Cider may not have the global popularity of beer, but it’s still an established part of many drinking cultures beyond rural parts of Britain. The French have been making cidre for centuries, particularly in Normandy and Brittany, and many of our own cider apple varieties originated on that side of the channel.
Further east are strong cider making traditions in Austria, Germany and even Italy, although getting hold of a bottle in the UK isn’t particularly easy. Elsewhere in Europe few regions are as cider crazy as the Spanish Asturias, where the sweet and sour tang of their sidra is invigorated by pouring into the glass from a height, one mouthful at a time. Spillage is guaranteed, resulting in streets turning into rivers of booze.
In America, the drink is known as ‘hard cider’ to distinguish it from their non-alcoholic forms of ‘cider’. A thirst for beer and the introduction of prohibition laws meant hard cider became an almost forgotten beverage, but it is currently undergoing a revival with small producers and large booze brands all getting in on the act.
A more unique form of cider has its origins in Quebec, Canada, where the apples or pressed juices are allowed to freeze before beginning a slow, cold ferment. Known as ice cider it’s a stronger, sweet drink often marketed as an alternative to dessert wine.
To help you enjoy your own global cider adventure we’ve scoured the internet to find reliable UK online suppliers and the best they have to offer.
1. Guillet Freres, Cidre Breton Brut Traditionelle, France, 5%: £4.59 for 1 litre, Beers of Europe
With its clumsy screw-top bottle, crude label and foggy appearance, this Brittany cider looks a far cry from the heavily marketed Euro-ciders swamping British supermarket shelves. Thankfully it’s infinitely more appealing in taste than those big brands, with a good blend of tannin and acid, a crème brulee sweetness and perky fizz. Magnifique.
2. Leduc Piedimonte, Ice Cider, Canada, 13%: £23.33 for 375ml, The Drink Shop
Made from spartan and empire apples, with juice naturally concentrated by Quebec’s cold winter temperatures, this fermented cider is aged for two years before the sweet liquid can pass human lips. Rich in colour and flavor, this glorious booze is one to roll out for a special occasion.
3. Bayeaux Cidre Brut Traditionnel, France, 4.5%: £5.09 for 1 litre, Beers of Europe
A clear orange cider made with a few pears thrown into the mix, the most obvious tasting note for this Normandy booze is ‘barnyard’. But trust us; this is as it should be. Earthy fruit tannins are engulfed in champagne-style foam – all light on the palette and very drinkable. Add a baguette and wedge of camembert and your French summer picnic is complete.
4. El Gaitero, Spanish Cider, Spain, 5.5%: £1.49 for 330ml, Beers of Europe
It can be hard to find an authentic, cheek-stripping, acetic Asturian sidra outside of Spain but this export comes close. Tamed with a high fizz and caramel sweetness, it has a slight astringency at the finish which provides a gentle reminder of its Spanish origins.
5. Angioletti Secco Sparkling Cider, Italy, 5.0%: £8.50 for 750ml, Crafty Nectar
The product of a family run business based in the foothills of the Dolomites, this handsome sparkling booze boasts fresh apple blossom aroma and a clean, crisp finish. The relatively low ABV makes it ideal for alfresco sipping while tending the BBQ.
6. Maeloc Sidra Secco, Spain 4.5%: £1.79 for 330ml, Waitrose
Here’s another tourist friendly Spanish cider – and providing you don’t slice your finger on its scary ring pull/bottle cap, you’re in for a treat. At first it’s wildly effervescent with a honey-sweet hit, but then gives way to a satisfyingly dry, acidic apple bite. A fine accompaniment to a table of tapas.
7. B. Nektar Zombie Killer, American Cider, 6.0%: £10.50 for 500ml, Masters of Malt
Strictly speaking, this is a cyser – a cider made with honey. And just to upset the cider purists further, those naughty Americans have added a splash of cherry juice into the mix. The funky apple flavours are balanced by the underlying taste of star thistle honey and sharp Michigan cherry. Daft name, but a great drink all the same.
8. Craigies Cider, Dalliance, Ireland, 5.8%: £4.65 for 375ml, The Fine Wine Company
Each year, the Craigies crew blends different varieties of apples and set them on a slow fermentation and maturation to create a unique cider. Light and dry with a natural sparkle, it has a vinous complexity that makes it the perfect summer lunch companion.
9. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference French Sparkling cider, France, 4%: £1.50 for 500ml, Sainsbury’s
Produced in Brittany, this good value, fizzy French cider has been brought to the mass market by Sainsbury’s. Full of juicy, bitter fruit flavours and a lick of toffee apple sweetness, it’s a great introduction to French cider stylings.
10. Angry Orchard, Crisp Apple, USA, 5%: £1.80 for 500ml, Shepherd Neame
America’s most popular hard cider is now available for UK drinkers to see what the fuss is all about. Made with Italian and French apples, it’s packed with fragrant, apple bubble-gum flavours and a sherbet sweetness to ease any latent anger. A decent choice for the hard cider rookie.
El Gaitero Spanish Cider, Sainsbury’s French cider and Angioletti’s Italian fizz should all appear to a broad range of cider drinkers but for an extra touch of quality that will also appeal to the cider purists, head to France and, in particular, the Cidre Breton Brut Traditionelle.
For more cider reviews and advice on how to brew your own, visit Two Thirsty Gardeners