. The taste is also pretty sickly adter a few mouthfuls and this cidre took a while to drink. Maybe that isn't a bad thing... maybe that is the answer to binge drinking?!

Yes, I am disappointed with it. Its only my opinion though as I am sure this is not aimed at people like me. Its aimed as an alternative to lager, or to try to tap into the cider mass market in the UK. It is a controlled cider with a controlled taste and that really is all I can say about it. I suspect that if I had a friend who wanted to explore more interesting ciders ask me where to start, they would probably have already tried this one.

A score of  49/100.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Longueville Cidre de recoltant

A full juice French cider from Sainsbury's. Yup, it says so on the front label - on the back it says it isn't made from concentrate. It even has the Idication Geographique symbol on the back... and that is usually a good indication that its what it says it is.

I think that 'Cidre de recoltant' means 'Normandy varietal cider'... well, at least thats what is says on the bottle. It is made from French cider apple variety, Gros OEillet. Actually, 90% is claimed on the bottle.

I recently read the CAMRA book, Cider. A great source of general cidery information. Under the French section, the writer suggested that when in France, the 'Indication' was a good yardstick to choose a cider. As with Henney's, this leaves me feeling sad that a few dedicated producers can sell a decent, full juice product to the supermarkets whilst the majority are safe, diluted ciders. Oh well.

I think that 'Cidre de recoltant' means 'Normandy varietal cider'... well, at least thats what is says on the bottle. It is made from French cider apple variety, Gros OEillet. Actually, 90% is claimed on the bottle.

At 4.5%, this is a cider that is typically French, where ciders are stopped rather than being allowed to ferment out to a dry cider and then back sweetened if necessary. This produces a sweeter, weaker drink that is refreshing and, generally, naturally sparkling.
On pouring, this cider producesa gentle fizz and smells of baked apples. It is fairly watery to taste, but nice and aromatic with a gentle flavour. The acid is pretty light too and compete well against the low tannin notes.

On the whole, it is fairly light and watery - but drinkable though. I can imagine it would be a lovely drink on a warm evening in the summer, where you want something that isn't too strong or overpowering.

A score of 61/100.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Lyme Bay Jack Ratt Cider

I have been saving this one since my trip to Dorset recently, but having consumed a few average ciders recently I thought I might treat myself to a cider that contains a little more apple juice (yum yum!).

This cider, when opened, has no fizz, froth or commotion. It pours a nice deep gold in colour - a still cider that smells of tannin and fruit. I do prefer a still cider - well, at most a small sparkle. It is all subjective though, and I have tried a few ciders that are both sparkling and superb.

To taste, Jack Ratt is a fully tannic cider, but with a nice fruitiness to go with it. Both these are legnthly, lasting beyond the taste... it has a nice aftertaste. If I am going to pick one hole in it, I would say its a little too sweet - not overtly so, but enough to take the edge off. There isn't a whole lot of acid in this cider though - its definitely a cider apple cider (if you see what I mean).

A very good cider and a worthy bronze apple with a score of 74/100.

Monday 9 May 2011

Thatchers Katy Cider

Now, I know a few people who really love this cider, and it is a fact that they are all women. No, I am not being a chauvanist... its just something I have noted about it. Having said that, I don't know if they are hardened cider drinkers per se, but it does suggest that Thatchers have successfully scored a hit with a particular maket place with this cider.

Katy (or Katja) is a dessert apple, not really known as a cider fruit, although I would have thought that it would be fairly sweet and low in tannin. So how come it has become a top selling cider (I am sure this must be one of Thatchers better sellers). I did hear rumour that Thatchers were offered a load that a particular orchard couldn't sell on - and it started from there. So good things can come about by chance eh!

This one opens with a fizz, although its not as bad as that - a medium carbonation is how I would describe it. It pours yellow and, once the fizz dies down, is nice and bright. The aroma is very sweet and fruity, though not really lemony or citrussy like other dessert ciders.

