Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cider Review: Woodchuck Winter

Woodchuck is one of the most familiar cider brands to United States cider drinkers, and it is also fairly divisive. Some folks find all of Woodchuck’s offerings to be too sweet, while others enjoy the varieties and availability of Woodchuck ciders. I quite like several of the varieties, but I can see the validity in some critiques. That’s all I will say about that. On to tonight’s cider: Woodchuck Winter.

Cider fans can only buy this cider in November, December, and January. Winter cider, winter availability. The company describes the Winter as having notes of vanilla and oak. The ABV is on par with many Woodchuck ciders at 5%. Though the price is not consistent shop to shop, much less state to state, six-packs tend be available in $9-12 dollar range. That makes the Winter an easy cider to take home for casual drinking.

Here are my findings based on several trials.

Color and appearance: Warm topaz

It looks like a sparkling maple syrup in the glass. It produces no head, just a slight ring of foam around the glass.

Aroma: burnt sugar and caramel, vanilla, toasted gentle woods

The aromas of this cider are not at all difficult to detect when drinking from a pint glass. Straight from the bottle, I have a harder time getting much in the way of scent without awkwardly bringing my proboscis directly to the mouth of the bottle: not  a recommended move when enjoying this cider with friends or loved ones. The smells are nice, so taking the time to pour this cider into a glass is well worth it.

Sweet-dry scale: sweet

All Woodchuck ciders are sweet. That is simply a fact we must accept. The particular character of the Winter’s sweetness is a mellow friendliness. I can taste it high in my palate, but it isn’t annoying. Some ciders’ sweetness (say that ten times fast) give one a sense of youthful hijinks and morning-after headaches. But Woodchuck Winter is definitively not one of those. Thankfully. The sweetness is tempered by the vanilla, making the Woodchuck Winter a more mature beverage with an interesting character.

Drinking experience and flavors: Woodsiness, maple, very drinkable

The oakiness or a more general woodsiness comes the forefront when actually drinking this cider (particularly with food). The level of sparkle/carbonation is on par with other Woodchuck ciders, and, in general, this is most reminiscent of their 802 cider. The carbonation remains through pouring, but takes on a finer character (read: tiny bubbles) after some time in a glass. Drinking from the bottle puts the carbonation more at the forefront of the experience if that’s your thing.

Finish: pleasant, relatively clean

The restraint in the sweetness really pays off throughout drinking the Woodchuck Winter, but it offers the most benefit in the finish. Each sip, drink, and gulp of this cider leaves the mouth tidily with only a ghost of vanilla. A real highlight.

Drinking Notes: hearty dishes or salty snacks

Woodchuck Winter goes well many savoury but not spicy winter dishes. The flavors show excellently against chili, pizza, and hot sandwiches. It can cut through a bit of greasiness, so don’t be afraid to take it to a bonfire potluck. It also goes well with freshly popped popcorn and BBC programming for the couch hibernators among us.

All in all, I think it is a better than average cider, though it could still be less sweet.   I wish I could get it for more of the year; three months a year is not a lot of quality time together.