Still and dry cider, even in today’s much-expanded world of craft cider, remains nearly as rare as hen’s teeth. Yet, this rarity makes them all the more special. When produced with care and an artisan’s touch they probably expose the majesty of the apple better than any other form of cider.
I chalk up the rarity of dry and still cider in the American marketplace to the still immature palate of the American cider drinker. While a small core of cider drinkers will seek out these sleek and nimble drinks, most today imbibe in cider that has a great deal of sparkle, sweetness and often added juice from other fruits. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does track with the American proclivity to embrace sweet and simple drinks, be it in the form of wine, beer and certainly cider.
I was drawn again to the fascinating complexity of dry and still ciders when I tasted through new, small batch ciders from Steve Selin’s South Hill Cider company in New York. These three recently reviewed ciders (see below) also reminded me that it is in New York and the Northeast where cidermakers are more likely to explore these more wine-like ciders.
The best still and dry ciders require a firm backbone of acidity that allows the muted apple notes to shine through. Just as the sparkle in most ciders make them drinkable, in the dry and still category it is the stark thrill of acidity that makes them not just drinkable, but often profound examples of apple wine. And when this acidity is combined with a good wash of tannins that accelerate the cider’s minerally and tart apple characteristics, you start to experience the heights to which a deft hand can lift a cider.
Eve’s, Tilted Shed, Eden, South Hill, Flag Hill, Alpenfire, not to mention many Spanish ciders in the marketplace exemplify this style of cider and should be sought ought.
These ciders are also of the style that is most likely to attract the more curious devotees and enthusiasts of fine wine. As mentioned above, when they are at their best they resemble fine wine far more than beer, which is the category of drink that cider is more commonly associated with. I’ve put these dry and still ciders in front of a number of colleagues in the wine industry and they tend to be shocked at what they are tasting; shocked because they did not know this style of cider was produced in America.
In nearly every category of craft beverages, you see a small collection of cutting edge producers setting the bar for quality and recognized as the standard by which other contenders for the hearts and minds of the enthusiasts are judged. In my view, it is the best producers of the still and dry category of cider who currently occupy that space and who will be likely to continue to sit in that rarified space for years to come.