Sunday, 6 April 2014

Severn - Medium Sparkling Perry

Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of reviewing this last month. Unfortunately for two months of the year my 'real' job takes over and grapes become my primary focus. When you work 12 hours a day it's hard to sit down and really enjoy a good cider. But I've found some time and am really excited to bring you this new review on an absolute corker of a perry.

Seven Cider are a small boutique producer from Gloucestershire, England. The county middles both Herefordshire and Somerset also famously known for their cider production. The Severn Medium Sparkling Perry is produced using the Blakeney Red pear from orchards which are free of fertilizers and sprays. The Blakeney Red pear falls into the 'sharp' category and is known for its medium tannins levels and much lower levels of acidity. The trees are heavy croppers too, and have been used to produce larges amounts of perry for years.

I was so excited to try this perry as it had won many awards in the UK, and it seemed to be a very popular example. The colour poured a clear, golden yellow with just a light hint of carbonation.

The nose offered up lovely oaky notes from its maturation in old whisky casks, with just a hint of brettanomyces. Super juicy, floral and delicate pear notes jumped out of the glass like a jack-in-a-box. Secondary characters of orange blossom and honey just rounded out the complexity perfectly. What struck me was the perfect balance of oak and pure pear fruit, its just seemed so tight and generous. Perfect.

Ahhh the palate. The word addictive came to mind here. Juicy, moreish medium sweetness just seduced my taste buds over and over. Utterly beautiful. An earthy flavour dominated the flavour, with fresh pear adding tonnes of depth. Perfectly balanced tannins and acidity pulled the structure in tight, and lead into a looooong and lingering length. A candied flavour just lingered for eternity. All I was left thinking was the purity of pear flavour was outstanding. So beautiful, so weighted and packed full of flavour. The way a great perry should be!

Well, I am going to go on the record and say this is the best perry I have had. Period. Better then anything I have seen from Domfront in Normandy. How they could captured the purity and fruit was super impressive. The complexity, the freshness and the many layers made this a real joy to drink. Beautiful!!  

Producer: Severn Cider
Country: England (Newnham, Gloucestershire)
Alcohol: 6.2%


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Sidra Escanciador - Natural Sidra Riera

Ahhhh, espaƱol sidra - we meet again! Just like a ranging bull or an unforgiving Rafa Nadal forehand, Spanish Sidra packs a whole lotta punch! Stylistically, Sidra is hugely different when compared to the gazillion commercial Australian ciders which we all currently enjoy. So much so, picture the picture Pluto - that's how far apart these two styles are/can get. We don't see too much Sidra in Australia, with drips and drabs floating around in speciality bottle shops. In all honestly, I have had my doubts as to whether Sidra could ever be popular here in Oz. We've got to remember that Sidra can be overly confronting with super rustic features like high volatile acidity, and throat wrenching dryness. Some literally taste like liquefied salt and vinegar chips! This may appeal to some, but let me tell you its an acquired taste. I suggest clicking on the 'Spanish Cider' tab on the home page, and read up a little more on the past two Sidra's I have reviewed.

Sidra Escanciador is located in Villaviciosa in the famous Sidra region of Asturias in Northern Spain. The brand is distributed across Australia by Broadway Liquor. The Natural Sidra Riera is produced very traditionally with acid apples (possibly crab apples)naturally fermented in wooden vats, with no final filtration. The company produces 500,000L's of Asturias Sidra each year, with its ES label being the most known and popular.

The Sidra poured a nice hazy yellow straw, with absolutely no carbonation in the glass. Remember folks, when there is no carbonation the cider is termed 'still', just like a white wine. The nose offered up copious amounts of beautiful rusticity and earthiness. There was a huge whack of deep and complex farmhouse richness almost emulating a fine Breton Cidre. Rich ripe apples combined in perfect harmony with old woody characters to add an element of Spanish traditionalism. A hint of sourness, VA and a tiny lick of brettanomyces was also evident. The complexing layers seemed endless, with broadening wild ferment funk and barnyard notes just lifting the nose to a whole new level. It's a nose which sounds scary and ugly, but it really is a work of art. Just magic. 

Although the palate wasn't at the same level of quality as the nose, its still impressed me. The palate weight was on the weaker/watery side, with uber bone dry characters and large tart acidity dominating the mouth feel. However, rustic apple flavours which seemed to linger for eternity added excitement and length. Some volatile notes which usually stick in the back of the throat were less intrusive in this Sidra, and did not offend. There were no tannins to speak of which did leave a hole in the mid to back palate. What I found was that after every mouthful, I was getting more and more addicted. I couldn't put my finger on it, but this Sidra (and its palate), just kept getting better - a real nice surprise. It was easy drinking, with tonnes of personality.

The Sidra Escanciador - Natural Sidra Riera would have to be the best Sidra's I have tried. I loved the rusticity and complexity of the nose - it was waaaay up my alley. The palate perhaps was a touch acidic and watery, but it had lovely flavours which just lingered forever. What I did love was the lower levels of VA as it made the Sidra more approachable. The drink would be perfectly match with blue cheese, or a Sidra glazed chorizo (Chorizo a la Sidra). Yumm!!

Producer: Sidra Escanciador
Country: Asturias (Spain)
Alcohol: 6.0%
Website: N/A

Rating: 14.5 out of 20


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Lobo - The Norman 2012

There is always something that continually draws me to cider made by Lobo. I don't know, maybe its that I am a proud and self confessed South Aussie and am just being biased and sheltered? Or is it that Warrick Billings - the Maker and Creator of Lobo Cider, has rare access to Adelaide Hills cider apples and uses them to great effect? Lobo ciders such as The Norman, The Crabby and Royale all contain bittersweet cider apples grown in the Adelaide Hills, and are blended together with Lobo's traditional Pink Lady base cider. This trademark gives the ciders more depth, complexity and texture which are elements I look for in cider.  

