Summer officially begins here with the solstice, but summer feels like it has been here far longer. Upstate isn't known for dry rainless stretches and 90 degree days, but we have them. Orchardists, my thoughts are with you. Personally though, I've been curious about expanding my notions of the right ciders for warm weather. Since Number 12 Cider House from Buffalo, Minnesota sent me two bottles of their cider, I thought I'd try one with a porch picnic last week to see how that works.
The identity that I see in Number 12 Cider House is very oriented towards quality. The name comes from their twelfth formulation of their cider, from back in 2011. They kept experimenting in order to develop a cider they loved. I know that sounds obvious and perhaps even universal, but it isn't. Many brands present heritage or regional identity or apple growing rather than focusing on the taste and quality of their cider. I appreciate that companies share their own set of values and priorities, but I admit I get extra excited when the final fermented beverage takes center stage.
The charming website has more information here: http://www.number12ciderhouse.com/
Usually, I turn to hopped ciders for warm weather, but I chilled and served a bottle of Sparkling Dry Cider in hopes it would be refreshing for a picnic on my porch. Here's what Number 12 Cider House says about this cider.
Number 12 Sparkling Dry is a truly dry, English style cider with a slightly tart finish. It has just the right amount of dry and tart, with an appley bouquet and a champagne-like sparkle. Sparkling Dry is blended with over 10 varieties of apples, picked and pressed and fermented to goodness. It is the culmination of 17 years of experimentation. And we're ready to share.This cider has an ABV of 7.4%. I'm curious to see what this Minnesota cider inspired by English ciders will actually taste like!
Appearance: brilliant, active visible bubbles, old gold
As the picture shows, this is a lovely cider with lots of active bubbles and fantastic brilliance. It looks like a champagne in a deep gold color. Very heartening. It pours with a lacy mouse of bubbles and at the tale end of the bottle a good bit of cloudy sediment.
Aromas: fermented fruit, caramel, yeast
The Sparking Dry smells fermented first and foremost. I can scent yeasty ripe apples and dust maturity. Everything about the smell points to mellowness, richness, and ripeness. The smell is appley but not like fresh fruit. I can also smell a bit of caramel.
Dryness/sweetness: Decidedly dry.
Finally! They said dry and dry it is.
Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, sharp, rich, tannic
Wow! The first thing I notice about this cider is how it stimulates a salivary response. This cider has a lot going on. It is both high acidity and high tannincs. It tastes dark, and rich yet firm and sharp. The first hit of flavor is bitter, fruity and astringent at once. The acid lingers and creeps up tongue to salivary glands. I get a curling sensation below my ears! Wow!
I just keep noticing the acidity plus tannins over and over. I love how the cider cuts through fatty food. In terms of mouthfeel, there's lots of sparkle, this cider is bottle conditioned for certain. I find it very wine like as well as being influenced by english cider making. There's just a little gentle funk, but not enough to scare anyone. I like how this cider tastes spicy, with a bit of black pepper flavor. In terms of fruit, I get lemon, quince, and crabapple. One of my tasting companions thought it tasted like a sharp and tart apple peel. Everyone found it *Very* good.
For this porch picnic, we had cous cous with sun dried tomatoes, caramelized Vidalia onion, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. The cider worked well with this, as well as a veggie loaded green salad with avocado. Try your own pairings, but keep it simple so that this complex cider can get the attention it deserves.