The Summer of Cider

Klaire McCallum

Summer of Cider.JPG

I personally think cider is a particularly underrated beverage that you should definitely spend some time getting acquainted with this summer. There is so much diversity in cider and here at Vine Arts we’re lucky to get our hands on some pretty unique options. Cider has been around for ages and has been commonly consumed for most of recorded history. Apples, which originate from Kazakhstan, spread across Europe along migratory routes as travellers discarded the cores of the apples they munched on throughout their journey. From those cores, the seeds turned to trees and apples became ingrained in many regions throughout Europe. By the time the Romans arrived in the modern day UK around 55BC, the production of cider was already well established.

Given the rich history of cider, it isn’t surprising that there is a myriad of different styles to be found. Cider can be crisp and refreshing, rustic and wild, sweet or dry, and anything in between. If you’re curious about what style of cider suits your palate, come to my Summer of Cider tasting on Thursday June 28th. We’ll be sampling and chatting about ciders from around the world. It is going to be juicy! Here are a few favourites for you to give a try in the meantime.

Uncommon Cider Dry Hopped Cider - Calgary, Alberta - $10

Noting how cider straddles the line between wine and beer, Uncommon Cider has managed to find a lot of popularity in the midst of the Alberta beer boom. A lovely alternative to grabbing a brew, Uncommon’s ciders are refreshing and full of zippy aromatics. Uncommon started a few years ago under the direction of Calgary locals, Brodie Thomas and Andrew Duncan.  Their dry hopped cider, one of our absolute favourites, always reminds me a bit of Gewürztraminer with its tropical lychee and floral notes, though it skips the sweetness we expect from the grape varietal. The fellows at Uncommon have done a great job of balancing the intense aromatics of the hops, while still maintaining the freshness we usually expect from a cider. The majority of their apples are sourced from BC, but they hope one day to source more apples from the trees planted around town. It is always nice to support a great local company, but if you’ve met the guys at the helm of Uncommon, you’ll know it's even more of pleasure because they are so darn nice.

Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Brut - Normandy, France - $14

Located in the classic French cider region of Normandy, Domaine de la Minotiere is a small 15 hectare cidre orchard. They are certified organic and are located in the “Golden Triangle” which is where the best ciders in this region come from. Domaine de la Minotiere makes traditional farmhouse style ciders. Their brut cider is dry and, while being fresh, it has a distinct rustic quality that is typical to ciders from the region. Packaged in a 750ml bottle with a corked and caged closure, the liquid trapped inside is bright ember orange, slightly foamy, and opaquely cloudy. While we are generally used to crisp, clean ciders that taste mainly of tart or sweet apples, this style of cider is both intriguing and unfamiliar to many North American palates. It smells much wilder, with an earthy mushroom-like quality that is much like a terroir-driven wine. There is a slight bitterness, reminiscent of orange peels, and a distinct richness that reminds you that you are enjoying a beverage that was harvested not so long ago. To me, this cider tastes like the dog days of summer. Refreshing, but also warm and nostalgic. The fun thing about a cider with level of complexity is that it is a wonderful food pairing. Have this cider with a citrusy salad to tap into those bitter-fresh notes or with a rustic cheese to enhance the unique, rich, farm-like qualities. This cider also pairs well with a balcony at sunset. Trust me, it’s one of my favourite pairings.

Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse Pippins - Saanichton, British Columbia - $21.50

Sea Cider began production in 2007 and has been a Canadian cider staple ever since. Organically farmed on Vancouver Island, Sea Cider makes a wide range of ciders and is dedicated to promoting local agriculture and traditional cider techniques. An ode to cider’s pre-prohibition roots in North America, Sea Cider Pippins is made in a pioneering style and with a distinctly North American apple variety. The name “Pippins” refers apple trees that are grown from seed. Since the middle ages, branches from apple trees have usually been grafted onto root stock in order to replicate the desired apple varietal. When an apple seed grows, it is uniquely different from the parent tree. This can sometimes lead to some really bad apples, but is also useful in allowing new apple varieties to flourish in different climates and regions. When Europeans were settling North America, the apple varieties usually used to make cider didn’t thrive in the new climate. Yellow Newton Pippin, the main apple variety in this cider, was one of those apple varieties grown from seed. Sea Cider Pippins is also made in a very old school style. It is made to be slightly sweet and with a higher alcohol content. This richer style is very appealing to the taste buds. The style is achieved by adding cane sugar after the initial fermentation, which gives the yeast more sugar to turn into alcohol. This cider has bright acidity, balanced with a little bit of sweetness. It smells citrusy but ripe, with tropical notes shining through. It tastes of apples and pears, and while the slight bit of residual sugar is detectable, the cider remains crisp and palate cleansing. This cider is packed with flavour and texture. This bold cider is a great one to share over a meal or by the campfire; you choose!