Friday 16 September 2011

Gwynt y Ddraig Black Dragon Cider

As anyone who drinks cider and has family who are Welsh will tell you - you cannot go to Wales and not find Black Dragon. Its not that it is impossible to find in other places, just a lot harder; although they do supply a lot of beer festivals, so I guess you could just find it at one of those.

Now, Gwynt y Ddraig are one of those companies who are bordering on what I see as the middle market. As far as I see, the cider industry is split into 3 segments: There are the largest companies - those who  treat cider as a commodity - Magners etc. Into that category I would also shove those who don't truly make cider but call their drinks cider anyway ('cos it doesn't damage the the market, does it!??!)

In the middle of the market, I see companies like Thatchers, etc.. this is where companies like Henney's, Gwynt y Ddraig, maybe Perry's etc. starting to impact). This is still large scale but retains more tradition and passion for cider than mere commodities. That isn't to say they don't make a profit... that would just be bonkers. But its not all shareholders etc.

At the small scale end - or what Julian Temperley of Burrow Hill refers as the 'artisan' end of the market there is a growing number of small, artisan producers. You will often find that these ciders are nearly always full juice, traditional and range from the sublime to the undrinkable.

OK. Having accepted that I am on my soap box today, I'd invite cider drinkers to stick their pin in that map of the market and say what is the best (or only) way to go? Its tricky. The bigger a producer gets, the more need for consistancy and efficiency. Hence the options are fewer and the potential overheads much higher. So, some producers increase their volume with a little trickery. It doesn't necessarily make those ciders really bad - although often once you start watering things down. vamping up alcohol levels in order to cut etc. then flavourings and 'adjustments' creep in. However, figuring out what the tipping point is for all this is just plain difficult... and its easy to see how some slip down that particular slope.

Refocussing, I realise that this sermon has ridden roughshod over Black Dragons review. So lets start properly and say that is is nice to see traditional cider companies starting to take supermarket shelf position with ciders that are first rate, traditional and uncompromising.

Although it has a flashy label on the bottle, Black Dragon pours our a nice, lightly carbonated golden liquid that smells very deeply cidery and tannic. Although the sparkle persists, its a draught type of drink that seems to offer both sharp and sweet at the same time, with reasonably heavy tannins that cut through its medium dry status and provides a really pleasing flavour.

Saying that, the aftertaste seems to disappear a little quickly, although its clear that while there is sweetness to this drink, its needed to keep the tannins and dryness in check. There isn't stacks of acid, but you do get a sense that all the drink is made of is sider fruit. Yumm.

I could drink this cider all over again. Its one of those rare ciders to make it to my 'silver apple' list of ciders I would take to a desert island!!!:-) Well, if I only take the gold apple ciders I would be getting thirsty fairly quickly eh!

A score of 83/100.

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