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.