With the release of our Hard Cider Kits this fall, we have been on a mission to show people that a glass of hard cider can be every bit as complex and exciting as a pint of beer. Cider has a rich history; from the orchards and pubs of the English countryside, to the sagardotegi of the Basque region of Spain, cider makers have developed strong traditions using local apple varietals and wild yeasts to produce fascinating ciders that celebrate the terroir and character of their land. At our tasting table this week, we flew in a flight of ciders from cideries across the globe. We tasted Basandere and Bassa Juan from Bordatto Etxaldea, located in the Basque region of southern France; Sarasola Sagardoa from Sidreria Sarasola, located in the Basque region of Spain; The Ledbury from Virtue, located in Michigan; and Dupont Reserve from Domaine Dupont, located in the Normandy region of France. Read on for our tasting notes, and leave a comment to let us know what you think!
Bordatto’s founder Bitxinxo Aphule was a winemaker before he fell in love with cider. He takes growing techniques from the vineyards and applies them to his orchards, crafting ciders from hand-picked apples and wild yeasts with an emphasis on terroir. Basandere, which translates to "Wild Woman” in Basque mythology, pours a bright golden wheat reminiscent of lemon peels. The cider releases a musty and rustic peaty aroma. Lightly carbonated, Basandere has a light dry flavor with complex notes of blue cheese, peat and teaberry.
Bassa Juan refers to “The Wild Man or the Devil” in Basque mythology. With a rich golden hue and a nose full of blue cheese, barnyard and peat bog aroma, Bassa Juan is bolder and funkier than its sister cider. Wild fermented with a blend of 15 different apple varietals, the cider tastes sweet, tart, floral and musty with the creaminess and smoke of a peppered cheese or scotch.
Sarasola Sagardoa is a traditional Basque cider from a cider house located in the apple growing hills of Astigarraga, Spain. Basque ciders, unlike many European ciders, are not sparkling. Instead, Basque ciders are served by holding the bottle high up above your head and pouring to a glass right below waist level which allows the cider to pick up a little bit of natural carbonation. The Sarasola pours a pale pineapple, limoncello-like yellow and has a vinegar-spiked funky cheese aroma. With a hint of vinegary sourness, the cider had a dry tannic character that reminded us of apple skins and dehydrated apple slices.
A collaboration with Tom Oliver, one of the best cider and perry makers from Herefordshire, England, this English-style cider utilizes Old World bittersweet apples and New World heirloom varieties. The color of an Irish whiskey, with gold, orange and honey hues, the Ledbury released tiny bubbles that carried a botanical, rustic barnyard aroma. Dry with minimal carbonation and a touch of apple sweetness, we enjoyed the classic English farmhouse flavors of this cider.
The Dupont Reserve is a French cider aged for six months in oak casks used to store calvados, a type of apple brandy. The cider pours a clear straw gold with a light foamy head. The calvados barrel aging was evident on the nose, with strong apple, apple brandy and vanilla notes. The taste mirrored the aroma, with a more pronounced apple and dried apricot flavor coming from the calvados.