It’s the time of year when apples begin to blossom, the weather cools and cider comes into its own. Matt Dicks, WSET qualified Beers, Wines and Spirits Specialist for Waitrose, gives us his top picks this season…
During your early school years, you may remember a certain nursery rhyme called ‘Oranges and Lemons’ which referred to the bells of several churches in London. Whilst thinking of suitable garnishes for spirits such as gin, the bells in your mind may ring out for oranges and lemons, it’s another fruit we are getting to the core of, not for garnishing, but for cider making; the crisp and crunchy apple.
‘Tis the season of mellow fruitfulness where the trees are filled with fruits and the fields are overflowing with vegetables and cereal grains ready to be harvested. Apples have played a significant part of our country’s heritage and tradition, being commonly used by farmers as part-payment for their workers. Until the marketing idea of serving cider over ice was discovered, cider and perry (made from pears) was on the verge of disappearing from our shelves and bars for good around 10 years ago.
Cider had suddenly summoned a top fashion stylist and went to Carnaby Street for a makeover. The orchards were booming once again to the sound of artisan cider-makers determined something more distinctive so cider drinks became more adventurous. Gone were the days when it was a drink for the Wurzels, it was now a tipple to be seen with, each sip filled with total refreshment.
Much like grape varieties used to make wine, cider apples offer a whole spectrum of different flavours, from sweet to bitter to sharp, coupled with the skilful blending of these flavours which gives each cider its own unique taste. There are hundreds of cider apple varieties, many with interesting names such as Dabinett, Brown Snout, Northern Spy and Porter’s Perfection.
Cider can also be dosed with other fruits such as blackberries and strawberries, and whilst these can appeal to some and not to others, they offer much more than just apple. Spirit ciders are also becoming fashionable, marrying the popularity of cider with the cocktail craze, giving consumers the best of both worlds.
Here are a selection of cider’s which have certainly caught the apple in my eye:
Produced on Waitrose’s own farm at Leckford, set amongst the rolling hills of Hampshire, this unoaked, light and crisp cider has a delicate flavour and sweet finish. The perfect pairing with a traditional ploughman’s lunch.
This award-winning South African single-variety cider is made from Golden Delicious apples. The name Sxollie can be loosely translated into the word ‘scallywag’, whilst the cider uses sparkling wine yeasts to give a sweet/sour tropical fruit notes with an uplifting refreshing character.
Using fully ripe, hand-picked Rubens and Bramley apples from Kent orchards, this crisp and aromatic cider is fermented using wine yeasts in stainless-steel tanks at the renowned Chapel Down winery. The perfect pairing for a pork roast.
Being an East Anglian born and bred, I had to include this scrumptious Suffolk cider in my recommendations. As the flagship of the Aspall range, Premier Cru is creamy on the palate, with a long elegant finish. Straw gold in colour, with a clean and light aroma of dessert apples, it is an ideal partner for spicy foods and mild cheeses.
Cidermaking began at Westons in the fertile county of Herefordshire in 1878. Nearly 140 years later, the principles remain the same as those set about when Henry Weston first arrived in the area. Based on their renowned cloudy cider, Rosie’s Pig, the name ‘Flat Tyre’ derives from the first delivery trucks Westons owned. Infused with rhubarb, this deliciously moreish cider is delicious over ice.
To Suffolk again and this fruitful offering is a tribute to the Aspall family’s great-grandma Isabel. Refreshingly sweet and well balanced on the palate, it’s filled to the brim with redcurrants and raspberries to deliver an elegant and fruity drink. Perfectly served with fresh fruit salads, summer pudding or even Stilton cheese.
For more wine tips follow Matt on Twitter @vinopatrol