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