Despite most commonly being consumed like beer, cider and perry in fact has more in common with wine in terms of both how they’re created and the natural variation that gives them uniqueness and rarity. They share common processes involving fruit being pressed and then fermented, they also use a lot of the same actual equipment and sometimes even the same yeast strains (mostly cider pinching the wine ones, rather than the other way round).
As they are fruit they all have hundreds of varieties which all taste differently and it’s these varieties that give these drinks their breadth. Like grapes; apples and pears have different levels of three main components: sugar, acid and tannin. It is the variation in levels of these that give each variety its uniqueness, but they can also vary depending on the year.
They are affected by terroir; environmental factors (such as climate or location) and habitat type. That’s one of the reasons why a Dabinett cider from Herefordshire doesn’t taste the same as one from Somerset and why a Sauvignon Blanc from Loire will be different to one from Bordeaux. Like wine, vintages for cider are affected by annual variation in weather which is a fascinating concept to explore. For example, sunlight levels can affect fruit sugar content which in turn affects the amount of alcohol content after fermentation. Worth noting though that cider and perry are lower in alcohol than your average wine.
If you drink wine, you may have a favourite grape variety or blend, from a favourite region. The same can be true with cider and perry too, with certain varieties being favoured in particular areas. Especially true of perry pears where some varieties are only found in very small clusters in one area. Some varieties are so rare that only a few trees exist in the world.
So I want to share with you five different ciders and perries that I think have real wine like qualities and characteristics. Bearing in mind that apples and pears don’t taste like grapes, this is not an attempt to replace wine, more to expand your drinking repertoire. To show you that if you really enjoy wine, then there are many ciders and perries that you’ll love too.
1. Nightingale - Songbird (8.1%)
This 2016 vintage cider is made exclusively from Egremont Russet apples. Egremont Russet is an unusual eating apple as it makes a cider not overly strong in acid which also allows it to take on the flavours of its surroundings, so perfect for time in a barrel. This cider has been barrel fermented and then aged on the lees for 2 years in an English chardonnay barrel. Following which it was then expertly blended with unoaked cider from the same vintage. Malolactic fermentation has produced creamy vanilla and nutty tones. Definitely one for the oaked chardonnay lover, to be gently chilled and then sipped to take in the wondrous aromatics.
2. Pilton – Queen of the Brue (5.4%)
Named after the River Brue where the Quince trees grow, this “fruit wine” has been keeved to retain some natural sweetness. Although quince are part of the pear family this cannot be called cider or perry due to tax law definitions and rightly so, this is definitely something else. It pours a bright gold, there’s almost a shimmer to it. The aroma in the glass is so fruity, filled with tropical melon and kiwi, then floral notes of lemongrass and rose. The taste is sublime, the keeved sweetness is tempered by crisp acidity at the start, then that acid focuses in on bitter grapefruit pith with a sherbet like zing on the palate. The frutiness of the finish just goes on and on. One for sipping on a warm summer evening whilst taking in natures beauty.
3. Little Pomona – Old Man and the Bee 2017 (7.2%)
“This wine is made from apples”, it’s on the back of the bottle and highlights the vinous quality of this cider. Its title is a homage to the farmer who planted the orchard. Wild fermented Harry Masters Jersey and Ellis Bitter, expertly blended with a smidge of barrel aged Foxwhelp creates an exceptionally juicy and perfumed creation. It doesn’t have any berry like flavours obviously but red wine drinkers will adore this. Stone fruit, spice and minerality remind of an aromatic Syrah. This is one of the best still dry ciders in existence today. Testament to that fact, it’s already sold out on Little Pomona’s web shop having only been released earlier this year. Fortunately it’s still available from a number of online stockists, so seek it out or any of their creations.
4. The Newt - Rosé (7.6%)
Based in Somerset The Newt is a state of the art cidery which has only started releasing cyders very recently. Their oldest vintage released at the moment being 2018. This young 2019 is their first vintage of this cyder which is made with Red Love Apples, a Swedish variety which produces deep red juice. Bright red and full of red currants, strawberry and raspberry on the nose, it smells like a summer fruit pudding. The taste is full of gentle acidity, berry fruit and ripe apple skins. It’s zingy and vinous with a crisp finish. It’s fascinating how these apples convey such berry like aromas and flavours, this will tickle the fancy of any rosé wine drinker or even fans of a light bodied Pinot Noir. Paul Ross their cider maker is one of the most talented makers around, especially with pears, look out for his perry too, which is available now. Available in Crafty Nectar's Somerset Fine Cider Box
5. Once Upon a Tree - Bacchus Cider (7%)
This cider is crafted by fermenting Dabinett and Russet with English Bacchus wine yeast lees and aged for 9 months. Dark straw coloured with a very delicate fizz that lift the marvellous aromatics. It smells of elderflowers, grapefruit, orchard grass and tropical guava. The taste is beautifully vibrant with bright citrus like acidity, followed by a creamy chestnut mid palate and a crisp apple finish. There is a perception of sweetness because it is so juicy. This almost doesn’t taste like cider. The aromas are typical of Bacchus wines, but the citrus, tropical and apple will also appeal to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers too.
There you have it, five absolutely stunning drinks that will show you the breadth and complexity that cider and perry can offer. So next time your seeking a new wine, consider one of these instead, you won’t be disappointed. All except the Little Pomona are available through the Crafty Nectar Marketplace.
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