The taste is, however, what I am starting to expect from the larger producers... tamed. Not that I expected it to be a wild cider, but I would have thought there would be more acid to it. And where did that tannin come from? More than anything though it is sweet - I would say more than the medium dry description (although medium dry category does allow for quite a sweet cider). The sweetness is probably the one thing that lasts in the aftertaste.

I wouldn't call it one of my favourite ciders although I would like to see if there are other 'Katy' ciders out there to compare it against more objectively. Well, its either that or get one of my mates to review it... it would score much better than the 60/100 I gave it.

Friday 6 May 2011

Sheppy's Kingston Black Cider

Sheppy's are one of the pioneers of the single variety cider in the UK, although more recently many producers are making this style of cider. It harks back to the innovation in wine, with named grape varieties - although putting my cards firmly on the table I don't think apples carry this treatment as well as grapes. With a cider, you want to balance the apples out to get the best taste. Having said that, balance isn't everything. Character and personality are just as important and some of the best ciders I have tasted have been made from 3-4 varieties of apples.

Of all the apples that should make a decent single variety, general consensus is that Kingston Black is the prime candidate. Its a mild bittersharp, but with some decent tannins in it. This cider should have a pretty distinctive taste too, as Kingston Black is generally a very dry cider and the tannins can be rather bold.

The Sheppy's version is a cross between amber and gold in colour - nice, although I have seen a few Kingston Black ciders that have more reddy brown to them. There is a fairly mild carbonation too. Its s smidgen over a low carbonation, but does lift it and give it a nice, tannic aroma. I am looking forward to this.

And it is very delicious. Sure, the Kingston Black tannin and dryness are held back by sweetening and (to some degree) the carbonation, but the taste is definitely there. I am not surprised to find that it has been dulled a little in its production - single variety Kingston Black can be... challenging. This is one occasion (one of the VERY few) when I am glad that Sheppy's filter, it has left the taste intact but restrained so that the flavour of the fruit can compete with the tannin.

There is also a good acid background to this cider too. Not surprising as KB is a bittersharp, but even then this acid doesn't really compete with the tannin and sweetness. One thing I do note though - where is the deep, tannic aftertaste? I expected this taste to last, but it really doesn't at all. A bit of a shame, although its not critical.

In all honesty, I could drink this one all over again. It doesn't change my mind about the best ciders being a blend of several varieties, but as Kingston Black ciders go, its really very nice. A score of 71 sees a bronze apple awarded to it. As much as I lean away from single varieties, I am glad.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Bulmers Crisp Blend Cider

OK, I think I can see where Bulmers are going with this one. At least its not 'green' or 'red' apples this time. This cider, I am expecting an eastern counties cider full of sharpness and lemony flavours. Judging by Bulmers track record, however, I suspect it may not exactly live up to that monica. They cater for the masses, not for the person seeking the best. I am happy to be surprised though!

As with the Red Apples version, this is a limited edition. I suspect its testing the water. If I were marketing new ciders, I suppose I would do the same. After all, Bulmers are leaders in the cider market alongside Magners (commercially - probably not in best ciders!)

Once again, its served in the 'pint' bottle. Looking at the label, there is the 'drink it over ice' blurb, although it also recommends to drink it in the sunshine. Ah, that will be why its a limited edition. Bulmers know about the UK summer:-)

All joking aside, this cider is the standard 4.5%, weak for a traditional cider, but about standard for the more generally available ones. It is also encouragingly light in colour but with a big fizz. It also has a very light aroma, although its not an aroma of much.

Sadly, its got the ubiquitous Bulmers taste to it as well. Although the tannins are masked somewhat it is not overly acidic either. There isn't much of an aftertaste - although very unfortunately I could taste sulphites at the end of the mouthful... having used sulphites and smelled them as a crushed and diluted chemical, I have noted that this is prominent. A shame, although not really too much as my biggest problem is that it isn't really eastern (or even that crisp).

Enough said, it scored 50/100