Sunday 31 July 2011

Gwynt y Ddraig Orchard Gold Cider

I consider myself lucky to have found this outside of Wales, although there are a few more artisan producers who are becoming more nationally available - including Gwynt y Ddraig.

I guess the most commonly heard question about the company (well, for me anyway) is "what does Gwynt y Draig stand for?". As for the answer? Well, I overheard a student serving at a local beer festival once say (with rather more confidence than he perhaps should have had) that it meant Dragons Fart. To put that in context though, he was trying to chat up several other drunk students at the time. In actual fact he was partly right - Gwynt can mean smell, flatulence and wind. I rather think that they mean Dragons Wind though. Still, I bet they never intended it to be a chat up line!

In all honesty, I am a little concerned about the 4.9% vol. of this cider as being a bit weak. Saying that, I dont have a problem and am sure it could still be full juice (or even mostly full juice) at that percentage.

Doesn't list ingredients on the bottle. Doesn't have to. But I wish people would start to.

Now for the serious stuff. Its a deep golden coloured cider, with minimal fuss of sparkle and a really nice deep apple aroma to it.

As a medium I am expecting it to be sweeter than I normally go for. This cider has a gentle cidery flavour. Really nice blend with a lot of individual character to it. The sweetness is in balance with the rest of the flavour but it is still a little too sweet.

Whilst I do get a little oak in here, its not off putting as some others tend to overdo it... in fact, I think it may have actually seen an oak barrel rather than a bottle of 'aroma of oak'. It is a gentle background to the main players of acid, tannin, sweet and... well, just a fully rounded cider.

Aftertaste is like a glow in the mouth. A nice finish to a really nice cider. Now, where is the medium dry/dry version of this????

81/100. A good Silver appley start for Gwynt y Ddraig.

Thursday 28 July 2011

el Gaitero Spanish Cider

No, I haven't been to Spain... yet! I found this at a Waitrose locally. Well, in fact its the second time I have found it - at different Waitrose too (raising hopes that its available nationally). The first one I managed to leave at a mates house so had to end up buying it again as he drank it without reviewing it for me! Doh:-)

Its produced by Valle Ballina y Fernandez who produce cider in Asturias - a well renowned cider making part of Northern Spain. I don't know huge amounts about Spanish cider, although they do have some peculilar methods of pouring cider from a great height in order to aerate the cider properly. I also understand that Spanish cider is more ascetic than cider made in either the UK or France. It must be something to do with the fact that it is much hotter there!

The first odd thing about this cider is that it has been UK-ised (is that a correct term?) It ought to be called Sidra as opposed to cider. AND all the information about it is in English too. Plus, whilst it doesn't quite go so far as to mention drinkaware, it does encourage moderation. Not that I mind too much. Its actually very considerate of them.

Now what to make of a Spanish cider that advertises 'pour over ice'... hmmm. That is the other thing that I find odd (though it could be that the ice thing originated from Spain as it is very hot?!?!?! Well, hotter than Ireland anyway!)

After a large froth, this sidra (lets use the proper term) smells light and fruity. Not particularly ascetic (note to those that know these things... I am not entirely sure I would recognise it...)

To taste, it is definately acidic... or is that ascetic. Its a good taste, and nicely dry - well, reasonably so, certainly more than its medium dry claim on the bottle. I must admit that it does feel a little 'normal' though - maybe its toned down for the British palette.

As my first Spanish cider its not bad and I recommend at least trying it as a starting point for Sidra. I have tried one other previously which was hellishly sweet and sickly - so this is a huge step up from that.

For me, it scored 69/100. However, I will try to find someone who has been to Asturias and add any comments they may have to this. Better still, maybe I just ought to book the flight or ferry and try it for myself:-)

Monday 25 July 2011

Thatchers Katy Rose Cider

Now, I know I didn't really go for the Katy - and I have been told that other people do actually think a lot more of it than I do. That is fine. So why am I trying Katy Rose then? Well, apart from being the only cider in the off-licence that I hadn't tried (so it was rude not to), I want to see whether it being read does anything more for me. Sounds odd. Well, yes it is I suppose.

