Top 10 Hard Ciders of 2014

Top10Ciders2014In our first few months of publishing here at the Cider Journal we have tasted and reviewed a huge swath of hard ciders from across the country and around the globe. Yet, we believe we’ve only scratched the surface. Nearly every week news of a new cidery opening here and there comes to our intention. All of this further confirms the renaissance currently underway in the world of hard cider as more and more consumers discover the drinks virtues.

Among the many ciders we tasted this year, a number stood out as extraordinary and have earned themselves a place on what will be our Annual “Top Ten Hard Ciders of the Year” list. Earning a place into the top ten for the year requires not only an outstanding product, but an interesting or particularly extraordinary character also. The ciders on this year’s list all deserve your special effort to track down and drink. They rank among the finest ciders made anywhere on the globe.

Eric Bordelet 2012 Poire Granit5 stars
TopTenbordeletThe Eric Bordelet Poire Granit is an absolutely seamless Perry that not only deserves serious drinking but serious study too. The tale begins with a head forming pour of golden carbonated liquid that calms itself quickly into a dazzling vertical march of tiny bubbles up inside a perry ringed at the surface with a consistent thin foam around the edge. The aromas are a gallop out of the glass of pure pear, apple, and the tiniest hints of chalk, yeast and oil that merge together with pear leading the way. The Granit expands richly across your palate with light carbonation and a medium body. The acidity is high but it doesn’t sting at all. Tannins come with this Perry, but they too are integrated nicely. But the flavor! There is great purity here that has to be marveled at. Pear, apple, the tiniest hint of lime are wrapped around a very light sweetness. It’s all very caressing. And it’s long too; those fruit flavors lingering and hanging around quite some time. This is elegantly crafted Perry that deserves our attention. And it has to be said that at its price point in the vicinity of $20, this is among the best values in fine drinking you will come across.
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Carlton Cyderworks Citizen Cider4.5 stars
TopTenCarltonCitizenThe Citizen pours a beautiful, rich-looking light amber, is clear and only offers up the fewest of bubbles upon pouring. The nose is a richly laden combination of cooked apple, freshly cut sweet apple, floral notes, a hint of cider must, intriguing cherry aromas and something slightly herbal. This cider that you want to keep dipping your nose in. Medium bodied, the Citizen has a forward tannin structure that makes it appear more substantial than its real weight. The tannins also diminish the impact of the very slight effervescence. As for flavors, well, this is tasty cider that leads, again, with those slightly cooked apple notes we found on the nose, but on the palate the musty/yeasty character is much more prominent. The cider’s sweetness…just a bare minimum…comes through on the long finish alongside a more substantial astringency from the well-built tannin profile. This is cider both refreshing and substantial, not to mention. We recommend it highly.
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Eden 2012 Windfall Orchard Ice Cider5 Stars
TopTenEdenWindfallThe Windfall Orchard Ice Cider blooms in the glass with a light amber/orange appearance that sits crystal clear in the glass. This is just a tease for what’s next. High toned apple aromas slide into warm honey aromas, all of which is surrounded by a distinct cloak of ripe pear. Then, buried deep…hits of Five Spice. Really. A beautiful and seductive nose on this ice cider. Remarkably, this sweet, succulent cider delivers a brightness to the palate. Both well-integrated acidity as well a dollop of tannins give this cider balance and a rich, abundant, moderately weighty body…and all still so bright. None of these exciting qualities, however, eclipse what one encounters on the palate. Rich, intense, piercing sweet apple flavors simply explode. The honey on the nose doesn’t follow, however. Rather, the ripe almost syrupy apple flavor partners up with candied lemon flavors and a spicy note on the finish. This is a gorgeous dessert drink that rivals the finest dessert wines made in America. It is apple distilled down to its essence and enveloped in a coating of citrus spiked apple sugar. Beautiful.
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Eve’s Cidery 2013 Albee Hill Still and Dry Cider 5 Stars
