Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cider Review: Bantam Cider's Wunderkind

To celebrate my return from lovely, warm, comfortable Florida, I'm reviewing my very first Bantam Cider. You can check out their website here: It has a beautifully simple design and lots of excellent information. The company operates out of Cambridge, Massachussetts where they share some equipment with a small winery: a good practice for a young company.This is how Bantam describes its own identity as a cider company:
Bantam Cider was born from a proud family tradition of
winemaking and a desire to be part of a creative process
rooted in the local community.

We were inspired to do something special, to create a truly unique and
modern line of products that would reshape the way people experience
cider. We source our apples from local orchards and create and trial
cider concepts at our small lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By shar-
ing capacity with a regional winery, we are able to scale up production
to meet demand. This allows us to grow our business while maintain-
ing flexibility and a compact footprint.

We are a small enterprise in a world of big brands. While we don’t have
a big budget, we do have big ambitions and hope to challenge conven-
tional thinking about what cider should be.

We are committed to making creative and distinctive crafted cider using fresh pressed apples and high-quality,
all-natural ingredients.
These are some pretty admirable (and lofty) goals. I'm curious about how their focus on innovation and experimentation will translate to taste. I like a good traditional cider in many different styles, so we'll see what breaking tradition tastes like.

Bantam makes a few different ciders. My wonderful brother-in-law picked the Wunderkind up for me during a family visit. He chose just the right one because this is their first cider, which is always a grand place to begin. The bottle didn't give me very much information, but when I looked up the Wunderkind online, I found much more. Here it is:
We are proud to introduce our first cider, Wunderkind.
Bantam's maiden voyage is named in honor of one of
the greatest modern adventurers, Amelia Earhart. She
was bold and courageous and never settled for any-
thing less than achieving the extraordinary. It is her
fearless spirit and sense of adventure that inspires
our own quest.

Wunderkind is bright and crisp and gently lingers on
the palate. It is made from a blend of local apples,
slowly fermented to capture subtle esters, and del-
icately balanced with a hint of flower-blossom honey.
It is the result of countless test batches on dozens of
apple varieties and yeast strains to arrive at just the
right combination of flavors, aroma and body.

Wunderkind isn't simply a new twist on a familiar
theme, it's a new story altogether.
Still curious about what they mean about a new story. Let's see.

Appearance: White, very pale, super clear

Bantam's Wunderkind just shines in this big gorgeous glass my family let me borrow. Obvious brilliant. The color looks nearly white, almost light green. The bubbles look like champagne bubbles in that they are so very active and fine. I wish I'd taken more time for photos, but getting photos and tasting notes while enjoying cider and family at the same time isn't actually as easy as I'd like it to be.

Aromas: Honey

I can smell just oodles of honey. Secondarily, the Wunderkind wafts off notes white wine, pear, and vanilla. It doesn't not smell very much like apple. Perhaps this is the innovation to talked up in Bantam's promotional copy. It smells back sweetened, which means that the cider was likely fermented to dryness and then sweetened after fermentation to taste. This is a very common technique for cidermakers producing on any scale. Smells lovely but different.

Sweetness: Sweet

The taste matches the smell in that I can definitely taste some significant back sweetening with honey on the finish. That really affects the character of the sweetness and the cider.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: sophisticated even while being sweet, creamy, and approachable

At first the Wunderkind tastes sweet, then it blooms into a creamy floral mid palate. Next, I get spices  and very easygoing, fleeting honey-vanilla on finish. What really sets the Wunderkind apart is that it isn't strongly fruit forward even while having plenty of flavor and sweetness. I experience this cider primarily as something light, sophisticated, and pleasant. It goes well with any number of desserts, and since I was visiting family I got to try it with several. I enjoyed it most with almond cookies. The  tiny bubbles seem to occur naturally and add wonderful texture and lightness.  The Wunderkind comes across as bright but not super acidic, very low in tannins, and very friendly.

I'd definitely bring this cider to party. It seems meant for light conversation and little desserts. I'm curious to try Bantam's other offerings. This one really worked for me despite not tasting very much like my usual favorites. Maybe they are achieving exactly what they were talking about in terms of breaking tradition?