Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cider Review: Albemarle Ciderworks Royal Pippin Virginia Apple Cider

This afternoon, I'm quite pleased to share my first review of cider by Albermarle Ciderworks. I've been following the company online for a while, but I got a chance to taste several of their ciders on my recent vacation. I asked on Twitter and did a bit of research into where I could get cider reasonably close to the Norfolk, Virginia airport and I was thrilled to see so much cider at the fairly nearby wine store. I hauled my embarassing amount of vacation cider to the Outerbanks of North Carolina and reviewed ciders all vacation long. This is definitely a process I recommend and plan to repeat.

You can check out their website here: It has lots of great information about their ciders, local events, and cider more generally. Very nice. Though I haven't gotten to visit it, I'm excited that Albemarle has a tasting room! You can visit them Wednesdays - Sundays from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. in North Garden, Virginia just south of Charlottesville.

I'm starting this series of reviews with my encounter with their Royal Pippin Virginia Apple Cider in no small part because I've already tasted and reviewed the Newtown Pippin single variety by Original Sin. You can check out that review for comparison here: The apples aren't the same, but they are closely enough related that I think looking at the reviews together makes sense.

Here's the official blurb for the cider from Albemarle: "The Albemarle Pippin, besides being an exquisite dessert and culinary apple, makes a delightful single varietal cider. Royal Pippin has notes of pineapple and grape, with a well balanced acidity and a lush apple taste. It is a refreshing apertif and pairs splendidly with seafood and pork. 8.5% ABV." What I find really interesting is that the label lists a different ABV than the website; on the cider label the ABV appears to be 9.5%. I'm sure batches vary and that labelling requirements are as mysterious in Virginia as they are in other states, but I wish I knew what the actual ABV of the cider was. 

In the websites's tasting notes section, it says this about the cider: "Royal Pippin is a wonderfully diverse cider, perfect for pairing with so many dishes.  Roasted chicken over winter root vegetables, lemony scallops, poached salmon, even spicy carnitas or a firm, nutty cheese. . . all work well alongside this cider."

Giving a bit of extra info in the "Why we like it" section, Albemarle says this about the background of its Royal Pippin: "The Albemarle Pippin has a storied past; Queen Victoria and her subjects were so enamored of the taste of the Albemarle Pippin that they were willing to pay higher prices and forego the import tax on this richly flavored apple.  Our Royal Pippin cider captures all the best aspects of this apple's essence superbly."

Appearance: slightly hazy, glowing deep vanilla

The color needs a slightly more whimsical description than some, perhaps because of the haziness or the lovely bubbling. So, I stand by my glowing deep vanilla color assessment.

Aromas: Fresh apples, wine yeast, tea, pencil shavings

This smells sweet but the other blended aromas that include clean minerals, iron, wood, and wine yeast give me a good hint that it won't likely taste sweet. I am expecting a fairly high tannin level though.

Sweet-dry scale: off dry

Upon first taste, my prediction is fulfilled. This is not a sweet cider, but is approachable and full of flavor. I love this level dryness. The Royal Pippin could easily go with food or be enjoyed just on its own.

Flavors and Drinking Experience:  floral, high tannin, low acid, woody

Thie cider tastes wild and English, but not farmy. Instead it strikes me as refined with hints of very sharp cheddar, lapsang souchong tea, rich mushrooms, maybe even bleu cheese. The Royal Pippin's  finish is citrusy, but I get no citrus before then. It gives a lingering warmth that is most enjoyable.

Drinking Experience:

This single varietal is better balanced than Original Sin's Newtown Pippin.  In fact, it is so well balanced and drinkable, I would not have guessed it for a single origin cider had I known this beforehand. For me that makes it not just an educational or interesting beverage, but one to savor on its own merit as well.

Though you could drink this on its own, I recommend it with a summery veggie tart something with lots of zucchini, tomatoes, corn and cheese. It could also go easily with sitting on a porch and watching the world go by. Very lovely indeed.