As emerging as the category of cider is in the beverage world, there still manages to be an astounding number of styles—sparkling, still, dry and sweet hardly scratch the surface. With American traditions hailing back to the colonial era, and European roots even further, it’s no surprise that each region has its own way of doing things using its own regional apples, resulting in distinctly different offerings.
This month’s focus is a rather broad category in the cider world: dry unoaked American selections. Even within these constraints, there is still an array of styles—ranging from earthy French-influenced pours to vibrant, pristine, fruit-driven ciders.
The common thread that holds this lot together is the type of apples used. These are not your typical grocery store finds—they are heirloom varieties that pack a wallop of tannin and acid which is necessary for creating structured, well-balanced cider.
With pronounced tannin, acid and a range of flavors—from fruity to earthy—these ciders take on wine-like complexities, similar to skin-contact orange wines when still. Throw in some bubbles and you have a great alternative to French crémant or pétillant naturel.
The inherent structure of these sippers make them easy pairings for a wide range of food. Higher tannin ciders pair well with poultry or pork, while the lighter, fruitier versions work well with creamy, tangy cheese. Seek out these versatile pours and explore what the cider world has to offer!
Eve’s Cidery 2014 Autumn’s Gold (Van Etten, NY); $19, 92 points. Richly golden in the glass, this naturally sparkling, bottle-conditioned cider is inviting on the nose—a mix of cinnamon and clove meet ripe Anjou pear and quince aromas. Fine, small bubbles mark the entrance of the dry palate, with apple skin and orchard blossom flavors showing nice concentration. Finely-grained tannins and balanced acidity offer support and lead the way to a lingering yellow pear-skin finish. This is a solid, well-balanced showing from this Finger Lakes producer which predominantly uses high-tannin and high-sugar Bittersweet apples for this bottling. Editors’ Choice.
Foggy Ridge Lot 2013 First Fruit (Dugspur, VA); $16, 92 points. This is a deftly blended cider made from early season heirloom apples, with a few late season varieties to add complexity. The enticing nose draws you in to a silky, round palate of tart pineapple, mango and peach. A talc-dusted river of lime juice keeps everything streamlined and snappy on the finish. Enjoy this dry, sparkling cider with a variety of food—from creamy, washed-rind cheese to grilled pork. Editors’ Choice.
E.Z. Orchards Hawk Haus (Salem, OR); $9/500ml, 92 points. A blend of Jonathan, Yarlington Mill and Manchurian Crab apples—American heirloom varieties—this méthode ancestrale cider brings a touch of elegance to an inherently rustic style. Overtly floral on the nose, the whole garden comes to mind—sweet lily, briar rose and lilac aromas mix with freshly turned earth. The lightly sparkling palate is linear and focused, with pineapple rind and almond oil riding over additional earth-driven tones while peach-fuzz tannins carry to a dry finish. This is a promising new endeavor for cidermaker Kevin Zielinski. Editors’ Choice.
Slyboro Kingston Black Cider (Granville, NY); $15, 88 points. Made entirely from the Kingston Black apple, a traditional cider-making variety hailing from the UK, this cider speaks to the singularity of its composition. Pineapple rind aromas are focused on the nose, with savory and earthy elements of cheese rind, tilled earth and geranium hiding in the background. Weighty and round on the still palate, streamlined spiced apple and additional cheese rind notes meet mild tannins and acidity.