You can look at cider two ways. Autumn mists strolling lazily across newly harvest fields. Trees pregnant with ripe apples, all waiting to fall into the arms of the cider-maker. Gorgeous and golden in the glass, a drink that has its roots in the countryside and looks elegant and informed on the dining table. Or you can look at it another way: the chink of ice in the glass in some urban pub where you’re paying for the theatre more than anything else and tramps stretched out in a public park, suckling on their PET bottles of nastiness. The choice is yours. I prefer the first and so without further ado here are 5 ciders (and one perry) that should add a bit of sunshine to your summer (even if you live in some horrible urban sprawl).
Sandford Orchards Devon Scrumpy 6%
Currently Champion Cider of Great Britain and produced by a Devon farmer with the splendid name of Barny Butterfield (he’s not a hobbit). It’s fresh and flowery, with a delightful crisp apple character and a masterful balance of dryness and sweetness in the finish. I’ll have another thanks.
Aspall Premier Cru, 7%
Comes from Suffolk where the apples they use are sweeter than the ones in the West Country. The Chevalier family have been making the stuff for centuries and their Cru is an elegant and well-bred dry cider that has a great balance between the earthiness you would find in West Country scrumpy and the sweetness that those who like ice in their cider enjoy. A crossover cider: think of the singer Katharine Jenkins in cider mode (there’s a joke there but for the life of me I can’t think of it).
Aspall Organic Suffolk Cyder, 7%
Those Chevalier lads hit the spot again (the company is run by two brothers, one of whom has spectacular mutton-chops) with a medium sweet cider that has a hint of Alsatian Gewürztraminer on the nose, while the palate has baked apples and a sharpness that keeps the mouth awake.
Burrowbridge Draught Cider (Scumpy) 6%
Hidden away in the Somerset Levels, these cider-makers are noted for their cider brandy, but owner Julian Temperley (father of designer Alice) hasn’t forgotten his roots — so if you go into the barn which serves as a shop there are big oak barrels of still and strong farmhouse cider — golden, dry, fruity and as full-bodied as Katie Price but much better mannered.
"Trees pregnant with ripe apples, all waiting to fall into the arms of the cider-maker. Gorgeous and golden in the glass, a drink that has its roots in the countryside and looks elegant and informed on the dining table."
Gwynt-y-Ddraig Farmhouse Traditional, 5.5%
They make good cider in Wales (though mainly in the south) and this is one of the best, coming from an award-winning cider-maker near Pontypridd. Orange-amber in colour with a fresh organic aroma reminiscent of a hay-barn in summer after it hasn’t rained for a while. Starts off soft, sweet and mellow with hints of apple and vanilla at first, before being joined by a delicate whisper of mandarin; there’s a late burst of tangy grapefruit before the dry finish.
Dunkerton’s Organic Perry, 7.5%
Forget about the sweet abomination that is pear cider, perry is the business, a drink that has its roots in the soil of the Three Counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. This one, based not far from Leominster, has a delicate sweet nose with a hint of pear drops; on the palate it's sweetish and slightly nutty or even toffeeish/caramelly — toffee pears anyone? The finish is slightly sweet and shyly fruity. Good with roast pork or roast chicken where the sweet, slightly caramel notes would have a party with the caramel on the roast skin.
And on your travels in search of some apple fuel I would respectfully suggest you try these places:
The Penrhyn Arms, near Llandudno, North Wales
The Cider House, Newton Abbot, Devon
Fagin’s Ale and Chop Shop, Taffs Well, South Wales
The Square & Compass, Worth Maltravers, Dorset
The Cumberland Arms, Bykers Bank, Newcastle
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