Thursday 23 June 2011

New Forest Vintage Kingston Black Cider

OK, here is a cider that is a little different from a traditional English cider. The question is, does it compete with French cidre? Well, there are a few interesting points to make about this.

First of all, it depends what you have in front of you. Naturally sparkling (and/or sweet) cider comes in several shapes and sizes - champagne method, bottle contitioned 'bouche' and keeved are probably the main methods. These are often found (as with the New Forest Vintage) in champagne style bottles (strong glass with deep concave bottom) Reading around this, two things can be said. Firstly, the French have only been doing it since the 1960's (forget where I read that but either in the CAMRA 'Cider' book or in Simon Mckies new 'Craft Cidermaking for Ciderists'. Secondly, a few people have now suggested that the champagne bottle is actually an English invention of the 16th century to contain sparkling cider (e.g. James Crowdens 'Ciderland').

I am persuaded by this argument although it is clear that the French adopted the method for cidre more recently than UK cider producers seem to have re-adopted it. However, it is sufficient to reconsider what I have been calling the 'French style'.

So how does the New Forest KB Vintage stack up against other sparkling ciders?

First thing I note is that it is not perfectly clear - the result of a naturally carbonated cider which has stirred up the yeast at the bottom. As a result, the first whiff is a little yeasty. However, this is a real. full juice cider that has gone through a second fermentation in the bottle... there really isn't much control over yeast without freezing the neck (as in champagne).

It also smells smoky; a sign that it is indeed matured and 'vintage'. I think this delicate quality is lost with ciders that are filtered and pasteurised... more the shame for them, but it is nice to find.

Now, bear in mind what I have said before about not being a fan of single varieties. Kingston Black is accepted as the best (or most likely) candidate for an SV cider. Here it works well: it is drying in the mouth and fruity with an acidic note at the back end of the mouthful. This lasts and makes up the aftertaste. All the way through, it is smoky and delicate.

I know. I haven't mentioned the bubbles... I always mention the bubbles:-) Well, the fizz is quite high on pouring, but dies off quickly and lifts the cider gently.

I probably only have two problems with this cider. A tiny bit of yeast and the slightly off balance taste. In a crafted cider using a single variety I can forgive both. I have to say I am a little surprised with it as Kingston Black ciders are normally dry to the bone unless they are sweetened.

Its really a high quality drink full of character... I'll bet this doesn't taste the same next year! 85/100 and a silver apple for New Forest Cider.

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