Sunday 10 June 2012

Sainsbury's Low Alcohol English Cider

Ha ha. So, here we have Sainsbury's low alcohol offering and just look at that - the bottle is identical to the Waitrose version and its even made in the same area of the country (there are a lot of producers in Herefordshire, so lets do our best not to make any rash assumptions). On this one, it actually says its made by H. Westons... so perhaps we have a name at least. Given that they look identical, I am not going to put long odds on these ciders being identical in taste too. No real issue with this - some people prefer Waitrose to Sainsbury's and others visa versa. I guess it does demonstrate that in our homogonised country there is absolutely no difference between supermarkets products though!

Whilst normally I would, at this point, be worrying that this review is going to be the same as the last one, I should come out at least a little in support of low alcohol alternatives. You see, cider is a mysterious beast to us Brits; we treat it like beer yet it has more in common with wine; we will happily down a few pints of cider and the consequences of this (if we are drinking real cider and not the 4% industrial stuff) are that we are some 30-40% more intoxicated. Its no wonder that I see stories of 'cider fuelled' problems in the news - although I am sure that there are just as many wine, spirits, beer or lager fueled problems.

I have said before that the Europeans treat cider more like a weak wine than a strong beer. In this position it has a more positive spin. However, with cider being controlled to beer levels by the largest commodity players in the market I doubt this will ever really change in our minds in the near future. A change in the way of thinking about cider is also hindered by those who claim to 'honour it' - whilst while beeries and beer representing organisations either don't really care about cider or else try to capture as a hostage to some kind of quasi fair deal for beer (some are meant to, others profess to support cider yet seem to have a wish bone where they ought to have a back bone!)

Nevertheless - in the UK we have NACM (who are somewhat tied to the major cider makers), the regional associations who do more to represent smaller producers and a fairly close knit group of producers who share idea's online through such groups as Cider Workshop...though it has to be said that the latter is more a mouthpiece to small producers for the former. So there is a structure for producers at least. And its NACM that are committed to removing the billion or so % points from the cider market. I am not that worried about this - after all, whole juice/full juice/ real and/or crafted cider and perry represents a fraction of the total market itself.

OK, lets get back to this Sainsbury's low alcohol cider. I am afraid this is going to be unsurprising to everyone: its 1% vol, faintly yellow yet watery looking, pours with a low carbonation and has a smell which tips its hat to proper cider. Yes, its identical to the Waitrose cider. This has happened several times before now - not exclusively with Westons (although I can immediately think of 2 or 3 others which are 'just' another name as opposed to another cider). I can also remember Thatchers producing stuff that is very close to other ciders too.

"But there is only so many varieties a producer can make". Sure. And I accept that you will get several variations of a theme from many - dry, medium, sweet, bottle conditioned, low alcohol etc. When I come across these I tend to go for one or two but don't bother with the rest. However, I do have one thought: if Weston's make this for the supermarkets, why not just call it Westons and save on the extra labelling etc.? At the end of the day this is a minor quibble though - although I shall be careful in seeking out the Asda/Tesco/Morrison's versions!

I also ought to be fair to the cider. It is not terrible. I would choose it if driving and it was available. Low alcohol drinks have come a long way and do have potential (although if I want a soft drink I would tend to go for a soft drink as opposed to something that is similar to cider... if I am totally honest)

Guess what. It has 55/100... Strangely exactly the same as the Waitrose version. And yes, I did stop marking it once I had tasted it. If you can tell the difference then you are a better taster than me:-)

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