As January is ending, true to form, I have left my round up of 2017 blog to the last minute! New year, new me? PAH!
I think it’s been an interesting year for cider. ‘Craft’ has certainly been on the rise this year, as the biggest producers notice a slump in their overall sales. Increasingly we see the giants of the industry developing ‘craft’ cider brands, all promising, basically, to BE MORE LIKE ACTUAL CIDER. Lovely to see the smaller makers are making an impact in this way. Stickin’ it to the man! Probably the two biggest stories of the year being the so called ‘White Cider Tax’ and the sale of Aspall to Molson Coors. I won’t go in to detail about either right now, but in 2018 I certainly will be hoping that common sense will prevail regarding the tax issue…
It’s been an interesting year for me too! 2017 had many first-time experiences such as the Bath and West show, exploring Herefordshire and the Big Apple and even a trip to Luxembourg, who’da thought it! I have also met some lovely people and fantastic cider makers, pretty much all thanks to Twitter, what a brilliant network it is. Cider wise, I have been spoilt rotten. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess how much I consumed last year (probably verging on the side of “cause for concern”), but there have been some phenomenal drops, many of which were from producers that were new to me. For this blog, I have decided to pick my favourites from those which I featured on Twitter. With that in mind, some cracking ciders will not feature so honourable mentions go to Little Pomona, Gregg’s Pit and Minchew’s.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my favourite ciders from 2017:
- Kent Cider Company: Yowler
Obviously this is a list of favourites, but this was a particularly favourity favourite! In the past I have found Kent Cider Companys offerings to be a bit hit and miss, but the Yowler is exceptional. A much bigger, bolder cider than typical for the region, really fruity with a smack of toffee apple. Their Russet cider is also one to look out for.
- Springfield: Bludgeon
This is the first and only cider I have tried from Springfield but if its anything to go by, I need to taste the rest. Just look at the colour of it! Bludgeon is probably the best example of a spirit cask aged cider that I have tried to date. Usually I find Whisky far too overpowering for cider, but this had such balance and a real depth of flavour.
No website anymore…
- Apple County: Dabinett
The Dabinett apple lends itself very well to a single variety cider and this vintage 2014 from Apple County must be one of the best. It was everything I love about Dabinett cider and more. A really accomplished medium cider from Monmouthshire. Must get hold of some more…
- Whin Hill: Kingston Black
A cider of many firsts this one. This was my first taste of Whin Hill cider, in fact my first cider from Norfolk. Perhaps surprisingly though, this was the first Kingston Black cider I have enjoyed. The bittersharp apple, so famed for its single variety prowess, had never lived up to the hype for me. This was exceptional. A perfectly balanced medium cider well complimented by the oak ageing. Easily the best single variety I had in 2017.
- Greenman: Vintage Dry
I really enjoyed this Vintage Dry from Greenman. Was it a super complex, smack around the mouth of a cider? Or a contemporary, refined drink? No. But it was an incredibly honest, perfectly fermented, easy drinking cider. I think its easy to over look things for being simple. In the case of this cider, it was perfect because of its simplicity, which is no mean feat. If this was on draught in a pub I would be a happy man. In fact, if the guys at Greenman are reading, Exeter needs this stuff…
- Olivers: Fine Perry
In 2017, perry and I finally became friends. The Blakeney Red from Avenue Cottage was the first to excite me. But this Fine Perry from Oliver’s made me go “Ooooh” in ways only cider had before. This was also a Blakeney Red single variety perry, but a very classy, refined example. Full of interesting and complex flavours, but beautifully subtle. I look forward to exploring more that the pear has to offer in 2018.
- Ramborn: Erbachhoffer
Travelling to Luxembourg and learning about the cider scene there was a real highlight for me in 2017. Ramborn are the first commercial cider maker in the country. They have a great range of ciders but the one that stood out for me was the Erbachhoffer. A local apple variety, the cider has a very balanced profile with a lovely sharp apple tang, a bit like a blend of Eastern and Western English ciders. Right up my street.
- Woodredding: Jack’s Tipple
One of the smaller cider makers on this list, Woodredding from Herefordshire. Jack’s Tipple was an enviously good cider. As I drank it, I just sat there thinking; “Damn, I wish I could make cider as good as this.” Such a beautiful flavour, colour, aroma, it had all. Luckily, I still have a bottle of their Yarlington Mill to look forward to trying.
Chalkdown cider made quite a name for itself in 2017, even available in selected Waitrose stores now. This full Champagne style cider from Hampshire is really pushing the boundaries of how cider can be presented and served. I enjoyed this cider an awful lot more than any sparkling wine I have ever tried. I think it also demonstrates exceptionally well that cider made in this style is superior when made from dessert and culinary apples.
- Polgoon Sparkling
Last but not least I have gone for Polgoon Sparkling cider from Cornwall. I had a great day visiting Polgoon last summer. They told us that they planted apple trees to provide an income during poor performing years for their vineyard. It turns out, wine makers fermenting cider from dessert apples is a beautiful thing. It was also fascinating to see how much this cider differed from it’s contemporaries in the East of England. Terroir don’t you know…
Well, there we have it, I hope you enjoyed my list. Many fantastic ciders didn’t make it, but perhaps that’s down to me to feature and promote more on Twitter this year! Let me know what you thought and which were your personal favourites of 2017!