“It’s a sommelier, but with apples”, I explain after inevitably receiving a puzzled look when telling someone that I’m a pommelier. Once we get past that, I go on to say that cider, although it is often associated with beer, is more akin to wine because to make it apples are pressed, and the juice is fermented. Some ciders are a single, some are blends, the same as wine is with grapes. Enthusing about cider is one of my favourite things and there is much to say. Not least that Britain is one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of cider. About 56% of apples grown in Britain go to make cider, including those from Thatchers’ Somerset orchards, where a whopping 458 apple varieties are grown (but only about 25 varieties are used to make cider). From just that one farm, 14 ciders, each with their own personality, are created – and here’s what to expect from five of them …
First things first: how to properly taste cider
Cider is a diverse drink and the type of apple used to make it will influence aroma, flavour, taste and texture.
The brain registers the majority of information about flavour via millions of olfactory (smell) cells, so that is why the cider must be swirled in the glass to release aromas. A wine glass is best for doing this, but don’t fill it to the brim as the cider needs space to breathe so the aromas develop. Gently swirl the cider a couple of times and sniff it. Then take a sip and let the cider cover the tongue. More aromas will be released and travel to the nasal cavity through the back of the throat. Think about what you smell and taste, the cider’s body, the texture, the overall drinking experience. Then repeat. That’s how to taste cider!
All-occasion quaffing: Thatchers Gold
Thatchers’ flagship cider, Gold, is a blend of several apple varieties. Eating apples bestow Thatchers Gold fruitiness and a satisfying “bite”, while cider apples including two of the undisputed superstars – dabinett and Harry Masters Jersey – give body and depth to the flavour. Thatchers Gold is an eminently quaffable cider for all occasions with ripe and juicy green apple aromas and flavours bursting from the glass, a sherbet-like mouthfeel with gentle carbonation, and a refreshing tang. If you are a wine drinker looking for a cider to suit your palate then Thatchers Gold will appeal to fans of viognier. Pair with grilled sea bass, or satay vegetables if you’re veggie. Cheshire cheese is a great match too; its slight saltiness will contract the cider’s underlying sweetness.
Crisp and cloudy: Thatchers Haze
Thatchers Haze brims with fruitiness from a blend of fruit bowl favourites: discovery, falstaff, gala and jonagold. Cider made from eating apples tends to be light-bodied and crisp, and Thatchers Haze is no exception. A solid entry-level blend for those wishing to explore cider more deeply; on the nose and palate it has green apples, pears, banana, a hint of lemon, an effervescent mouthfeel, and a sweet tangy finish. The cider’s distinct natural cloudiness is thanks to jonagold apple juice adding a sweetness that makes Thatchers Haze match especially well with spicy foods, such as falafel burgers, or spicy pork stir-fry. For wine drinkers, if you imagine riesling with that easy-drinking fruitiness and refreshing acidity, then Thatchers Haze will appeal to the same palate.
The solo star: Thatchers Katy
While most ciders are made from blending different apple varieties, Thatchers Katy is a single-variety cider. Made from the popular eating apple of the same name, it is fresh and fruity with a subtle sweetness, a refreshing acidity, tingling carbonation and crisp, tangy finish. Thatchers ferments Katy apples with a type of yeast that sparkling wine producers use, enhancing the flavour. However, there’s evidence to suggest it was 17th-century West Country cider makers who first experimented with secondary fermentation to add a natural sparkle to the drink, some time before champagne was invented – so you could say that cider was the original sparkling tipple. Take the flute challenge – pour a glass of Thatchers Katy and a glass of prosecco and blind taste them – which is the wine and which is the premium cider?
Thatchers Katy is perfect as an aperitif and for dining. Food-wise, go for lighter textured food with delicate flavours, such as grilled cod and asparagus risotto. For a cheese match, the savoury salty flavours of parmesan are a contrast to the fruity sweetness of Thatchers Katy.
Sweet explosion: Thatchers Rosé
Waves of strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavours refresh the mouth. Thatchers Rosé cider is made exclusively from those dessert apple favourites cripps pink, gala and fuji. Sweet fruitiness pops and fizzes across your tongue, before the mouth is filled with a zingy texture. It’s a light and easy-drinking cider that suits being well chilled. Drink it for refreshment at a picnic, or treat it as a dessert cider to be enjoyed with Eton mess or summer pudding.
Full-bodied and spiced: Thatchers Rascal
Imagine if apple pie came in a glass. Rascal is the cider equivalent, with a scrumptious array of flavours including red apples, pears, demerara sugar and spice. Created with a blend of cider apple stalwarts – redstreak, dabinett and tremlett’s bitter – this bold cider contains tannins that give the cider a fuller mouthfeel than the ciders made with eating or dessert apples. Tannins attract fats and proteins, cut through the texture of dense and fatty food and refresh the mouth. So pair with hearty meals such as a Sunday roast or mac and cheese, followed by apple crumble and custard. Equally, this is an excellent sitting-in-your-favourite-pub-and-chatting with your friends type of cider.
To discover more about life on Myrtle Farm and Thatchers’ range of Somerset ciders, please visit thatcherscider.co.uk