TopTenEvesalbeeThe 2013 Albee Hill Cider from Eve’s is produced from a blend of large blend of cider apples grown on a hillside plot in the Eve’s Cidery orchard. It is a wonderfully complex cider that provides both structure, juicy fruit guts and a remarkable elegance. Out of the bottle this still cider pours like a well extracted Chardonnay, with the addition of a distinctly green tint. Slate, graphite, toasted coconut, brown sugar, and stone fruits like white peach and under-ripe apricot all come together in the aromas. It is indeed a complex blend that leaps out of the glass. Structurally, the Albee Hill appears first lush, then comes the rush of both acidity and tannin around the edge. This is perfectly structured cider. Though said to be dry, there appears a note of sugar weight in evidence. What makes this cider most special however is the juicy fruit flavors that penetrate across the palate. Peach, persimmon, lychee, soft notes of lime all combine for a flowering of elegant flavors that intertwine in complex and very pleasurable ways. This is great cider that ought to convince any doubter that American hard cider can, in the right hands, rise up the rungs of quality where it will meet up with the finest wines and finest ciders of England and Europe. Finally, this cider retails for $11.99. Put another way, one of the finest ciders produced in America cost less than the most average wines you can buy, yet surpasses those wines by many lengths. At three times the price, this cider would be a bargain.
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Eve’s Cidery 2013 “Darling Creek” Semi-Dry Sparkling Cider4.5 stars
TopTenEvesDarlingThe 2013 Darling Creek pours with a fervent head of foam that expands quickly then dissipates, leaving behind crystal clear golden cider with a persistent yield of the tiniest bubbles. On the nose you receive an intense blast of sweet ripe apple, very reminiscent of Normand Cidre. Inside the ripe apple aroma lies notes of apricot, honeysuckle and a hint of toast. But ultimately the ripe apple drives this cider. On the palate the Darling Creek is medium weight, effervescent but doesn’t spark as much as you might imagine upon pouring. Beautiful balance of acid and tannins. As for the sugar, this is cider is more dry than semi. But stick around for flavors. As you would expect, apple flavors are dominant. Drying green apple lines up along side bitter orange rind, sweet herbs, a bite of lime and finally something earthy on the finish. This is very elegant and substantial sparkling cider that packs in a lot of love.
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EZ Orchards 2011 Cidre — Willamette Valley5 stars
TopTenEZI’d be very much interested to understand the science of foam(ing), if only to appreciate why the foam appearing upon pouring the EZ Orchard 2011 Cidre was the largest head I’ve yet encountered on a cider. Within seconds, it disappears. But it is an impressive display. Meanwhile, a deep golden liquid sets up that carries a red tint, suggesting something rich to come. And what comes really is special. The aromas that lift off this cider are subtle but wide and complex with clean apple lifting up highest. Cherry, warm ale, baking spices and a yeasty note swim together rendering a swirl of goodness. The palate is balance on a scale. tannin and acid bearing equal weight, neither too much, neither in retreat while the fizz is present but not overbearing—like Sparkling wine. It’s medium bodied and spreads out in a juicy fashion across the palate. Then, apple, pear a light and interesting musty note, all woven together and long and lasting. Finally, the 2011 EZ Orchard Cidre is nearly dry, leaving a simper of sweetness as the final note. This is chart topping hard cider. It costs a mere $12.99 per 750ml. bottle. This is monumentally under-priced making it among the best values in the alcohol beverage channel I’ve ever encountered.
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Guzman Riestra Sidra Brut Nature
4.5 Stars
TopTenRiestraBrutOn pouring, the Guzman Riestra delivers on the promise inherent in the sparkling wine cloak that is a package that could easily be mistaken for a Champagne, high-end Cava or American sparklers of repute. The foaming effervescence is identical to a sparkling wine. The color reflected off the perfect clarity of the liquid is a rich golden and the bubbles that energetically climb their way to the top of the glass are very fine and very persistent. The nose delivers a decidedly apple-driven melange of shy notes of the typical Spanish cider sour, guava, and the tiniest yeasty character. This cider announces itself as something much more sophisticated than typical sidra. The weight and feel on the palate of this cider is driven entirely by the forceful effervescence that is omnipresent. Under the bubbles is a really fine balance of acid and quite detectable, and refreshing tannin to pique the tongue. This sparkling cider is entirely dry. As for the flavors, while that typical acetic acid tang is evident here, it is not nearly as domineering as in most other Asturian natural ciders. Instead, that apple aroma on the nose delivers on the palate, making this a very refreshing drink. There is a mineral note in the flavors too. Finally, the flavors are long, lasting well beyond the swallow. This is absolutely delicious sparkling cider and an excellent and exciting example of new generation Spanish cider. This could very easily replace Champagne.
