Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reviewing Ciders for Winter: Sheppy's Vintage Reserve Oak Matured Somerset Cider

Winter is barely beginning to release its salty, icy, blustery hold on upstate NY, but I think we can slip at least one more winter cider in the series before spring takes hold.

This is my first review of any Sheppy's Cider. Like many of my import finds, I got it at The Cellar D'Or. Like always, I checked out the Sheppy's website to learn a bit more about the company and their approach to cider. What I found is absolutely charming, from the encouragement for visitors to walk their orchards to their organized orchard information to the newly redone tea rooms. I can barely emphasize enough just how approachable and lovely I find Sheppy's presentation of their brand. (Again, I'm an admitted Anglophile, so your mileage may vary.) Here's the link if you want to check it out for yourself:

This is what Sheppy's says about themselves:
Farming 370 acres at Three Bridges Farm since 1917, three generations of the Sheppy family have weathered the ups and downs of farming and cidermaking by embracing change and opportunity.

Craftsmen cidermakers for over 200 years.

Quality is central to all our ciders, which are produced from local and home-grown apples here at Three Bridges Farm. Modern technology has been used to assist the completely traditional production of fine English cider, but never to compromise the quality which is associated with the name Sheppy’s Cider.
The cider of theirs that looked the most winter friendly on the shelves was their Vintage Reserve Oak Matured Somerset Cider. I know I like oaked ciders and that sometimes the effect is a warm one, so I tasted it recently in hopes it would fit into this winter series.

Here's how they introduce this one.
A fine full-flavoured sparking vintage cider in a medium taste, created from the best varieties of cider apples of a single harvest here at Three Bridges Farm.  Always matured in oak.  Winner of many prestigious prizes including overall winner of the Quality Drink Awards competition,  2010.


Recently placed in the top 50 of the Great Taste Awards for 2014, out of over 10,000 products and winner of the cider category of the Quality Drink Awards!

Alcohol 7.4% by volume.

Appearance: Brilliant, pumpkin colored, few visible bubbles

The color certainly strikes me as warm, specifically the orange of a harvest moon or a ripe pumpkin. I see no haze and very few bubbles. The ones that do appear clustered glittering at the bottom of the glass.

Aromas: leather, overripe apples, oak

The Oak Matured Cider smells like leather with a hint of overripe apples and softness. My hunch that this will be a very winter friendly cider seems correct so far. It also smells salty, oaky and woody but not vinous at all, like seasoned dry firewood. The smell promises many good things.

Sweetness: Semi-dry

Sheppy's is entirely on target to call this a semi-dry cider. The sweetness doesn't hit right off because the opening is more a first note of bitter orange.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich mouthfeel, tannins, phenolic, drinkable

This Somerset Cider is not syrupy, not sour, but rather rich in mouthfeel. Definitely a winter friendly cider because of how it manages to be thick and creamy but not cloying. I get a continuation of the leather aromas in the flavors, like a Doc Marten boot soaked in apples. It tastes gentle but with astringency, rather than too much bitterness.  It has the rare clean phenolic; just a little bit of barny Englishness, but it's very tasteful, with no geranium or olive brine notes.  Highly drinkable.  complex, refreshing in small and large drinks. I remain struck by the cider's beautiful long velvety finish.  this is a cider to covet year round, but especially in the winter. 

The seasonality is something I get not only from the tannins but also the relatively gentle carbonation.  Somehow it is warm and crisp at the same time. I had this cider on its own, and it didn't need any accompanying food, but it would taste wonderful I'm sure with a jacketed potato with beans and cheese or other hearty warming foods. Hopefully we won't need to many more winter ciders, but try this one for sure!