In actual fact and to be brutally honest about this, I didn't drink it on my own. Well, what would you do with 750ml of cider if you struggle to drink it? I am hoping that it doesn't come to that however. I recall that one of my objections to Katy was that it had none of the characteristics of a desert apple (thin, light and acidic generally). So once again its a bit of a comparison review - albeit there is more than one of us trying this one out!

On pouring its a foamy cider. And red. Very red. Once the initial frothing has died down the aroma is fairly pleasant - gently appley, although not a great deal of tannin on the nose (given what I have said about desert apples being used for cider, there ought not to be a lot of tanin really!)

Taste wise - well, its very much like its sister cider; tamed, with a ubiquitous tannin and acid blend that I would expect from more cider apple based ciders. However this is adjusted in the processes, I don't expect a desert apple to deliver the balance and tannin that this does.

The rest of its story is pretty much as per the last review. Its a lighter cider than Katy - lighter in ABV too for some reason although it taste very similar. My friend who joined me in tasting liked it, although did comment that it was similar to many ciders he has tried from Thatchers before.

I want to finish by saying that neither Katy or Katy Rose are bad. They are competant ciders. However, they are clearly aimed and taylored to a market that I am not a part of. And this leaves me a little cold.

A score of 60/100.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Aston Manor Kingstone Press

I believe that Kingstone Press is Aston Manor's main cider blend. For those who are unfamiliar with them, Aston Manor is a cider producer based in Aston, Birmingham. Well, no one said that all cider producers had to be on a farm, did they?

I think I ought to cut to the chase with this one (having tried it last night and already having a score for it). I am sure there must be people out there who think that this is what cider ought to taste like. For me though, it starts off with a strange smell. I have noted 'chemically', but there is some apple to it as well. There is a moderate fizz to it as well, and on tasting I understood the odd smell.

Its is very sweet - and syruppy. The cider I think of immediately is the Stella Cidre. Its a lot of apple juice with a moderate (but balanced) cider flavour added in. Its pretty sickly though. I can't imagine why its advertised as being a dry cider - there isn't much dry about it (although often 'dry' means the finishing gravity rather than the taste).

There isn't a whole lot of aftertaste either, which is lost in the overall sweetness of the cider. And with a 660ml bottle of the stuff, there was plenty of chance to find an distinctive aftertaste.

So, sorry Aston Manor, but this one is not a great one (do bear in mind it is my opinion only). A score of 46.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Westons Stowford Press - Premium Quality Cider

So, this is another Stowford Press to try. In fact there are more, and I think this is the mainstream type - I have already tried the Export, and there are several other styles of Stowford Press (though at the moment I have no intention of trying them all). In fact, this is the new design for Stowford Press - dont be confused with the old design stating 'traditionat draught'. Its the same thing.

So, what is the difference between this and all the others? Well, confusingly they all seem to differ in strength to start with. The export (presumably export strength) is 6%, the Premium Quality (that premium quality marketers dream) is a light 4.5%. Disappointed? Yes a bit. Sceptical. Always (of everything!!)

One of the advantages of going from one version of a particular brand straight to another is that you get a straight and direct comparison between the two. I haven't been able to do this, although I do have my notes from the Export to consult. It wasn't that long ago anyway.

So, apart from the different style of labels from the old version  (this one looks pretty modern - definitely one that the marketing department has played with... thats probably where the 'Premium' monika came from too). Its a fairly pale gold with a reasonably light sparkle and a fairly ubiquitous Herefordshire aroma. There is a bit of sulphite in the smell too - it gives a bit of a twang to the nostrils which tells you it is there.

To taste, well... the taste is a little bit thin to be honest. And a little watery too. Its not particularly sweet in character which leaves a nice appley flavour with moderate tannins behind. Given the lack of hard hitting flavour, of what there is is pretty nice and balanced. The balance of bittersweet and bittersharp is a Herefordshire trait, and this doesn't let that down. I am sure if there were more of it, it would be very delicious. As it is, I am left a bit short. Is it that its cut that bit too far?

