Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cider Review: Aspall Cider's Grand Cru

Aspall Cider has been in the news this past week or so because the company was just sold to Molson(http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42595870). I have a few bottles of Aspall in my cupboard already, and I've been a fan since I discovered the brand in 2010. I found them when traveling to the Cambridge to present a paper. This blog was not yet a gleam in my eye because I thought I was going to be a literature professor who just happened to spend her evenings drinking cider when grading papers and thinking about Oscar Wilde. A lot has changed in eight years.

I don't know what will happen to the 300 plus year old brand under Molson's ownership. But I certainly feel motivated to review what I have by them now, in case things do change.

I've reviewed one other Aspall previously, the Imperial English Cider:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-aspall-imperial-english.html

That one made it to my 2nd favorite cider slot in 2015. It was wonderful. http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2015.html

Once before I reviewed a previous release of the Grand Cru. It was part of a roundup based on a Bellwether staff party tasting. http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-roundup-virtue-slyboro.html

But since that bottle was years old in 2015, I'm really curious what this fresher bottle and newer release will be like.

Here's the Aspall official description of the Grand Cru:
Rich, golden colour. Traditional bittersweet cyder-apple aroma with orchard fruit and floral notes. 
Palate initially slightly sweet, then mouthfilling and full bodied.Complex array of fruit flavours balanced by gorgeous soft tannins, producing a bone dry finish. 
Very long aftertaste, a true sign of a classic cyder of the highest quality”. An ideal partner for highly flavoured meat dishes, especially duck confit and exotic food from Asia and North African with a hint of sweetness.

Appearance: brilliant, squash, some bubbles

The Grand Cru forms a delicate ring of bubbles at the borders of the glass, and a small nest of them seem to pool and wait at the bottom as well. I'll call the color somewhere between mango and pumpkin or squash flesh. The cider is totally brilliant

Aromas: overripe apples, leather, tea, orange

This cider smells as lovely as it looks. Notes in the aromas include overripe apples, soft leather, spicy tea, and orange. These notes play together harmoniously more than strike out on their own in any intense way. I also get a background blend of wet grass and leaves. Its a very pleasantly earthy set of aromas.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This cider is what I think gets called medium sweet in English cider terminology (If I'm wrong, please let me know). I'd call it a semi-sweet for my palate and labelling conventions that the North American cider industry is headed toward. What's notable though is the type of sweetness; its mellow and fruity and very natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: very tannic, medium acid, chalky, soft

Like all of my favorite English ciders, this cider is very tannic and rich. It has apple flavors all over the place. Between the sweetness and the tannins, this mouthfeel is absolute dream. The cider is more than just that though. Its a touch chalky and a little more acidic than most english ciders. I'd say the chalkiness is easily attributable to the moderate levels of oxidation that are part of the regional maturation process for Aspall ciders.

That same process is what makes the cider taste mature, woody, and well balanced. The soft leather notes apparent in the aroma persist pleasantly in the drinking experience. I can also get some floral and spice notes. Guys, this is so yummy. I can describe the balance and the notes at length, but my overall impression is love. This cider pleases me to no end. I hope I can get this experience again and again for years to come.

I had my cider with a veggie casserole, affectionate dogs, and the best possible company. The Grand Cru was an integral element in lovely winter night.

Thank you, Aspall for making something special that delights me so much.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cider Review: Snowdrift Cider Co.'s Cornice

Whew! I don’t know about you, but much of the United States just made it through the #bombcyclone (Bombogenesis) and Winter Storm Grayson. It was snowy, windy, and seriously cold. Mostly, this was terrible. But this kind of weather really is perfect for curling up at home in a cozy fashion. And nothing goes better with cozying up than a glass of cider. And this time, it may have been the only way I survived cabin fever. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on one of the ciders that helped us in the cold.

I've not reviewed anything by Snowdrift Cider Co. before because I simply never see it for sale. I've been curious about them for ages. I finally picked up a bottle when traveling to San Francisco. They are based in Central Washington State on the Columbia River where they grow apples, make cider, and keep a tasting room open on weekends. Their orchard dates back to the 1960s and includes eating apples, heritage apple varieties, crabs, and apples best used for cider. The cidery dates from 2008.

I love this excerpt of how they introduce themselves and their cidermaking:
All of our ciders start with tree ripe fruit that we carefully crush and ferment. Often unsightly and a challenge to eat fresh, the French, English and old American cider apple varieties we grow to make our ciders carry intense aromatic flavors that shine through fermentation and aging. As the cider ages through the cold snowy winter, the bitter tannins that made the fruit so edgy while fresh give way to soft, complex and surprising flavors that linger and evolve on the palate. Our ciders are best served at a cool room temperature.

