Exploring Europe’s Cider Trail

Cider has been part of Europe's drinking culture for centuries. Learn each country's distinct apple varieties, as well as native dishes to pair them with.
Illustration by Monica Simon

Cider’s origins lie in Europe, where it has been a way of life for centuries. The Romans may have discovered it in England as early as 55 B.C., but as the fermented beverage spread throughout the continent over the centuries, each country developed its own distinct take. Just as wine, each country has its own style of cider-making and -serving. And also like wine, native apple varieties shine. Here’s a look at a few countries’ styles.

Belgium

Cidre

Key Apples: Jonagold, Elstar, Cox, Golden Delicious, Gala

Tradition: Cider is considered a local alternative for Champagne, therefore Belgian ciders traditionally are served in flutes.

Local Pairing: Pair an off-dry style with foie gras and red berries or onion confit.

What to Drink: Ruwet Apple (Thimister, Province of Liege); Global Beer Network
Dry but fruit forward, with floral aromas and a plush mouthfeel that’s full of green apple flavor.

England

Cyder

Key Apples: Herefordshire Redstreak, Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Yarlington Mill, Morgan Sweet, Ashmead’s Kernel, Bramley’s Seedling, Grenadier.

Tradition: Scrumpy, traditionally a rough cider with a high alcohol content (7% abv or higher), was a form of currency for farm laborers and given to them in a flagon.

Local Pairing: Hot smoked mackerel with horseradish crème fraîche.

What to Drink: Dunkertons Organic Black Fox (Herefordshire); Winesellers LTD
A medium-dry cider with a slight fizz and notes of funky yeast, wood and green and yellow bittersweets.

France

Cidre

Key Apples: Domaine, Frequin Rouge, Mettais, Moulin a Vent, Bedan, Binet Rouge, Bisquet, Noël des Champs, Saint-Martin, Germaine, Rouge Duret, Rambault, René Martin

Tradition: Most ciders are made in Normandy and Brittany, and bottled in a Champagne-style bottle. Brittany ciders are poured in a bolée, which resembles a large teacup.

Local Pairing: Crêpes are typically paired with cider in Brittany; either style is a perfect match—from something sweeter filled with chocolate or fruit, to a savory style featuring mushrooms or ham.

What to Drink: Aval Cidre Artisanal (Brittany); CNI Brands
Tipping slightly to the fruity side, there is a beautiful woody note and subtle sweetness balanced by moderate acidity and light tannins.
Cider Takes Center Stage With These Food Pairings

Germany

Apfelwein

Key Apples: Alkmene, Elstar, Pilot, Glockenapfel, Schafsnase, Gelber Edelapfel, Topaz, Bittenfelder, Jonagold, Weinapfel, Blenheimer, Winterrambour, Boskoop, Gravensteiner, Cox’s Orange.

Tradition: Rarely is apfelwein drunk pure: Often, it’s served mixed with sparkling water and called a “sour.” Newbies are introduced to it mixed with citrus sodas like Sprite or Fanta.

Local Pairing: Frankfurter schnitzel with green sauce and fried potatoes.

What to Drink: Fuchshof Classic Rough Cider (Lake Constance, Baden); B. United
This apple-pear cider is sour and funky.

Ireland

Ceirtlis

Key Apples: Irish Peach, Kerry Pippin, Scarlet Croften, Irish Russet, Dabinett, Michelin, Ashton Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Gilly.

Tradition: The Irish hold apples in such high esteem that, in the 7th and 8th centuries, there was a steep fine for chopping down a tree. Today, cider is served over ice on warm, sunny days.

Local Pairing: Cashel blue cheeses and Crossogue Preserves, or roasted leg of Irish lamb.

What to Drink: Devils Bit (County Tipperary); Prestige Beverage Group
A balanced cider produced from apples grown in their own orchards, this is crisp and light, with notes of lemon-spritzed apple, melon, straw and honeyed nuts.

Italy

Vin ëd Pom, Pomada or Sidro

Key Apples: Renatta, Raventze, Coison de Boussy, Barbelune.

Tradition: Most Italian ciders are made in northern locales such as Trentino and Piedmont. These ciders have a distinctive reddish color due to the juice being left to ferment in a vat along with grape pomace.

Local Pairing: Bagna càuda, a Turin tradition, is a warm sauce of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles, served with vegetables for dipping.

What to Drink: Sidro Baladin; B. United International
Wild fermented, this has a fine perlage and smells of flowers and spring meadows. It’s off dry and leaves a delicate and persistent earthy taste on the close.

Spain

Sidra

Key Apples: Txalaka, Urtebia, Judeline, Judor, Durona de Tresali, Regona, Verdialona.

Tradition: Escanciado de Sidra Asturiana is the traditional method to serve cider. It involves pouring it from high above the head. Not only does it make the cider fizzier and tangier, it also looks cool.

Local Pairing: Merluza a la Sidra (Hake in Cider), in which hake, clams, onion, garlic, tomato, potatoes and apples are cooked in cider.

What to Drink: Mayador Natural (Asturias); Winesellers Ltd.
A rustic, cloudy still cider, with lots of sour zest and grassy notes.

Sweden

Äppelvin

Key Apples: Antonovka, Wealthy, Rödluvam, Risäter, Snövit, Alexander, Säftsaholm, Kvarnriset, Belle de Boskoop, Cortland, Mutsu, Rubinola, Elise, Jonagold, Aroma, Lobo, Åkerö, Cox’s Orange.

Tradition: Cider lovers in Sweden typically enjoy dry ciders while watching soccer.

Local Pairing: Västerbotten cheese with lingonberries and cloudberries.

What to Drink: Brännland IsCider; Skurnik Wines, Inc.
An “ice cider” style, this is intense, round and sweet, with forward red-apple notes that are balanced by taut, refreshing acidity.
Published on August 16, 2017
Topics: Cider
About the Author
Carrie Dykes
Tasting Coordinator

Joining Wine Enthusiast in 2015, Carrie’s love of wine and thirst for knowledge is immediately recognizable, and her superior organizational skills keeps our in-house tastings organized and efficient. When not putting flights together, she’s contributing content to the print magazine and Web site.

Email: cdykes@wineenthusiast.net



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