I got the opportunity to judge and spend some time with Warrick Billings late last year in Sydney. Many moons ago, Warrick used to make cider in south east Somerset specialising in Perry. What struck me was his high level of intelligence when it come to cider. His values for cider rated highly in my books, and its producers like him who we need to hang around in this time of highly commercialised, mass produced crap and be there at the end when these ciders die out. The techniques used in the making of Lobo push the boundaries of conventional cider making. Maceration, wild fermenting, bottle carbonation, cider apple/dessert apple blends and the use of crab apples are techniques used to help shape the cider house style. This may not be to everyone's cup of tea, but its intelligent cider making which is producing true cider - not boring same old, same old. 

The 2012 Norman is part of the Lobo Exp range which are a group of eclectic and more traditional styles of cider. The cider apples where macerated on pulp/skins before wild fermentation, with 5 per cent pear added towards dryness. A natural bottle carbonation ensured that the cider retained the traditional cloudy Lobo style. The colour gleamed a light yellow straw, with a slight haze. A large eruption of carbonation flooded the glass before settling down into a fine bead. 

Intense fresh green apples, floral cider apple, sour sobs and soapy characters initially burst out of the glass. Secondary notes of pear, musk, cut grass and straw also gave the nose some depth. The Pink Lady base tied the nose in well along with some wild ferment rusticity. Tiny wafts of aldehyde where also present . The nose was quite clean but very crisp and tight, as a whole. Quite pretty in a strange way.

The palate was bone dry, with good levels of tannins and zingy acidity. Flavours of crisp green apple, and lemon citrus where fresh and lean emulating a good quality Riesling. The palate structure was super tight, with a nice level of bitterness to add complexity. Being a tight and lighter weighted style, the flavours did fade out a touch towards the mid palate into a quite lean and dry finish. The alcohol was is in good balance being at 6.8 per cent. The palate may have lacked in bold apple flavours, but what was satisfying was the structure and texture which lifted the cider to a new level.    

What I enjoyed about The Norman was the honest and simple flavours. Its easy to see that the cider apples make all the difference in terms of complexity and texture. This is a cider which is very very drinkable, but also perfect with food too, such as cheeses or pork. Sounds beautiful! 

Check out my previous reviews on Lobo:

Producer: Lobo Juice and Cider Pty Ltd
Country: Australia (Adelaide Hills, South Australia)
Alcohol: 6.8%

Rating: 15.5 out of 20

Sunday, 5 January 2014

St Ronan's Methode Tradionelle Pear Cider

It’s not every day a cider makes you sit back in your chair, taking in the finer things in life and go wow. It’s always the little things which make you so appreciative. The new batch of St Ronan’s Pear Cider is exactly that. If there was such thing as a Miss World Cider Competition, the St Ronan’s would not only win the swimsuit segment, it would also win the personality test too. It’s one sexy, damn fine looking cider with the added brains to give it substance. This cider wouldn’t ask for “world peace”, it would stand up and say “I AM CIDER, HEAR ME ROAR!” It would represent Australia perfectly, and take it up to the rest of the world. It’s a pear cider which makes you feel proud about the Industry and about what producers are out to try and achieve. Just to give you some background and scope on this pear ciders history over the past two years, have a read of these accolades:
2012 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – Bronze Medal
2012 Australian Cider Awards – Gold Medal and winner of Best Australian Pear Cider/Perry
2013 Australian Cider Awards – Gold Medal, best in class (Methode Champenoise/Bottle Conditioned Perry) and finalist for Best Cider of Show.

The mounting accolades and respect this pear cider is receiving is a testament to the crew at St Ronan's Cider – Troy Jones and Eric Driessen. These guys are producing some of the best presented and made pear cider I have seen so far in Australia. It's steering away from the more mass produced commercial pear cider, and being made with real elbow grease and flair. It’s meant to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than heavily consumed and mistreated. It’s real Aussie cider at its best.

The colour offered up a nice yellow straw, with a slight cloudy haze which got cloudier as more of the bottle was consumed. On opening the bottle, there was good pressure behind the cork and the cider poured with an impressive natural fizz.

The nose could only be described as heavenly. I would even go as far as saying divine (in my very best posh accent). Amazing earthy pear varietals leaped out of the glass with impeccable clarity. Super soft, floral and very pretty/feminine. Other notes of lavender, bath salts, lychee's and strangely enough coconut added focus and dimension. This was a nose full of aromatics, focus and purity. Absolutely stunning, loved it.

The palates ability to offer up so much generosity was another reason why this pear cider was at the top of its game. Beautiful up-front pear varietals were soft and sweet, but also very delicate and floral. Fresh and pure flavours of juicy pear impressed. A good level of sherbety/citric acid zing added structure, along with just a hint of powdery phenolics. The mid palate offered up complex sensations of creaminess and earthiness, which lingered to the back palate. The 7 per cent alcohol was well balanced with no signs of alcoholic warmth. If you closed your eyes, you could be mistaken for drinking sparkling pear juice. Just so pristine, clean and delicious. It was a perfectly balanced pear cider, with a nice level of dosage sweetness to round it out.

It’s now very understandable as to why this cider is gathering so much momentum in terms of popularity and quality. It’s beautifully made and pays respects to the Australian grown pears. A perfect cider to match with food too. This pear cider captures the purity of the pear so well, but also ones imagination. Beautifully made Australian real cider – what more could you ask for???

Check out the review on St Ronan’s Methode Tradionelle Apple Cider:

Producer: St Ronan’s Cider
Country: Australia (Healesville, Yarra Valley)
Alcohol: 7%

Rating: 18.5 out of 20