Its not exactly a safe cider - although it does have that tendancy. I did manage to finish it all though.

This one scored a less than great 58/100.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Waitrose Vintage English Cider (2010)

So, another Waitrose own cider. This time we are firmly in England - the vintage having been made for them in Herefordshire (doesn't say by whom but it has to be either Westons or Bulmers me thinks). Its a strong cider, although it has been filtered and (probably) gone through the usual mass market processes of pasteurisation and back sweetening. I have come to expect this in a lot of ciders available through the supermarkets:-(

It has a fairly light aroma to it - although it is pleasant. The taste is good. Its definitely a Herefordshire cider with a balance of tannin and acidity that is found in the area. It also tastes pretty darn strong (which at 7.3% it is).

The sweetness kind of kills it a little, although without I think it would be pretty stark. Along with the fizz, the sweetness brings it down a peg or two. This all works well together and its an enjoyable drink. There be Yarlington Mill in this one I think too (I do like it when I can taste particular varieties within a cider - it just demonstrates that is must have seen an apple or two in its production.

The aftertaste is mostly alcoholic. Its nice but it does smother the flavours a bit. Having said that, I would buy this one again (that it, once I have drunk every cider available in the country and reviewed it on here!! Maybe I need a break!)

Just sneaks a bronze apple with 71. I might have been a bit tough on the aftertaste, but then it was a bit on the safe side too so I think its reasonable.

Friday 15 July 2011

WKD Core Apple Cider

OK. No I am not insane. Well, I don't think so anyway. I know I can hear giggling and even some gasps from those who only want to drink full juice, not chemically, traditional cider.

I must admit that I was a little surprised that WKD even thought to bring out an 'Apple' cider - what with all the other fruit ciders they make. That was meant to be a sarcastic and hopefully little ironic remark - its my contribution to the fact that I firmly believe that apples make cider, pears make perry; and any other fruit makes whatever it is that fruit makes ('made-wine' is the UK legal term for it!). I know some cider makers are jumping on the bandwagon and making strawberry or blackcurrent 'ciders' - I don't do fruit wines on here, so I don't think I will be reviewing them.

However. The purpose of this exercise is to find decent cider. And the search for decent cider for each person starts from somewhere. For me, it was Magners. For others it is going to be WKD (etc. etc. etc.) I don't believe that I can start to advise someone on what is wrong with their 'cider' if I haven't tried it. It may even help people who drink that cider to choose something to move on to in order to find a more traditional, sophisticated and individual drink.

Lets see how we do with it eh!

With an aroma that could cross a room with no difficulty (i.e. a lot of apple smell) its an almost watery yellow colour. At least it isn't luminous! It is also highly carbonated - this dies off after 5 minutes or so, so its not a problem in itself. I can wait that long:-)

Another word about the aroma though. Although there is a lot of it, when you get closer it actually smells of apple sweets - you know, the hard boiled type.

Now, for the taste. Forget cider. Its nowhere near. It doesn't even try to be a cider. What they have aimed for is sweet, alcoholic apple juice - only sweeter. And a tiny bit sour on the aftertaste too.

OK, to be objective in some way I couldn't find any tannin at all, no (or very little) acidity. No cider taste or citrus flavours or any real character. Its a hooch (a drink from the 90's that generally tasted of lemon or some such fruit - but was purely meant as a clubbing drink).

If you are a WKD drinker and think that its cool to drink a cider. Please (and I really don't mean this to sound patronising!) please go and try a proper cider. And when I say a proper cider I would quite happily encourage you to try Magners, Gaymers or anything... its at least a start.

I must have mis-read the label - I am sure it said apple cider. Maybe the use of 'cider' is a bit too loose for this drink. I really didn't like it at all.

It scored 29/100. I now kick myself for including it... but I guess it all has to be tried once.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Badgers Apple Wood Cider

OK, there are so many things to take in with this cider... confusing things too! However, none are truly to do with the taste and are therefore neither positive or negative. Just facts about the cider... for those who may care!!