You can learn more on the company's website: http://www.snowdriftcider.com/

Today's cider is the Barrel-Aged Cornice. Here's the official description:
In our region, winter winds whip layers of snow into majestic formations called cornices. They hang in a gravity-defying balance, ready to cascade at any moment into a rushing avalanche. We wanted to craft a cider to carry these traits… So we aged cider in oak barrels, knitting tannins and aromas into an avalanche of flavors. Notes of bourbon vanilla, fall fruit and toffee coalesce in this off-dry cider.This cider's smooth complexity and luscious vanilla-toffee notes pair well with grilled meets, pulled pork, bacon-wrapped dates, as well as rich desserts. Alcohol 7.5% by volume.

Appearance: brilliant, deep copper, few bubbles

I don't see a lot of visible bubbles, here but I see some and an intense color. I love that deep copper hue. It's totally brillliant, as my bookshelf picture demonstrates clearly. 

Aromas: ripe apples, paper, dust

The Cornice smells bracing and bitter, though the apple presence in the aroma is undeniable. Something about the smell strikes me as brittle; I think perhaps its the barrel that gives the cider a wooden note. I could even call it paper or pencil shavings. Other notes make me think of a stone cracking. And yet amidst these hard things, I can still smell soft apples, wispy smoke, and vanilla.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This cider is very nearly dry, and perhaps you could call it dry. I think its fruitiness makes me perceive it as off dry in a very natural and reserved way.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, plummy, warm, golden
Oh, this is a rich one! The Cornice offers up high acid zing but so much more. Some of the flavors remind me of rich golden dried fruits like sultanas or apricots. Some of the richness comes from beautiful fruit esters that make the cider feel so plummy.

Yes, I'd call it off-dry but with a lingering warmth because of the barrel qualities I'd be curious to know the actual levels of residual sugars, but not much.

Other flavors include baking spices, caramel, buttered toast crumbs. As for the mouthfeel, there are tannins and gentle bubbles. The high ABV makes it feel fuller still in the mouth. This is a decidedly decadent cider with fullsome fruitiness and powerful booziness. It just sweeps in from all sides, offering a pleasant degree of complexity, but not overpoweringly so. I found it extremely pleasing with a hearty vegetable stew and warm cats. I didn't eat the cats. They just sat on me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cider Review Carr's Ciderhouse Gingered Hard Cider

Good morning and happy 2018! I hope this year brings us all hope, happiness, and many tasty ciders. I write many days into a weather pattern called an “artic regime” by a local weather writer. I think he's right. This cold is more consistent and committed than dramatic, but it is cold. That guided my choice of cider for this week's review. I needed something warming and exciting.

Today is also my first review of anything by Carr's Ciderhouse. This small cidery operates in Hadley, Massachusetts. Their apples include many heritage varieties from a historic Massachusetts orchard. Here's how they describe themselves, “The results are elegant hard ciders–influenced by our choice of apples and how we blend the finished fermentations–that pair well with a variety of foods.”

You can read more about Carr's Ciderhouse on the website: http://www.carrsciderhouse.com

My wonderful sister-in-law brought this cider over during the holidays, so we could try it together. Thanks so much, Karen! I don't see Carr's ciders around here, so I was very excited to try something new and try to warm up the day with something gingery. We were totally stoked to try the Gingered Hard Cider.
Here's the official description:
Gingered Hard Cider - Spicy, dry, and perfect for cider cocktails and pouring over a few big ice cubes. It is like a dry ginger beer for grown-ups and our customers are crazy about it. Made with eco-grown "Fortune" apples. 6.5%ABV.

Appearance: warm applesauce, hazy, few bubbles

This has a slight haze that increased with each glass poured from the bottle. The first was nearly perfectly transparent, but the haze was increasingly noticeable for the second, third, and fourth glass. I'd call the color reminiscent of warm applesauce. I couldn't see many bubbles, but there were a few.

Aromas: gingery, tart, acid

Whoa! This smells tart and a bit like acetic acid. It also smells gingery. For fans of sour or extremely tart ciders, this aroma would be very exciting. It could even be described as having a touch of volatile acidity.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider doesn't really place neatly of the sweetness dryness spectrum both because of its spice and its tartness, but I'd call it a semi-dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Candied lemon peel, ginger, semi dry

Ooh spicy! I taste so much ginger and candied lemon peel in the Gingered Dry Cider. Its really exciting. I love how pronounced the ginger presence remains from first note to final finish. Lovers of spice and ginger like myself will absolutely fall for this cider because it manages to be both appley and spicy with just the right intense ginger kick.

I think you can taste the cider syrup used for backsweetening, and I'm guessing that was a very necessary step for a cider this tart and spicy. I'd actually call this cider more tart than dry.
It offers up interesting fermentation notes, not a spartanly clean or transparent one but a very approachable gentle hint of funk.

All in all, this cider has some big tastes to it. The bubbles are medium and the body is very sharp and light. There's enough apple flavor to balance the ginger, but the ginger speaks up clearly throughout.

I hoped this woud be warm and exciting, and it certainly was. I had mine with a cold day and a house filled with family, but I could also see this cider with a creamy soup and some fun hibernation reading.