[This post was put together by Roger Fecher, a friend of mine and reader of the blog. I’d like to thank him for submitting it to be published. -J]
With the wide world of alcoholic beverages available to you, you’ve probably thought, “Why would I want to try that?” or “That’s not for me” or “Is there anything special about that?” Some of you have even contemplated these very questions while looking at a bottle of cider. Some of you haven’t even gone that far because you discount the beverage outright. And why not, right? In the world of alcohol many of us like to stick to one kingdom: cereal grains. Bread and pasta can be good, even great, but cereal grains come into their own in the world of alcohol. Give me the complexity of a fine beer or a well-aged whiskey and I’m a happy dude.
Sure, you occasionally step out of your comfort zone and have a wine with dinner. You might even order a glass of mead or put your trust in B. Nektar and order a cyser (mead fermented with apple juice or cider). But have you ever given cider itself a chance?
I’m sitting here sipping a Domaine Dupont Reserve cider considering how blessed I am. My brother told me for years about the glory that is cider, but unfortunately most of our domestic product falls short (most of it just plain sucks). It was on a trip to Paris that I made it a personal quest to try a variety of ciders from Normandie one of the areas where traditional cider has been produced for hundreds of years with ancient apple varieties generally not available in the US. In addition many of their ciders are bone dry with a huge effervescence. When so much of the sugar has been fermented out the character of the cider can really shine through.
Truly good ciders have an incredible gueuze-like funk to them with horse blanket and barnyard. There’s a tartness of the tongue, but these aren’t sour. And don’t get me wrong, they won’t blow you over with funk like a gueuze might, but they can certainly hold their own.
This particular cider was aged in calvados casks for six months. Calvados is essentially apple brandy produced from the same apples in Normandie. This cider is produced once a year. The apples for this bottle were harvested in 2011 and matured in 2012.
The bottle pours with a nice white head that diminishes to a small ring but never fades away. The cider is slightly yellow with a touch of copper and a steady stream of bubbles similar to champagne. The aroma is heavenly; lemon, barnyard funk, gueuze, tart apple, leather, and oak – just an incredible mix.
While the base cider was clearly fermented out leaving a bone dry, crisp cider, the calvados casks add back some of that sweetness. It’s akin to the difference between a dry Riesling and a late harvest Riesling. Sure there’s a bit more sweetness there, but it’s a complex sweetness with vanilla and caramel. The taste is both slightly tart and sweet. The finish is completely drying leading to a continual desire to take another sip. The high level of carbonation makes this a super easy drinker. At 6.9% ABV it’s also an easy bottle to open with just one other person (750 mL).
If this intrigues you at all, I highly recommend that you give ciders a(nother) go. Try the ciders from Normandie first, especially from Domaine Dupont. The Domaine Dupont Reserve cider is certainly among the best that I’ve tried. I believe I picked it up at The Party Source for $20-30. TPS seems to get Domain Dupont on a fairly regular basis.