There is a region where apple ciders are poured from a high distance into a shared glass. Spanish apple ciders have a long tradition and several unique flavor profiles that you won’t find in a bottle of Angry Orchard cider. I was given the chance to taste some Spanish ciders or Sidra as it is known in Spanish.
The cider region I’m going to discuss is in Asturias Spain in the northern region next to Basque country. These regions are both closely identified as the epicenter of Spanish ciders. One difference between them is the flavor profile of each region. In Asturias, the cider is known for its fresh fruit flavors and in the Basque region their Sagardo, which is the Basque name for apple wine, is a funkier, sour, and more tannic cider.
The cider tradition in Spain goes back centuries to what was essentially a low alcohol product made at home or on the farm. Apples are collected, chopped or ground up, pressed for their juice, and left in a Chestnut barrel to ferment. It was mostly a what you get is what you get, process created by whatever natural yeasts and bacteria happened to be in the air, on the apples, or in the barrels. As you can imagine this process leaves itself open to many different flavors created by these bacteria, some you may know from tasting wine with specific faults like Britt (Barnyard funky odors) caused by Brettanomyces bacteria or volatile acidity (Vinegar to nail polish odors) typically caused by Acetic acid bacteria. At some levels and in some specific wines, ciders, and beers, these odors are considered typical characteristics.
Today, Spanish cider is mostly produced on a large scale and some have lost the original or unique flavor profiles of the
region. Cider produces in this region have a couple of major hurdles to overcome. First, their consumers are raised on the traditional flavors, so adding different flavors is a hard sell. Second, cider is considered a peasant, or low drink and consumers are unwilling to spend more than a couple of Euros per bottle, and have no interest in “premium” more expensive bottles.
So you may ask, why is this inexpensive funky flavored cider still popular with the cool kids? One answer is the social aspect of traditional cider drinking. Typically this happens in a crowded bar where you will stand around a table with your friends and order a bottle of cider for the whole group. This bottle of cider will be delivered to your table with a single glass that will be shared by everyone. The server will take this glass, lowering it nearly to their knees while lifting the bottle above their head. The resulting pour of 2-3 ounces, falling 3-4 feet will bounce off the inner edge of the glass producing an explosion of bubbles as the cider is aerated. This glass isn’t sipped, but thrown back as a single gulp, then shaking out any remaining drops on the floor before the process is repeated for the next person. You can view this pouring process here.
Full disclosure, these ciders were provides to me as samples from Wine Sellers Ltd.( http://www.winesellersltd.com/) , a four decades old family-run importer of family-owned wine brands from around the globe.
Both ciders are produced by Mayador, one of the oldest producers in the Asturian region. Manuel Busto Amandi founded Mayador in 1939 because of his passion of Natural Cider. Consuelo Busto Alonso, the youngest of his three daughters currently heads up the business.
Mayador’s ‘Limited Production’ Sidra Espumante
Our first Cider is Mayador’s ‘Limited Production’ Sidra Espumante. The data sheet provided by Wine Sellers Ltd. states, the cider is produced from “acid, sweet and sour Asturian apples. It is produced from our traditional Sidra Natural fermentation in chestnut barrels, creating a fresh, medium-dry style and light effervescence. The unusually lengthy maturation process of 14 months produces an exceptionally well balanced traditional sidra.” I found this wine listed for sale on Drizly here in the United States for $9.
Pre Taste Thoughts
I love ciders. All kinds of ciders, apple and pear, but I have to say after reading about these northern Spain “funky” ciders
I’m a little unsure what I’m going to taste. I’m not sure, but I am anxious to try it. Being aged 14 months makes me think it will be well integrated and the medium dry residual sugar should keep it fresh and fun. It has 5% AOC so should be light and refreshing.
This cider has a beautiful golden yellow color that reminds me of a California Chardonnay.
Bruised apples, saline, mushroom, musty straw, and some light Band-Aid britt smells. Everything is making me want to get it in my mouth.
The residual sugar keeps this cider tasting like a fresh cooking or baking apple with lots of acids to keep it alive on your tongue. I keep thinking about a very ripe Golden Delicious apple from upstate NY, rich and deep in flavor layers. The salinity adds a nice body and mouthfeel to make the sweet and tartness stand out. This is a great drinking cider that an American palate would love.
Post Taste Thoughts
I will be looking for this cider to have on hand. This is Fall in a glass just begging to be paired with some maple glazed pork chops or some corn chowder. Well done Mayador for keeping elements of the “funky” taste profiles that define Asturian cider, yet producing a cider that could be consumed by all.
Mayador’s Sidra Natural 2018
Our second Cider is Mayador’s Sidra Natural 2018. This description comes from Mayador’s Fact sheet, “It is produced in the traditional “en rama” style which is fermented in chestnut barrels and unfiltered, resulting as a still (natural) sidra with harmonious dry and sour flavors. The unusually lengthy maturation process of 8 months produces an exceptionally well balanced traditional sidra.”
Pre Taste Thoughts
After tasting the cider above with its light northern Spain “funky” ciders tastes, I’m a little more unsure what I’m going to
taste in this cider. Will it have more or less funk? I’m not sure, but I am anxious to try it. Being aged 8 months makes me think it will be well integrated and being dry with no residual sugar makes me think it will show more of the barnyard flavors. It has 6% AOC so should be light and refreshing.
This cider has a cloudy golden yellow color that reminds me of a California Chardonnay, except for the cloudiness. Note the sediment in the bottle in the image to the right.
Barnyard does lead the aromas, musty straw, and a stronger Band-Aid britt smell. Not overpowering, fresh and clean. There are some herbal notes of grass and forest.
This is a sour. You will not have to guess about that. Tart apple and lime pith really show up with the above aromas adding a nice depth of flavors. Sour, but clean and refreshing, not puckering. Again the salinity keeps the flavors isolated creating this sweet-tart flavor profile. There is an apple cider vinegar under flavor that creates a nice long finish drawing you into your next sip. I also “tried” to do a traditional pour, or at least as close as I could, to have a taste as close as possible to being there. This does create a very different taste experience and one I encourage you to try.
Post Taste Thoughts
This is not a sipping cider to be enjoyed on your front porch. This is a cider to be shared with noisy excited friends, pouring, drinking, and passing the glass. This would pair with sharp and or funky cheeses, blue, goat, or sheep.
I want to thank Wine Sellers Ltd. ( http://www.winesellersltd.com/) for providing this opportunity to me to taste these amazing and uniquely regional ciders. I look forward to finding them locally and adding some to my cellar.
If you want to learn more about these ciders and get some amazing food and cider parings, check out some of my wine and foodie friends posts below.
A BBQ Party Featuring Spanish and French Ciders by Chinese Food & Wine Pairings
A Crash Course in Hard Ciders by Somm’s Table
Anna’s Ciders and Pier City Ciders by Wine Predator … Gwendolyn Alley
Bodegas Mayador – A Taste of Asturias Cider by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Cider Glazed Rotisserie Chicken and a Sampling of Hard Ciders by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Divide and Cider: Conquering Spanish Sidra with Mire by Asian Test Kitchen
Falling In Love With Cider by Avvinare
I am Cider Curious by Food Wine Click!
Pollo Con Ajoy y Limon and Spanish Hard Ciders by Our Good Life
Put This Basque Beverage on Your Drink List! by Savor the Harvest
Sidra from Asturias in Northern Spain – Its Culture and Traditions by Crushed Grape Chronicles
Traditional Spanish Sidra, a Tipsy Trickster, & Tanuki Cider by Culinary Adventures with Camilla