Well, Badgers is a Dorset based brewery of some note. I knew they were dorset because it is embossed into the glass; 'Dorset Ales'. These people are better known for producing 'Tanglefoot' and 'Fursty Ferret'.

However. This cider is produced in Somerset. It says so on the back. Not only that, its produced by Thatchers. So, if you were wondering why it is labelled as both Badger and Thatchers then you now know. Thatchers must make one heck of a lot of cider!

Does this make a difference? It says all the right things on the bottle - I like the honesty of people actually stating that they didn't really produce the stuff, but rather left it to a company who has rather more experience at producing cider. The only bit I don't get is the statement that using vintage varieties of apples produces a medium dry cider. No it doesn't. It produces a dry cider that is (going by many of other Thatchers ciders) back sweetened and pasteurised. Oh, all right, that is petty and pretty nit picky. Thatchers may have not done as well on here as they perhaps could have (it is only my opinion!!) but they could out cider me any day probably!

So, lets get on with tasting it. It has a cidery smell (I also got a bit of sulphites as well though...) Taste is smooth blend of cider apples. Mellow tannins - not harsh and you can actually get the flavour of dabinett... It was the one variety named on the label and it seems there is good measure.

I rather like this actually. It has a pleasing taste, which carries through to to the end nicely. A good measure of acid backs up the tannins and taste which lifts the cider. A little sweet for me, but nothing unexpected. I honestly thought this would just be a safe, sweet cider. But it isn't. I like it. There is a character to it that smells and tastes of Somerset.

No, it isn't Burrow Hill... but then there isn't much that is to be honest (oh, I haven't reviewed that one yet... a mixture of fear of its owner, Julian Temperley, and the fact I haven't had some for quite a while now). I ought to soon!!

This is a pretty honest cider, with a good taste. Whilst it says it is oak aged, I am not getting much of that (thank God). Oak really shouldn't interfere with the flavour of a cider. I want apples, not wood!

It scored 77/100 for me.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Once Upon a Tree Kingston Redstreak (2009)

This is a full juice cider made by one of the UK's award winning cidermakers, Once Upon a Tree. Their ethos is very much to market cider as a wine (note 75cl bottle and generally not a sparkling product). They are based in deepest Herefordshire, although (judging from being able to get hold of this bottle) they are fairly available in the region.

This particular cider is the first I have tried from them since starting to review ciders. Why choose this as opposed to a more ubiquitous cider? Well, I have to say it is because it is made from very interesting cider varieties: Kingston Black and Redstreak. I have said before that I believe that Kingston Black is not strong enough to make a great cider on its own. Well, the idea of blending back with another vintage apple variety is the kind of thing that I much prefer.

So, it should score really well then eh... hang on. Lets have a go at it first!

As expected, it is a still cider. A lovely colour although the aroma is a bit light and a little watery. How can a cider smell watery??? Well, I guess its a bit thin thats all. To taste, it is a good fruity cider - gentle tannins coming through, but with rather a lot of sweetness coming in.

I guess this reduction in aroma could be due to being a still cider, though the taste is not exactly what I expected either. The sweetening of this cider reduces the tannin dramatically - plus there is only a little acid, which is actually balanced out with the tannin. Lots of fruit though.

As a wine-cider, it is first rate - more cider makers should aim their cider in that direction (although the nation compares beer and cider, not wine and cider...). A good combination of KB and Redstreak. Unfortunately there is a problem in the sweetness - I figured that it would balance in with the tannin, acid, fruit and depth but it seems to take over a little too much and detracts from the taste. and character that I was expecting to come through.

Overall I expected more from this blend of two very distinguished apples. As a wine the drink works well and as a cider it works even better. It tastes refined (as in a quality drink as opposed to being processed like oil!!) but does fall a little short for me on the sweetness and balance. It scored 74/100 - OK, I had hoped for more, but its still a Bronze Apple.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Henneys Apple Sweet Cider

Now here is a strange thing. I have been trying French cidres for a month or so now - deliberately as I got 'em all from France!! OK, that isn't strange... but its that in the midst of all of this I encounter Henney's 'Apple Sweet' - which is almost exactly like a number of French cidres...

