Our three most recent hard cider reviews here at The Cider Journal draw attention to a style of cider that is almost (thought not completely, obviously) associated with Spain. Beyond calling this style “Spanish”, there is no proper name for the tangy, acetic (vinegary), fresh, earthy style of cider we examined most recently.
Associated most closely with the Asturias region of Northern Spain, as well as across the Spanish northern region over to the Basque region, Spanish cider is a drink that relies on a collection of primarily sharp apple varieties. This reliance of sharps, rather than bittersweet varieties, however is not what sets the cider apart. Rather, typical cideries in Spain rely on wild yeast fermentation and this commonly results in high levels of acetic acids—they vinegary tang associated with the region’s cider. The level of acetic acid in Spanish cider tends to be two to three times higher than in ciders from most of the rest of the world.
RECENTLY REVIEWED CIDERS
Txopinondo Sagarnoa Cidre (French Basque) 4.5 STARS
2013 Tilted Shed Ciderworks Inclinado (California) 4.5 STARS
Viuda de Angelon’s “1947″ Sidra Natural (Spanish Asturias) 4 STARS
It’s notable, and I can attest to this, that when you put a Spanish cider in front of an experienced wine drinker they will take one sip and pronounce the drink utterly flawed, due to the high levels volatile acidity. The acetic acid will to them indicate complete spoilage.
Yet, one cold say the same thing about French Sauterne. The grapes that are finally picked late in the season to produce this famous wine are covered in mold (a specific type of mold) that give these wines a very distinctive character. Still, the grapes are utterly and completely spoiled with mold. The wine world flocks to these sweet, unique tasting wines in exactly the same way Spaniards and cider lovers flock to the “spoiled”, earthy, tangy Spanish sidra.
I note that while this style of cider is almost exclusively associated with Spanish cider makers, there are a few cideries across the globe that have attempted to duplicate the style. One of the ciders we recently reviewed from California’s Sonoma County does just this. The “Inclinado” from Tilted Shed Ciderworks very self-consciously styles this cider after those of Spain that they love so much. The effort is undoubtedly successful stylistically and qualitatively.
You’ll also note that one of our most recently reviewed ciders is not Spanish, but rather French Basque. If you have a chance to taste this cider alongside an Asturian cider or simply read our notes, you’ll recognize the similarity in style.
This leads to an interesting question: to what extent ought the world’s craft cider producers make more of an effort to nail down a reasonable number of identifiable cider styles and work to communicate what style of cider they are producing and selling? I believe a greater focus on doing just this would be a great benefit to the huge number of budding cider lovers who have come to the drink of late and are exploring. But further thoughts on this subject are best left for another day.