Wednesday 7 September 2011

Burrow Hill Stoke Red Bottle Fermented Cider

Ah. At last. A Burrow Hill. One of my favourite cider makers - and certainly one of the best cider makers in the world. And, no, I am not exagerating. If you have visited Burrow Hill, its really rather hard to miss all the award certificates, the professionalism and the ambition of the company. After all, Burrow Hill is one of only 3 or 4 places in the UK with a licence to distill cider into cider brandy.

Enough of glowing about Burrow Hill. This Stoke Red is one of two bottle fermented ciders that Burrow Hill produce. I have to admit I have tried both before. But not for a long time! Its one of those ciders that are rather expensive, and usually saved for special occasions. More like a champagne in style than a cider I guess.

This bottle, which was chilled, opened with a  big pop and it took all my bottle opening skill not to ditch rather a lot all over the kitchen floor. So I would say that it is highly fizzy. But its a lovely colour though (once it is confined to a glass!!).

A little background. Stoke Red, which originates from Somerset, is a bittersharp cider apple. Whereas Kingston Black is a mild bittersharp, Stoke Red is more a medium - essentially it means that the acid is higher, although I am not sure about the level of tannin. Its regarded as a 'Vintage' cider apple - which these days simply means that its a likely cadidate for a single variety cider. However, my own take on vintage apples is that they add a lot to a blend...That is not the point of this though. I suppose we all have our opinions and I suspect I am in a minority on this matter!

The cider is both tannic and acidic. Nice. distinctive and inviting. Not a cider that has been played around with then - I expected this from Stoke Red (given the information above).

Surprisingly though, it tastes fairly thin. It also has a little bit of an odd flavour. Definitely has a character to it, although I am not sure that there is quite enough of it. This is where the single variety cider lets me down. To be honest, I kind of figured on some kind of oddness in taste.  And this is SV in all its glory and faults. Stoke Red. Great apple but does it need something else to make it really shine - a bittersweet? I doubt very much that I could teach Burrow Hill much though:-)

Also, it is bone dry. Which is nice and allows the flavour to come through. It has a lasting aftertaste which actually develops in the mouth and is pleasing. I am going to stick my neck out on this - I think I preferred the New Forest Bouche Cider. Not just because its a blend (and I won't bang on about that any more), but its got a bit more body and complexity to it. This is very different though - I don't think I have tasted any others quite like it.

An interesting alternative to this cider (created by Julian Temperley - who runs Burrow Hill) is what he calls 'Orchard Mischief'. Its where you add some of his excellent Somerset Pomona to a dry cider to give it a little sweetness. I have tried it with Burrow Hill Kingston Black and it really gives the cider a punch and a bit of much needed sweetness (the Bottle Fermented Kingston Black feels much drier than the Stoke Red). I recommend it!!

Now, for all I have criticised this cider, the numbers really speak for themselves - 80/100 and a silver apple for Burrow Hill. I guess its not as bad as my writing makes out. To be fair, it is very well put together (and bottle fermentation to this standard is really an art to master in cider making).

I guess what I have observed though is that I am still yet to be persuaded by any single variety. I still think blends are best.

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