The smell of it is sweet, appley and full. Bittersweet notes ring out from the bubbles! Very French you mught say. Actually, I quite like it and have to say I am becoming a Henney's convert. It is only moderately sparkling too - and that is great! (I suspect Mike Henney is a man after my own heart on the sparkling count...)

So, to the taste. Bear in mind I have scored some ciders down for being too sweet (and I have even tried very hard to be reasonable with sweet ciders!!). This one is nice... and only moderately too sweet. What the sweetness doesn't do in this cider is to drown out its character - deep tannins with a mild acidity behind it. However, its floral in flavour too, which could be due to its sweetness.

Satisfying, even if it is too sweet for me...

Oooh. just got a big sweet hit. I have to say that the aftertaste is a little too sickly sweet and in this respect it does kill the apple flavour a bit too much.

Overall, this cider clearly wasnt made with someone like me in mind. However, it is a pretty good cider despite this and made with care enough to ensure that its character comes before its sweetness.

Very good 78/100 for an English cider that is as good as many French cidres!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Domaine Duclos Fouray Cidre

Another cider from Eu - a northern Normandy town pretty much right on the coast. Its a lovely place, with a great market that just seems to spread out all over the place. This came from a little shop though - not from the market. It looked like it fit all the criteria - an artisanal product, cidre fermier (farm cidre),  and two bottles for just under a tenner (so not the cheap stuff!).

This cidre comes out as a beautiful golden drink with reasonably light carbonation (considering its other French counterparts!). However, its not an 'all then nothing' carbonation - it gently fizzes and pops away to itself in the background.

Shoving my nose in the glass (and being careful not to get it wet!), there is the bittersweet aroma found in many French cidres. This is something I am getting used to - to me it reflects the fact that they are (after all) heavily governed about what can go in as much as how they produce their cidre. Well, if they want a stamp of approval they are anyway. This produces a fairly consistent profile across each region.

I am not entirely convinced that is a good thing... though there are some benefits. However, I certainly wouldn't expect PGI to be as restrictive in the UK.

On taste, it is incredibly sweet... possibly a little too sweet for me, although the balance and flavour do come through (mainly on the aftertaste) and are a mellow cidery (if a tiny bit thin on the ground). However, it was a shame to have to work my way through the sweetness to find the character below it. How I wish the taste for cider would develop and people be less accepting of blindly sweet ciders and after something a little more complex!

I like it. Not as much as other French cidres but more than many. Asides the sweetness, I am a little worried it has been filtered too much, given its brightness and the loss of girth to its flavour. Which just goes to show that all the labels and guidance you get in purchasing a product may not always pay. On the whole though, lets just say its nice if you have a sweet tooth!

Saturday 2 July 2011

Loic Raison Cidre Bouche

No, I haven't been back to France... I brought some back with me with the idea of dipping into them from time to time.

This one was bought for me from a decent hyper marche. Having said previously that this is not the ideal place to buy cidre, this one carries the AOC label - a sign that what is in the bottle should be good... or at least as consistantly bad as everything else in that given area:-)

Being a 'Brut', means that it is about 4.5%, and has been produced in the 'bouche' style - similar to other ciders/cidres that have been keeved. It has a nice layer of sediment too, which is another good sign that it hasn't been filtered to death/

The cork didn't want to come out of the bottle at first, although it did with a good pop finally (I was getting worried it had gone flat). The cidre itself is a nice golden colour with a good fizz (generally that is what you want from French Cidre).What nose it has israther pleasant... just a bit too faint really. However, the cider is a nicely blended mixture of tannin and acid - although its rather too sweet for me and tastes just a little syruppy. The aftertaste is short too, although what there is of it is nicely cidery.

For me, this seems a little too manufactured. Its not horrible by any stretch...and I believe that the French manufactured ciders taste worse than the English ones - though maybe that is just cultural. But in all honesty its not the best French cidre I have tasted - even though its AOC.

It scored 65/100 which, for me, was fair.