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Le Pere Jules Cidre de Normandie – 4.5 stars
TopTenLePereCidreLe Pere Jules is primarily a producer of Calvados. However, its orchards, located in the heart of the Paye d’Auge in Normandie, also produce the apples for this beautifully rendered cider. This is the second cider product from Le Pere Jules reviewed by The Cider Journal and we find that we are equally transfixed with this one as we were with the Poire de Normandie that we earlier reviewed. This is, happily, among the easier to find French ciders in the U.S. If you can’t find it at one of your better local bottle shops, seek it out on the Internet. It is well worth the price. This cidre from one of France best known cider producers opens with a modest head that moves aside to reveal a beautiful, rich golden color with the most lovely hint of orange. The nose possesses driving ripe apple aroma, notes of lemony goodness, and an intoxicating hint of roasted nuts. But it’s the palate that really sings. This cider delivers a medium body and a near perfect balanced of acid, sugar and tannin. The tannins are memorable a good minute after the first sip, but produce salivating, not puckering. I love the ripe, slightly sweet apple flavors in this cider. They are pure and piercing and delicate. Secondarily the citrus flavors support and lift up the ripe apple flavors. Finally, the finish is long and lasting. Use this cider at dinner, as a substitute for fine champagne or sparkling wine, or instead of water. Beautiful cider.
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Tilted Shed Ciderworks Semi-Dry Graviva Cider – 4.5 stars
TopTenTiltedGravivaTilted Shed’s 2013 Graviva showcases Sonoma C0unty’s Gravenstein apple, a variety of apple tree that once dominated the West Sonoma County landscape, but today has been replaced by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards. The Graviva begins with a lovely head that dissipates into golden-colored sparkling liquid. Swirl to get the foam back! The nose on this cider is pure. Really pure green and tart apple. An aroma of yeasty funk lingers in the background that isn’t separate, but well-integrated into the apple aromas. There is a rich texture to the Graviva along with a semi-muscular sparkle. What’s particularly impressive here is the acid-tannin balance that creates a smooth vessel for the semi-sweet flavors. Those flavors begin with an underripe apple character, moves on to a slight bitter note, continues along with a lemony ripeness and finishes with a smack of tannin on the back of the palate. The 8% alcohol is relatively high for cider, yet the alcohol in no way impacts the character of the cider other than to perhaps give the body a bit more weight. This is very pretty, delicious cider that does the Gravenstein apple and Sonoma County proud. I want to urge readers to let this Gaviva warm up to just below room temperature rather than drinking too cold. Letting it warm up in the glass lets it all really shine. Tilted Shed Ciderworks.
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West County Cider “Reine de Pomme” – 5 stars
TopTenWestCountyReinedePommeThe West County “Reine de Pomme” is a stunning cider that trades in-depth and complexity. But, let’s start at the beginning. The Reine de Pomme (translated as “Queen of Apples”) is thought to have originated in Normandy, France. It is a bittersweet apple that delivers richness and astringent tannins. In this West County version, it begins with an inviting, clear dark gold color. A full head of mousse forms upon pouring, then dissipates. The nose is packed with fresh, bright apple aroma, a hint of yeasty cellar funk and rounded out by really beautiful floral notes that trend toward orange blossom. This is a relatively weighty cider on the palate and the tannins hit first, slightly curling your tongue. There is the barest note of sweetness here, but the drink is primarily dry. The apple flavors have a distinct savory character that are interrupted by sparks of fresh squeezed apple juice. There is a tart quality on the finish and around the edge and this cider is long and lasting. Again, this is beautiful cider that has a muscular character and offers complex flavors and aromas. It would serve as a beautiful accompaniment to the main course of short ribs, grilled meat, or a pasta dish with a rich tomato sauce. Beautiful and a fantastic value and one of the finest American ciders I’ve yet tasted.
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2 Responses to “Top 10 Hard Ciders of 2014”

  1. Edouard McGrath

    Great list! I was pleased to see that you mentioned one of Tilted Shed’s offerings.

  2. Edouard McGrath

    Great list! I was pleased to see that you mentioned one of Tilted Shed’s offerings.


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